Survalance cameras on this life

I’m always being watched 

Every day my face is here 

And nowhere 

No one ever views the tapes

Sometimes I think

They are just being used to be voyages 

Litter stories, pulp books to sell to masses of extraterrestrial aliens 

I’m sure they read our lives

I’m sure they hate us too 

We waste so much energy on trivially minuscule things

They compare our civilization 

They can’t rely on just these cameras

But they have nothing else 

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Grasshoppers flags 

Down by the course dirt lane

The hard presence of the pebbles 

Cutting the hot sun baked grasses 

It’s grasshopper, working to raise the littlest flags 

His tiny little empty empire has hard times

Drought and floods,  growth and death 

They both come as a hash brown 

Sand wasps and birds seek him out

Each with a different evil agenda 

If either are successful his empire ends

Nothing left but his little flags

To be rotted out next flood

Or burned by a forever sun 

Grasshopper has to raise his flags

To bring a mate

Will his family be a reality?

Plastics 

In the lights of the store they waited. The manikins.

That’s all they knew…. Then.

I got them dressed every couple of weeks. I’m Madu by the way. Not that it’s important, as I’m dead now.

My job at the f! Store was simple. I was a permanent part time, so got the rotten jobs. I put clothes on the racks. Repricing the stock. Washing the stock that had been worn. Keeping a track of the lost and found. Answer simple questions. Always, always let the prettier girl do the cutest men. I got stuck with anyone she didn’t want to deal with. Poor fools didn’t know I’m a dyke. Or didn’t care. So I got some really pretty girls. I was completely professional, of course. I’m not a pervert, just really appreciate the female form. Men have never done anything for me. 

Princess, the Bosses daughter was the worst of them. She was born and bred as straight as a arrow and always a Princess in her mums eyes. Could do no wrong. She wasn’t dumb exactly. Just absent minded. She lost the store a few hundred one day by being on her iPhone . The “undesirable” took that to mean she was too busy and managed to leave wearing one of the best shirts in the stock.

Of course mummy wasn’t angry. Just disappointed. And when Princess made up for it by bringing in half the high school for the next social dance? Mummy forgave her. Even paid for her dress. Fucking evil bitch, she could do no wrong and be pretty at the same time. She had this 

I fitted the mannequins on a monthly basis. That’s pretty much the best job in the world. Can you hear my sarcasm? No? Oh. Well it’s shite. Like trying to fit a cement mixer. They never move properly. They always seem to be in exactly the wrong shape. Sometimes they almost seemed to be doing it on purpose. If you were really unlucky you get a cut.

One day as I was fitting one, I slipped and got my hand almost cut off on the sharp edge of a elbow joint. They were made of this fucking awful plastic. All recycled and that, but slippery like a eel. Almost skin like sometimes. I might have paid a bit more attention to that. I’m putting this one in the f! signitures peice, a pair of tuxedo shorts and a creame shirt. It really made the mannequin look quite silly, in my opinion. 

To recompose myself, and stop me from pouring my inner claret all over everything I had to raid the first aid kit in the back. I was shocked, well ok I wasn’t but I can pretend. It was mostly full of fucking tampons and condoms. Clearly Princess had been at it. Stashing her bloody stores in the bloody kit. Pun intended.

I took the closest looking band aid and patched myself up before getting on with the job. I made a mental note to nick all the condoms in a few days. Just to make next fortnight a bit more fun. I doubted princesses mum knew about her little secret. I wondered who her current squeeze was. Some flap bozo from the foot ball team no doubt.

A few day later I took them. And then all hell broke loose. She comes up to me bold as you like and asks me if I know we’re her condoms are.

“No I don’t. I’m not a sex educator. I did see boss nick her hand yesterday. Maybe she found them? She met Mr Princess yet?”

I’m truly trying so hard to look sensible dyke in my store uniform. A sort of blouse and midi skirt number. Makes me look like like a cherub. I hate it. I’m a foot smaller than princess but I’m making up for it in the chest area of you get my grip. I puff myself up like a duckling. She’s got nothing on me in a fight would fall over like a twig.

“Mr Princess? He’s not a princess. He’s a fucking motorcyclist. With arms the size of tree trunks and a cock to match. So fucking keep out of my stuff!” She yells, then storms off.

She thinks shes called my bluff. Oh how she wished she had. I managed to get Mr Tree Trunk’s, as I will now call him, number. She leaves her phone everywhere. I take it and text him messages. I’m pretty proud of myself. I impersonating princess pretty well it seems.

A couple of messages and I’ve got him convinced Princess is going to have sex with him at the store after closing. He asks to convince him. I’m going to go all the way tonight. Miss princess hasn’t actually done it with him! Ha!

