Month: October 2019

Brave New World

agsandrew/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on November 14, 2018.

The world shifts, and my chest, starved of oxygen, begins to heave. The environment around me transforms into a jumbled mass of foreign geometries where nothing is familiar except for the certainty that this has happened before, and that it will happen again.

My throat constricts, and soon I feel as if I’ve plunged into the ocean. I gasp, shudder, reel, while dark spots blossom in my field of vision.

An infinity passes in which I teeter on the edge of oblivion. Then I feel a pull.

My chest expands like a balloon.

Air, sweet air.

Coughing, shaking, I open my eyes.

With fractured vision, I behold the world deconstructed. Like a painting by Picasso, the Earth’s straight edges have warped like plastic on a stove.

I try to move, but the same disease that’s infected the world has infected me, leaving my arms and legs misshapen. I try to stand, and my body lurches and spins, twisting through unseen dimensions.

“None of this makes sense,” I say to myself, and a voice rises up before me in reply.

“Nothing in life does.”

“What do I do now that the world is different?”

“Adapt and learn. That’s all you can do. That’s all any of us can do.”

The voice is right. So I find my balance on a pair of slanted legs, and after a bleary, drunken gaze at the alien landscape that surrounds me, I set off to explore this brave new world.

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Life as a Star

Irina Alexandrovna/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on November 7, 2018.

In. Scoop. Dump.

Jeanette speared the snow with her shovel, shuttling wet, sparkling ice dust from the driveway to the lawn. Her fingers had gone numb in spite of her gloves, and she could feel the oppressive cold gathering around her, climbing down her throat so that it was difficult to breathe, binding her muscles and joints so that it was difficult to move.

Until her relocation to Nebraska last year, she’d had no idea what a snowy winter was like. It had only been a theoretical complication, an idle worry on par with wondering how she might survive if she were to open her eyes one day and find herself in the middle of the Sahara Desert or the Alpine Mountains. Now she had first hand experience, and it was so much worse than she’d imagined.

The flat end of her shovel finally scraped concrete, but when she pulled this last scoop free, more snow came sliding in around the edges. Jeanette might as well have been shoveling a mountain.

“I need a break.”

She took a moment to behold the winter wasteland of her front yard, then propped her shovel against the wall and went inside.

The heater was on, and the sudden blast of hot air felt like walking straight from the freezer into the oven. She peeled layers of clothing off her old, decrepit body, stripped down to a t-shirt and shorts, then sat at the kitchen table, where a warm pot of coffee waited to greet her.

She poured herself a cup. Not a fan of its bitter flavor, she was nevertheless beholden to its warm and restorative qualities. She took three long sips and gazed through the window in silence.

The view outside was dreary and gray, and Jeanette could feel the first wispy tendrils of her depression beginning to crest the horizon. She had to keep busy, had to keep moving. But out here, in the subzero temperatures and beneath the sun-starved skies, that was so, so difficult to do.

There was, of course, something she could do about it… No, that wasn’t an option. Once, perhaps, long ago. But no longer.

Did she regret her choice? Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when the dark and the cold were at their most potent, she would feel tempted to despair. Then she would think of the life she’d shared with her late husband and three beautiful children and know it had not been in vain.

But oh, how much she’d given up to build her family. For one whose native habitat were the blazing vistas of a distant star, the snowy winters of Nebraska were an endless torture, and only the magic imparted to her by her mother as a wedding gift and the love she’d shared with her Earthly family had sustained her.

Now, in her old age, she lived alone, and though there was still something of the star inside her, that remnant was dim and dwindled further every day.

What would happen to her when that remnant died? Would she die along with it, and if so, would her soul return to the star of her birth?

Jeanette longed for such a reunion. But for now, at least, she had no choice but to embrace the life she’d chosen in its entirety. What else was there to do with a human life, after all, but accept the bad along with the good?

Still, as Jeanette sat there in the gloomy half-light of the kitchen, the endless gray outside pressing in around her, she began to sense a mounting energy, growing inside her like a blossoming flower.

Could it be? She hadn’t felt this for so long. The heat inside seemed to radiate from her skin. All at once, her heart leaped from her chest to soar among the stars once more.

She was now the old Jeanette, shooting through space and time, drawn toward the searing light of Earth’s sun. The part of her that was still made of star stuff resonated with its life-giving energy, and she could feel her soul begin to sing, to vibrate in sync to a low, unearthly rumble.

Echoes of a million cosmic secrets rippled through her, and the light inside that she’d believed all but extinguished roared to life like a wildfire.

When Jeanette next opened her eyes, she was a new woman. She glanced at the world outside the window, where blinding rays of sunlight now pierced the clouds like spears, and took a deep, meditative breath.

The star within was reborn, and Jeanette was ready to live again.

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