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Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond
Электронная книга669 страниц11 часов

Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond

Автор John Jennings, N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle и

Рейтинг: 3 из 5 звезд

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ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательRosarium Publishing
Дата выпуска1 окт. 2013 г.
ISBN9781495617898
Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond
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  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
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    I don't know how I missed this when it first came out. It's a HUGE collection (700 pages in electronic form) with big names and new names.

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Mothership - John Jennings

I Left My Heart in Skaftafell

Victor LaValle

He was meek, homicidal, wore a long scarf tied once around his neck as must have been the style for trolls that year. I never saw him board the bus, but it may have been in Varmahlid, though I can’t be sure since I slept so much as I traveled through Iceland.

I was there at the end of summer, August. Most folks in their twenties had already tramped cross-country in July so I found myself with the elderly wanderers. August was for the old-heads, and me. On wilderness trails I passed couples catching their breath and rubbing each other’s knees through their waterproof pants. The Germans regarded me with tacky detachment, snubbing me while wearing bright red boots and brighter orange parkas. They seemed ridiculous and yet they looked down on me. I tried not to feel hurt by their disdain, told myself being excluded by them was like being kicked out of clown college, but you can guess how much it really bothered me.

Also, I had the amazing misfortune of sitting behind French people on every plane and bus. Minutes into a ride a woman or man brazenly checked that yes, there was, undeniably, someone back there, then slid the chair so far back I had a headrest against my gullet. Even when I asked, slapped, tapped, or pushed the seat, these folks only gave that stare the French invented to paralyze the dumb.

Luckily, the Icelanders liked me, even though I was an American. Because I was shy. Firm, polite, and quiet, a perfect personality for these reserved northern Europeans. Many times I was told so. Don’t take this the wrong way, one woman in a candy shop said to me, but I explained to my co-worker that here, finally, is an American who isn’t boring. Being loud and asking so many boring questions!

Most Icelanders used English skillfully, but it was a quirk of speech that they said boring when they meant frustrating. Like, this knot in my shoe is so boring! Or, I can’t reach my girlfriend, this connection is boring!

So this was me: an American, not boring, black, and alone in Iceland.

Being both a troll and a smoker he had little lousy teeth. When his mouth opened it was hard to distinguish them from his lips. Everything fed into a general maw. Once, he lit up right on the bus as we left Akureyri, so the driver stopped, walked down the aisle, and explained that those were the old ways and he could no longer smoke everywhere he pleased. I sat farther back, but we all heard the warning. There were thirty-one of us riding the bus, mostly couples. No one else was going alone but me and the monster.

By the way, this whole time let’s not talk about the Africans. They had no allegiance to me of course. Why should they? The white folks weren’t hugging each other in Caucasian familyhood—still fuck those Africans, and I mean that from the bottom of my soul. In Reykjavik I went bonkers trying to get a little love from any one of them. Nothing. Not even the faintest soul-brother nod. May they all enjoy another hundred years of despotic rule.

When I say troll it probably implies a certain size. We hear troll and think dwarf, but out here trolls were enormous, according to reports. In a town called Vik there are three spires said to be trolls who were caught in sunlight and transformed to stone as they tried to drag a ship ashore. They’re six stories high.

My troll was man-sized. He wore one beige sweater the whole time, though he paid his bills from a fold of green and purple cash kept tied in a big red handkerchief. Whenever I got off the bus, he got off the bus. It didn’t take long to notice the pattern. I’d see him walking around towns at night, moving with a predatory hunch, hands in his pockets and holding out the sides of his jacket as he moved so that, when the wind got in there, the fabric expanded and he seemed to grow wings.

I didn’t come to Iceland to fuck Icelandic women nor to spin in the flash clubs of Reykjavik. Iceland was my destination because for me there was nowhere else to go. The rest of the world was only getting hotter and, much to the shame of my sub-Saharan ancestors, I was a black man who hated warm weather. So I came to Iceland for the cold, but that wasn’t the only thing that brought me.

Once there I paid a little over two hundred dollars for a one-way bus ticket around the island. Get off in any town you want, explore, be both gawked at and ignored, then get on the next bus the next day to the next place.

Not long before coming to Iceland I’d stopped wanting marriage. Not only with the woman I lived with, the woman I loved, but with the rest of them, too. I saw marriage in my lane and I swerved. While it’s true each family is unhappy in its own way, it seems like every married person’s complaints are the god-damn same. I had married friends, read novels and articles about the subject, and from what I could tell, that wedding band made you a member of one great, dull, secret society. I also hated the men my friends turned into once they married. Relentlessly horny for any woman besides their wives, seeming angry at their wives for having just one pussy that they’d be stuck fucking for the rest of their lives. I decided I’d rather be alone than so unhappy. Despite that change of mind, and all my bluster, it was me feeling sad and longing in Iceland. How many times had I called my ex before taking this trip? Too many to count. But she never picked up.

I felt so sexy over there. I felt sexy everywhere, actually. My signature had carnal appeal. Also, the way I wore my wool hat, with the earflaps tied under my chin? Sexy. I’m not being self-deprecating in the slightest. Despite this feeling, I hadn’t been to bed with a woman since my breakup, so I felt like a light socket hidden behind the bookshelf.

That was probably best though. Nothing worse than meeting a new woman and you’re still nurturing your heartache about the last one. What I hate are those people who can’t stand to be alone. They seem so weak. But of course that’s exactly the kind of guy I turned out to be, so the only way to get isolated was to run far, far away. Like Iceland.