I probably should admit I’m getting a crush on Princess. Stockholm? More like Bordeholm, I just haven’t really found anything else to do in this job. I’ve thought about this a few times now. I’m dead after all. It gives you a marvellously uncluttered perspective on things.

So he’s not entirely sure what between those hips of hers? Ha. So I take a picture of my junk and send it to him. I quickly delete the messages so when Princess finds her phone she doesn’t know.

Later on Mr Tree Trunk turns up when princess is at the front counter. Her eyes are out in stalks. Princess Mum / Boss sees him and is like “Whose this fellow?” Well in less polite words. Actually she said “Whose that horrible looking man, and whats he doing in my store?”

He walks in bold as anything and looks at princess and her mum. Mum is in full blown panic almost reaching for the phone. Princess quickly says “Mum this is Gavin. My boyfriend.”

Mum goes from full panic to out and out rage. “Your WHAT?”

Princess looks at me and knows I’ve done this. I’ve made this happen. She struggles to explain.

“You weren’t meant to meet him like this!”

I’m trying to my job and redress the mannequins as slowly as possible without laughing at Princess.

The argument goes on for almost an hour. I’m done with everything for close now. I say bye to the three of them. I did notice that one of the mannequins look different though. I should of payed more attention to that.

To late now.

I’m walking along the street the next day. f! Is between a show shop and a tax accountant on the main drag of the city. It’s a rainy day which probably means no one will come in at all. It will be quite and miss princess will probably get me to do stocktake in time for the  autumn sales.

I get into the store and Miss Princess is already their. A little more dark than usual. “Mum made me break up with Gavin. He told her I sent him sexts! I’ve never sent a picture of my junk! Why would I? I don’t have any!”

She gasped, put her hand over her mouth. What the? I just had time to think.

“Fuck! She knows dad!”

I was really confused. She didn’t have junk? Her dad isn’t hear. Who is she talking…

“Too.” I said aloud as a dark shape loomed behind me. It was the large male mannequin. He smiled at me. His arm comes down on my head and I’m out cold.

This isn’t where I die. No. But I’m out for quite a while. Just long enough.

I’m in a dark room.

It’s almost pitch black. I imagine I can see something. A shape. A dark shape.

Maybe two.

Then I realise. When I am used to the dark. It’s  Gavin. Mr Tree Trunk himself. He’s in the corner. Stiff as a board. I walk over. His body. It’s feels like a mix of the mannequin plastic and human skin. It’s going plastic. Like some kind of infection is turning him into a mannequin!

I’m breathless. I’m panicking. I throw up. Dizzy for a second I recompose myself.

The liquid that comes out of my mouth tastes off. Like a sort of silken water. I’m already turning into one. I have the infection or whatever this is.

Mum Princess / Boss must be a mannequin. The whole species is slowly taking the planet. That’s why their are always more fashion stores around. They are keeping things secret till they have a army big enough. Or something.

I try and throw up as much as I can. I’m forcing the weird plastic liquor stuff out. I’m going to have to tell. Warn. Then I’m going to die. Or worse become one of them. God knows if I’ll even think like me then? I’m turning into one of them, when does my free will go? Why am I thinking of pointless philosophy when I can be trying to raise the alarm? I get up.

I find the door. Locked. Big chunky one. It’s the storeroom lock. I recognise it.
I reach into my pocket, nope they were sensible. Took the key off me.
Generally all that’s in hear is clothes and the spare mannequins.
I guess they are actually relatives? Something like that.
They have all gone. Except for Gavin. Whose clearly going to be full one in a short while. He’s probably to far gone.

I wondered if he’ll still have his trunk? Oh no. Must get absorbed or something. Miss Princess said she didn’t have any junk. Then why the condoms?

That’s a good question to ponder. Why the fuck would a mannequin need a condom? Unless they were able to reproduce some other way and wanted to stop that? That must be it.

Only good reason I can think of in this dark. Then Gavin starts to move. I can see the gleam of the plastic skin. He’s not quite ready but it didn’t take more than 24 hours for the process to complete. I’m going to be like him in no short order.

I bash on the door. I think they might guess it’s Gavin. I’m betting that it might be assumed I’m going to be out the whole time. I grab one of Gavin’s arms off him. He barely resits. Ah, I think to my biology classes, the stiff stage is like a chrysalis, a moth or insect. Before the final walking talking stage looking human enough stage. Gavin’s arm in hand waiting to see if they open the door.

I could almost laugh at the absurdity of it. The new mannequin, being used to fight the old.
The door opens. It’s Mr Princess. I clobber him in a big hit. He falls over like a domino.
I don’t have time to wait to see if he recovers. I race out the door. Then I see them.
Little clear plastic eggs. Like pills. Princess Mannequin is laying them. Like eggs. That’s how they spread the infection, they put them in your food or drink. These little egg things. Convinced that they are human they give you these little things that turn you into one of them mannequins. When did I eat one? They probably force fed me when I was out.

In a few seconds I had to get out of the store, I didn’t have time to notice them throw a knife at me. It hit me square in the back. I felt week, hot, then fell over onto the pavement.

As I slowly bled to death I thought about how manuquins only knew of lights of the store and the clothes I put them in. Not anymore. 

 


Talk foundation fountain 

I gutted a fish, in your dreams. I’m sitting their descant, descaling it on a memento of your past. 

You whistling your old school song. The sky is purple with tears of the gods falling gently on the horizon. The ocean reflects only your smile.

You walk towards me on the peer. I lick my fingers clean, finished the tasks of the day. I get up and spit. I then see you and you smile at me.

I’m looking slightly annoyed with you, but not unhappy. I hold my hand on my waist and wave at you to come closer.

Stepping on a strange feeling bit of growth in the pier, your take a look at your shoes and feet. In the light the little dead things you walk on are crushed by your heel.

You look up at me your face hollow with fear. These bland bleeched bones, are human.

I’m still waving and waiting. 

Will you come to me? Or run away?   

Mind Junkie

Fruity drinking modernists, whispering bourgeois platitudes whilst encased in mud encrusted realism’s

“Oppressive details of modernity, its Dirty realism” they whisper

As they sip their green drinks, among disinfected franchises

“Extradites of the simplistic. It’s like watching a soapy.”

One of them laughs at the idea. “Soapy. Clean plots, unclean people.”

I am not sure I am welcome in this domain of this self-hating temple

“Dystopian narratives?”, my question seeming to be sitting on the air like a ignorant child’s observation of the obvious

Looking long, and drinking some more, then Tweedy waves his hand at the effervescence silence.

“Not always. A possessive obsession of those, things we consider dirty.” He tastes the words like a snake, waiting to see if the air is deflated of my question

Seriously, a stuck up Hat-man, such a brown nose he has I thought, he doesn’t realize how much we need the junk, how we need to realize we need to recycle it, compost it, re-purpose it, let it influence us, and how it influences him

“Oh Tweedy, oh tweedie, you are but a mind junkie, kindled by the thrash of so called unclean. As much as you would hate to admit it. Cycles are needed, feeding into each other, like rivers. Of course any second now you will ask me to stick to just one metaphor. But I ask you, why should junk like me do that, you take our freshest mud and excrement, say “oh look at that, how silly this low brow thing is” and then you let it come in stay like a stray cat. It likes to sit and wait, then one day, you will realize you feed it just as much as you feed the dig dog who barks at all your supposed wrong.”

I pick up his drink, drink his drink, smile at him, and walk out without another word. Ready to cover the world in the words of the so called trash of the real. This dirty realism, it isn’t so much dirty as it is a part of the whole cycle. Live with it. Let it in. Feed it. Morals from the hang ups of a culture who hasn’t worked out how we talk to each other.

 

 

 

 

The Nails

The train-tube station emptied into the city on one side and a great green park on the other side. A bald headed in a suit and shorts walked slowly out into the freezing night. The ice had covered the whole park like a sheet of paper on a draftmans desk. The temperature in Brisbane had beer a warm friend. Hear in Melbourne on the same day. It was already a dark and cold autumn. The tropics have such a different temperature now. They said it was climate change settling down. Andrew had no reason to disagree. 

Melbourne ment buildings shrieked in the night air. The cars on the road sleepily rolling along. The streets less full than once they were. It was hard to mistake the death of a once mighty city. The ocean was coming. No matter how settled the climate got, the ocean would sink Melbourne into half its size. It would sink all these buildings. The Tube train had been built before they knew the city was doomed. Now it was going to be closed in a few days. The city would empty. People moved on or those few left with jobs like Andrew. In charge of making sure everything important was transferred to the new city center a few kilometers inland. We’re the ocean wouldn’t swollow the buildings whole.

Andrew tried vainly to concentrate on his thoughts on how to save the city that had once been his home. The walls wouldn’t work as the geography was wrong. It had saved Sydney from the worst of it. They wouldn’t save Melbourne. To much clay hear. Not enough rock. The ocean came from under the city. Sinking bits like the beak thing in the Star whatsitcalled movie eats those people. 

Andrew rushed through the frosty park. He was chilled to the bone. His legs refused to go faster. Why did he not get a cab? Their weren’t many hear now but waiting for one in the station was better than this. 

A scraping noise then another told Andew to pick his feet up faster. I’m going to die he thought. In this stupid frosty park. 

His feet, Nails. They felt liked nails. He struggled for the word as he ran. He knew what was after him. He knew the police wouldn’t come. They are to busy with their evacuations of those who believe that the city center would soon be under a few hundred meters of water. 

Those who are chasing him? The Gods might know what they believed. Andrew wasn’t sure the gods even had an idea or thought about them anymore. 

Their was another scrape. A long one. It came from the path in the front and to the left of him. Likely he was now at the end game. They had hunted him.

Their they were. Staring him in the face. Andrew new their probebly wasn’t any point in running more. His legs though, they decided their was and he turned. His mind focusing on the face.

It was human. Not the sort of Hunan you used to meeting on a bus. Someone who you would set a watch for, or talk about the weather with. Not someone you might share a brief bus ride with. This was raw human. Like a little bit more animal than you wanted to think that existed in everyone. The human you would see at the end of a weeks without food or water. The human who would hunt. Kill. Maybe even eat anyone in their land. Because that’s what means you live. Your tribe lives. Civil? No point in civil if your starving. Nature was just as cruel as you and that’s the point. 

Cruel things survive. That’s why they still haven’t died. In this almost empty city. This dying husk. They were the gras that grew in the pavement. The rats in the walls. The cockroaches of humanity. They were not something you wanted to exist. They existed regardless.

Andrew saw its face. In the light, it had dark shadows, teeth sharpened to a point, a skateboard to get around on. They hunted on them. A fast, easy way to hunt. They would eat anything they could get. Which on feet Andrew knew. No way would he reach safety. They would have three of their pack members chase him around the park. Then at every exit. Their was another. A pipe, a brick, a fry pan. The leader might have a gun. They would all be ready to kill him. Take his clothes. His food (he had none) and his flesh. 

On the way to the next exit, Andrew slipped. He fell hard down brick steps. Each one hitting him hard. His ribs broke. He screemed as quietly as he could. At the bottom. The hard paved surface skidded under his arms. His legs felt like red looks. 

The leader of the pack. He was certain. She had nails in her mouth. Like fangs. Also a set of metal knuckles on both hands. Each could easily kill him with one hit into his head. Her hair was greezy and short. She wore leather clothing, shirt, smock, skirt, jacket. Tattoos on her face looked handmade. She took a knife from her pocket and skated slowly towards him. Roller blades. 

Andrew prepared to die. Crawling slowly on the pavement. He thought about what he had done in his life. How it wouldn’t even be remembered. Another more sensible person would be sent hear to pick up the last few boxes of documents. Maybe a simple funeral for his mother. They wouldn’t have a body.

He prepared for the pain. The knife cutting him. The blood slowly dripping from his own body. His flesh being eaten as he was still alive. Her mouth slucheing the fresh flesh and licking her lips as she ate it slowly as one would a great feast. To scared to scream. To injured to run away. 

A screech filled the air. She, the tribe leader looked up. She muttered, howeled like a wolf and rolled away. Taking her pack. 

Their was a dripping sensation from Andrews pants. 

A blue flashing light. 

Cops. Real cops. They had found him. Somehow. Rescued him. 

Andrew thought about getting a better job. 

Namespaces (Hammersmith short story)

“Tagashaka, get me that second pad.”

I was prepping another part for our mining pod, the Device. Maintenance was a big problem out here on the belt. It helped to have a body like mine though. It was broken, oh so broken, in close to zero Gs that didn’t matter so much.

“O’kay, Singe. I got pad 2. Want me to boot it?”

“Sure”

I thought as I worked on the computer to put the next few lines of code. The systems that are key to life in space are often said to be fragile. In reality they often had more backups than a lawyer in a well paid custody battle. You did everything you could to get it working right about 7 times, then did one thing before the computer died again. The mining bell was a great little craft when it was working, but so much work had to go into making sure it did.

Tagashaka booted the pad and the Device finally came to life.

“Bingo.”

Our collective relief could probably be felt on the moon.

It was time for the next trip.

I took a deep breath, this was the bit that was actually hard. Saying goodbye to my husband.

“Well I will see you in a few.”

Tagashakas big blue eyes looked at me “Yeah”. He played with his hands a little then looked at me, it was the love I knew. “Be careful.”

“You know me. I don’t do anything a normal couldn’t do.”

“Singe. I am serious. I need to know you’re going to be careful out in that thing.”

“Are we all floating rocks? Seeing a new bit of moss grown on our surface makes us feel new and old at the same time. I’m a man of my means and out here in the belt my means are you and yours.”

I hid behind little bits of poems like this now. So many times I used a poem to express my true feelings rather than being wholly truthful. It was one of our things we have always done as a couple.

“I love you”. I finally blurted out. Why did this never get easier? Expressing myself? Was it my youth? My psych might say so.

Tagashaka and I kissed. Awkward at first as he came down to me in my low G wheelchair, then we grabbed onto each other and it got more passionate. It got more rough and our tongues started to tie knots around each other. Tagashaka then hoisted me from the kiss into the mining bell. He broke off and gave me one of his gentle Japanese smiles. A smile like that could make me want to take his pants off, but I knew better. We had work to do. I smiled back and got into the mining bell shutting the hatch. I roll the Device’s wires and started to get into the pilots chair.

“Look. It’s so hard for me to say this. I love you. You know that. But we have to do this. Otherwise we may as well be at the moon. Or back on Earth. Where I can’t even rooster a G to walk.” Talking over the two way video wasn’t as nice as real life, but it had its advantages.

Tagashaka looked ashamed, his face looked old for a second then he opened the airlock near the Device and pressed the button for the auto to start working. He walked out of the airlock shutting the other hatch behind him. “Singe. Just come back in one bit. It’s hard to be here worrying about what’s going on in that belt.”

“I always come back in one bit. You keep yourself in one bit two, this is our last run before we head home. We can afford the really nice saunas on Luna this time.”

Sex in zero G saunas is fantastic.

I smiled at that thought and I pressed the launch button on the Device.

The whole thing shook and their was a slight whooshing noise as I started it up.

In outer space, everything is like gold for me. It’s freedom like the best drink in the bar mixed with angels tears. It’s like having everything open for a moment and you can do everything. It’s like your first lucid dream. Your first real kiss and your first taste of your favourite meal. You can just think and you’re doing it. In truth the computer on the Device let me do this. It was Mark IV mining bell; it had three arms and two grappling legs. It had more different sorts of lasers than a true space jockey could want. It had cutters, bolts, sanders, and the best set of fusion engines and thrusters in the Sol. Of course it was a bugger to keep running though, the computer crashed so often and we had a lot of our code in it to keep it going. But it was the best ship for me.

You had total control in the suit. My brain was all it needed to work. I didn’t need to move my legs and arms. I was a part of it. It was a part of me. I suppose that’s what actually scared Tagashaka about me going out in it. He would never be able to have me like this. Free.

Even in zero G, I couldn’t move my legs. My arms were fine as long as it was under .5G and everything else worked as well as it could, considering. I was born with a genetic disorder that causes nerve loss to the extremities. It works slowly over your life, getting worse as you age. There is no cure, though the genetics people have tried. Everyone with it has different results. It’s only in the not so aptly named Y chromosome, so I’m my father’s son, unfortunately.


My little sister was next to me in bed. The night was the worst time. She would hug and hug me. While he shouted at Mum. Shout and shout. There was hitting too. Abuse. Then at 3ish he would finally tired and go to bed and lock his door behind him. Mum would sit in the kitchen, or lounge crying till we came out and hugged her too. We all went to the big bed and tried to sleep. Hoping that He wouldn’t wake. That it would be a good night. That we would get some rest before he started again. Mum would say “He is sick, he loves us he just has this job, he cares for us. We have food we have shelter. It’s going to be okay”

She would lie to us every time. He would hurt her and she would take it. Because she knew he would hit us if she couldn’t.

That night mum seemed like she was meeting the end. The day she couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I had to do something. I had use of my arms and legs still and had worked out how to pick the lock on Dad’s door. I estimated I had one chance. I had to take it. For Mum. I went to the kitchen and got the rolling pin. In his room. Maybe sleeping, maybe awake. He wasn’t my dad. He was some guy who hurt mum. That’s who is now. All he is. I had to make him dead. If I managed to do that we wouldn’t have to cry anymore. We could live for once.

I walked slowly towards his door. Got my lock picks out silently. Left. Right. Up. Down. Click.

The room was lit. Was he scared as we were? That was my first thought. He was sleeping. On a red sofa. Knife next to him. Bear like mussels on his arms and chests his legs a useless atrophied mess. I knew I had his genes.

I would be like him one day.

No use of my legs. I had to escape. I had to kill him.

There just was no other way.

I took the rolling pin and got ready. First blow had to do it. I had studied the method I needed on the Internet. I was ready as I could be.

I took a deep breath.

Dad’s one dark brown eye opened. It was blood shot and full of veins. I had no idea how he lost the other one. His chest full of pain he grumbled like a mountain full of lava, ready to become a volcano. The noise was horrid. He looked at me. Just stared and all my courage left me.

My rolling pin wasn’t even in my hand anymore. My dad wasn’t even in control.

Then I realized it.

His terrible reality. It wasn’t a strength thing. It was control. He couldn’t control himself.

He needed control. It was all about making things be under control the way he needed it. I realized it then as he woke. I’m going to need something to get that same control.

Perhaps he had tried to stop.

He exhausted himself as much as possible at work. He went as much as he could. Moved bricks. That’s all he did. In a big modified wheelchair. Then he got home and was tired but still couldn’t control his anger. At everything. Unfair life.

His wife wasn’t his anymore. Mum had been cheating with some delivery guy for years, didn’t even try to keep it a secret.

His son and daughter; one of them doomed to have his condition, the other scared by his anger.

No. He wasn’t scared of us.

He didn’t lock the door as he feared we would kill him. He locked the door as he feared he might lose even more control and kill us.

One moment was all it took. He had me. His big hand around my tiny throat. I’m choking.

“Son. You idiot! You pathetic idiot. You could have done it. Ended it. I woke. Just die now you fucking waste!”

Did he want me to kill him? Make it stop? I think as I choke.

I couldn’t breath. I’m seeing red then suddenly on the floor and the world isn’t quite so dark. It’s kind of a yellow colour like memories of good times. Not that I had many.

Thump.

Suddenly mum was there. Hitting him with a frypan.

Thump.

His head caved in on the third blow.

Thump.

The world went a blue and red. Then dark. I was still having trouble breathing. Before my eyes closed I saw dad die.

There was a lot of blood. My dad died slowly. He bled out before the cops arrived though.

Police took their time in the district we lived in. Probably preferred to clean up then break up. Breaking up stuff meant danger.

They took my sister and me to hospital. Mum as well. As soon as she got out she killed herself. I was still in hospital. She sent me letter, but I never read it. I felt I would know what it would say. Would it be lies? Stuff about how he wasn’t strong anymore and I was the strong one now? I don’t know I was a kid I didn’t want to know. I felt it wasn’t what I needed. Never would be. It was when I decided that I had to get off planet Earth. Be as far away from these people as possible. It was then I decided to become an astronaut regardless of any disability I would inherit from my father. He wasn’t going to win. I would get my control in space. I just didn’t know how yet.


 

A carbon rich asteroid was a rare find. I took my ship in closer.

The freedom out here was almost deafening, if such a thing was possible. It’s like being in a bath. A big bath full of the rare little bit of soap or a little bath toy. Each one a different color and composition. Almost every asteroid was worth mining. Miners on Earth got excited by a purity rate of 2-8%. Out here it could be as high as 60%. Once I got an asteroid that had a purity of 86%. Full of iron and copper so pure it barely needed smelting.

I looked at this one. It was almost like dust, only just held together by gravity. I charged the holding lasers. It was a lot easier to just scoop these ones. Lots of water, carbon rich compounds, what scientists called organics. It wasn’t alive but it was really precious. Out in space fresh water could fetch as much as 20 credits a liter. Carbon rich soils almost as much. I called Tagashaka.

“Hey lover.”

“Hi, found one?”

“A slime ball. Real pay dirt.”

“Winch it in. You know the drill.”

“Keep it cool”

“Heh.”

It was wise to keep chatter to a minimum. Pirates might be out here too. Maybe close, maybe not. The channel couldn’t be kept secure because I wouldn’t follow a standard route in the mining bell. I used a laser communications beam to strike a claim as soon as possible though. Law was you had to touch the asteroid before you could get a claim. You could protect a section of space from intruders while you claimed a whole bunch though. The big companies used to use tracker robots, then they got nicked by the Red Clan pirates. Started mining carbon rich asteroids and making TNT before going back to the company freighters and blowing everything sky high. Bunch of space pirates. It was really now only a people job. People were just as easy to control but had the advantage that they generally wanted to live. Robots don’t care, no matter how much “artificial intelligence” they had. They also fought better than robots could, at least for now.

I got the first rocks into the analyst and sent the secure laser beam to Chronos. Then I started the grinders. I was working on that when Tagashaka called.

“..Inge we… Prob.. the…. Piz….”

I froze.

I switched the radar on. There were six ships nearby. When the fuck did they get there? Was I so out of it on freedom that I didn’t see them? They didn’t respond on the IFF, which meant pirates. Most likely Red Clan.

I released the asteroid and turned around and fired the fusion drive.

The first half of the journey back was just maneuvers. The six Red Clan ships were all smaller than the Japanese freighter me and Tagashaka used. It was going to be a battle like a bunch of ants fighting over a big bit of discarded chicken.

I noticed that our freighter and Tagashaka had already been hit. The freighter was venting. Fuck.

I had to have a plan. I had the advantage of maneuverability. Not much else. My lasers were designed for power and accuracy. Not range.

I checked my drive power. It was just enough. Ok let’s do this. If Tagashakas was still alive he’s was going to be hurt.

They will know I am here now from the Radar bleep. It’s going to be them or me. I’m at the mercy of my own skills and the ship. Kinda wish I thought of a better name than Device for my craft. To late for that now.

I thrust up, left, yaw, yaw, forward. I was behind the first Red Clan ship. I fire the lasers and damage its thrusters and its engines. It’s not able to fire back. I aim for the antenna and take that out too. One down.

The second one takes a pot shot at me. I manage to dodge it and get on its flank. I take a shot at its weapons and hit.

“Ha! Blossoms up your bum!” I yelled triumphant.

Suddenly I’m hit. My left laser arm actuator had been damaged. I can barely use it. I don’t panic though. I am used to this kind of disability.

I take a quick yaw then roll and go left. It was on my 6 and 8, right up my flank. I thrust up and see a small ‘roid in the way, I aim at it then dive under.

The driver of this pirate ship was smart and didn’t take the bait. I hide there for a little then drive back to the right and up on a whim. I was right, it was trying to outfox me, but I take my left arm and release it straight into his right side and then fire a timed detonator. It blows and the ships a little pile of dust.

I thrust toward the freighter. I notice a blip on the radar.

Two of the Red Clan ships try to take me on at once with the third behind me. I use the small asteroid I coasted before as a pretend hiding spot.

“Ha! Haven’t any of you fuckers seen Star Wars?”

I pull my Han Solo maneuver off without a hitch. The pirates are sitting ducks in space where I have left three detonators just after the little ‘roid to stop them seeing them. They blow.

The last ship takes off into the distance reading the cards at play.

I was safe.


 

I’ll admit, I thought Tagashaka was lovely when I first met him. Having only just come to terms with my progressing disabilities and my homosexuality (plus my past), it was hard to admit at first a hidden like for this lanky bald Japanese bloke with more tattoos than a motorcycle gang.

The universities LGBTI club was surprisingly active and I had kept myself busy for months helping the organiser and trans woman named Amy get quite a few things going. We had weekly catch ups, a university wide ‘Zine and Holomail lists for all the interests we could get more than a few members for. We also had lists of interests that might get going if we had a few more members. One was a space excursion list.

I was doing astronautical engineering and had more than a few contacts that could get us on the space elevators in Indonesia or Ecuador. It wasn’t nearly as expensive as it used to be now there was two of them. The fund raising Amy could sort like a bee could gather pollen. She had this instinctive skill almost when it came to getting cash for the club.

We were doing a catch up and I was sitting next to Amy looking at the funding documents when Tagashaka came into the dodgy Uni pub we used as a venue. I’m pretty insensitive so I almost wrote him off as a whole bunch of no straight away.

He sat next to Steve who was a genderqueer asexual doing a librarianship degree. Instantly he says “Greetings and salutations to you all. I am Tagashaka. I’m gay. I’m in Uni. I want to become a member of your little band.”

I finally gave him a decent look. I notice his eyes.

Oceans of blue in a sea of milk. A moonlit beach in spring. The trade winds are blowing and the Palm leaves are gently shaking like little chimes. A small wave pushes the rocky sand. The sun starts to set.

“Hey I don’t take it personally but you’ve been staring at me for an entire hour.”

“Shit! Sorry!” I gasped as I realized I had fallen in love at almost first sight. This sort of thing only happens in stories! I’m not that kind of guy am I?

We organized to talk over coffee.

“I’m doing astronavigation. They say there is gold and other metals out in the belt. So that’s where I am going.”

“Heh. Need a pilot?, I’m doing astronautics!”

I realized I practically told this guy I wanted to be with him always at that point. It’s not even a date!

“You are in a wheelchair? How will you pilot?”

“This? Oh. I just need my head to pilot! But it still needs training.”

“Need to know about the… delta V?” Tagashaka was still learning English.

“All sorts of physics and stuff yeah. Hard, but hey its worth it if I get to be free out in space.”

“Free of what?”

“Heh. I will tell you if you get me a drink.”

Later on we managed to start properly dating.

Reading poems in Saunas. Organizing club stuff. Getting Tagashaka’s tattoo body suit finished. His artist was a man by the name of Keno who had six generations of tattoo artists in the family. Tagashaka mostly got big fish and ocean scenes and absolutely loved to get a new part of the tattoo and show it off. Often in bed, or in Saunas. I asked him if he wanted me to get tattooed at one point and he answered in poetry. A little haiku about a fish. I had the poem tattooed on my back with copies of some of the big fish he had nearby. After that every time we had an issue we used poetry to help.

Getting our degrees just seemed to happen.

“Hey what are you guys doing after Uni? It’s a big world out there now they have got to Ceti.”Amy asked one day.

They had just invented a good star drive. It had got a crew of sixty to Tau Ceti in a week. They had discovered a planet in its early Industrial Age. Humans were already there. It was a scary thought. But it made sense when the found out they all were related to a crew they had experimentally sent at some earlier point, it was hard to say exactly which experimental craft it had been. They had thought them all dead. Clearly they made it and had started a colony. Humanity was now starting to spread. Really the future was looking brighter by the day.

“We are going into the mining business. Asteroids.”

“Need someone to do your finances? I have the knack it seems. Since I transitioned I’ve done nothing but maths and accounting they want me to do a masters. But I need a better income for um… You know.”

Tagashaka, always the charmer said. “We would gladly employ such a skilled lady as yourself.”

“Wow. We just formed a corporation. What do we call ourselves? I’m not so great at names.”

“How about Jupiter Mining Corporation?” Amy said.

“Hey isn’t that from an old Sci fi?”

“How did you know that?” Any asked.

“I have a thing for old 2d TV shows and now poetry thanks to Tagashaka the charmer here.”

“Singe, pilot. Tagashaka, Navigator. Amy, accountant.”

That’s how we got into the mining business. Thanks to Amy we soon had ships and a loan bigger than a new lawyers overdraft. In a few weeks I was mining. In a few months we had already paid back the loan in triplicate and had 20 staff. It was crazy. But I loved it and I loved every minute I could spend with Tagashaka.


 

I docked the Device and check the freighters systems. A leak in the coolant system. Life support down. No detected life forms.

“Tagashaka.” I whimpered. Tears already flowing outwards in the low G.

I get in inside. He’s right in the pilot seat. Dead?

“Tagashaka.”

The Pirates had killed him.

I took his body to the infirmary. It was useless. His brain had been without oxygen too long. They hadn’t even needed to really aim on this big Japanese freighter. It was designed to carry big shipments of ore. Thrown out in big balls of raw metal that hung like breasts on the ships long metal arms, the carbon organics and water in stored big tanks or in blackish blocks. It was not designed for combat, or defence. It was almost 20 years old now, the pirates weren’t a real problem when we bought it.

You just point at the cockpit and the whole thing depressurised. You got about zilch warning.

Tagashacka looked peaceful. Resting. I know it wouldn’t have taken long for him to die. The hole in the hull was about the size of a large baby. Big enough to have let all the air out in a matter of seconds. If he hadn’t been strapped into his chair, he would have been in space, a floating mess.

I clicked the stasis pod on. His body should go back to his parents in Japan. Half the profits from this hall of ore too.

I felt empty. Minor repairs made. Life support back on. Rolling towards my cabin in my wheelchair. I could control the freighter from there. It could be pressurized and sealed. I didn’t need the cockpit as I could be under suspension the whole trip. I used the secure laser too Chronos to tell the authorities what happened. I had no idea what I would do when I woke.

I thought little as the suspension booth came on.

I finally decided on a name for the mining bell.

Tagashaka.

I got in my cabin, shut the seal and hit the autopilot to fire the fusion engines for a Chronos/Mars orbit.

I fell asleep crying.

Orange Hag

A unpleasant air makes the climb all the harder
For age has made these bones as old as the land under her feet
And no one will help her
Not that anyone is hear to
A lone pine sits watching her smugly from its permeant residence
Waiting to snark at her slow approach
Not one but many more steps before the summit is reached

The hag begins to wonder
Why do this every time?
For love?
For hate?
Because otherwise all like her will no longer be?
Maybe it would feel better if it wasn’t for that smug tree

When the sun finally rises she stops to rest
Her luncheon of nuts and dry meats
Consumed in teeth that hang on
Chomping as loud as she can
No one cares what noise happens up here

Up again and bones creek
It’s not far now
Past that pine
There is a pool
Full of summers last wine

She looks at her reflection
It’s older that she thought
She takes out a spoon and drinks
Sip by sip the memories of the summer past are drunk
At the end she feels a bit sunk
By all the memory in her full belly

Then it’s time.

A flash and she’s back to being all dark and mysterious, still aged but black and not orange
The Winter Hag looks at the empty pool and says
“Pine. You always keep the memory so strong. I wish I could keep such strong memory. ”
And as she walks a into a nearby hut, you could swear the pine was now somehow even more smug than before.

Sides

Inside they are

But our speaking has lemon taste

Thinking purple thoughts

Tarts on a smorgasbord of emotions

Split down a fine line

Interchange and find both

The path is not clear but is not distant

It’s a funny feeling but it’s not poison. So it is eaten.
The food tastes bitter. Hunger makes it like the brightest star on night of dark shadows and stormy secrets.
The path goes towards a forest.

It is forbidden. None can enter unless they are of a different flavour cake. The choice just a few minutes has consequences.

Purple thoughts rose into red dark eyes and splits the soul in twain.

One goes back and eats the other flavor. It’s silken milky drops from the eyes of a new born foal, it’s juniper ripe on a Sunday after the last summer rain, it’s strawberries slowly melting in a early autumn snow.

Then the split one travels the forest. It’s path is still unclear, but in its pocket is a treasure. A secret box containing the other.