The problem with a trip like mine, and the reason I didn’t full-nelson the troll on the first day he started following me, was that I kept seeing the same people in different towns. There was a stumpy Italian couple that I must have greeted eighteen times in four days. There was a woman from who-can-say-where who became as uncomfortable around me as I eventually did around the troll. She and I just kept picking the same lifeless churches to visit, the same damn coffeehouses, until I must have seemed to own a map of her future engagements. I was constantly accidentally trailing her. Having gone through that made me sympathetic, so the troll got an untold number of rides sitting in a seat near me because I wanted to be fair, to be fair.

At Lake Myvatn I camped in a long-cooled lava pool under a constant drizzle and occasional downpours. Inside my tent I read the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Egil’s Saga, an ancient Icelandic tale. To me both seemed like the myths of long-lost civilizations. I forgot the troll while I was there. Four days at Lake Myvatn and I never saw him.

On a day when it was only lightly drizzling I rented a bike to get around the lake and, at one point, found a field of lava that had cooled into grotesque stacks. Enormous columns of petrified ash two stories high. There were little holes dug into them up near the top that resembled shelves. That’s where goblins slept, according to the old stories. When I walked into these endless fields they seemed to twist behind me. I imagined wandering forward until I found the Liege of the Goblins reclining on a throne made of sheep skulls. Would I run from him? I didn’t know, but part of me wanted to find out.

I liked Iceland because they still had myths on their minds. Not that you’d find any younger people who’d admit to believing in goblins or dwarves or little people of any kind. They were too cosmopolitan, too modern, for that. And yet even the most skeptical refused to state their disbelief too loudly in a public place.

After the camping trip was over and I climbed on the next bus to the next town, yeah, the troll was there. It was like he’d been sleeping in the hood of my jacket this whole time. I boarded the bus and he was already in a seat.

When I passed him I tried to remember that woman I kept seeing from town to town. The troll was probably only doing his own gamboling through the country. Why be paranoid? It had nothing to do with me. But then he turned in his seat, looked directly at me, and didn’t turn away. It was me who flinched. I looked out my window, watched the bus driver tossing all our bags into the luggage bay.

I wrote a postcard to the woman I’d almost married. The woman I hurt so much when I pulled away. In my note I described the guy who was following me, but then I decided I couldn’t mail the card. I’d been so sure I wanted to be alone, hadn’t I? Well, here I was, alone, and immediately I reached for her.

Since the troll sat ahead of me, the driver reached him first to check tickets and ask for a destination so he could punch the card.

Breiddalsvik, the troll croaked.

His voice was even sleazier than his appearance. The way he whispered the name it sounded like he was about to crawl up the inside of the driver’s leg and bite him on the thigh. Ravenous and repellent, the rattling hiss of a crocodile. Good enough, though. The troll had a destination and it wasn’t mine. I was headed to Djupivogur and happily told the driver.

But when we reached Breiddalsvik and the driver pulled over, the troll leaned his head into the aisle and said, No, not here. Not yet.

The driver looked harassed but then kept on driving, both of us still on board.

Our bus wove through sharp mountains. Big basalt cliffs with little plant life on them because winds eroded them too quickly to grow much. Sheep and cows grazed in meager fields.

Finally we reached Djupivigor. Fishing village of four hundred. Four hundred and thirty-one once the bus parked.

Couples disembarked. I took my pack from below the bus. The troll took his single hefty black bag. It was a good size but not enough to carry camping gear, sleeping bag, change of clothes, toiletries. Like mine. His was big enough to hold a human head, I thought. By now my thoughts were getting macabre.

The only hotel in town was beside a tiny harbor. A small modern fleet of boats was moored in tidy rows at the other end of the harbor. Of the twelve vessels there, ten wouldn’t have fit more than four people. The last two were big, for tours to the island of Papey, famous for its puffins. The clumsy little birds with adorable faces and multicolored bills were the reason I’d stopped here. I wanted to eat one. Cooked, of course.

I let the troll register first because I kept making the mistake of thinking that if I caught him in a lie it would be enough to stop his plans. I’d confront him, yell, You said you were getting off in Breiddalsvik, but you got off in Djupivigor! And he’d buckle under the weight of my keen observation. He’d screech then disappear back into the realm of haints and phantoms.

For one night, he said to the young girl behind the desk. Sleeping bag accommodations will do.

I was on the same plan. Iceland was expensive at this time, even here in the outer reaches. A single room was sixty dollars and wouldn’t be much better than a homeless shelter. Sleeping bag accommodations, a tiny cubicle with a cot and a shared bathroom, cost only twenty.

My room was 8 and the troll’s was 9. When I went back later to try to switch to another, farther room, the clerk told me the rest had been reserved by a team of Norsemen off hulking around some unpronounceable mountain. Climbing it with their bare hands, probably. I was relieved. A hall of Vikings was enough company for me to feel safe, even if I was directly next door to the fiend. I waited all evening for them to come, as if they’d already agreed to have my back in case things went badly with the troll.

But they never came. The next morning I asked the teenager at the desk, the same clerk as the night before, where the Norsemen had gone. She told my they’d slipped away. A tow rope gave out on their climb and they cascaded into a pyre of bones, flares, and ice axes. For a moment I imagined my troll scaling the heights of the mountain and snapping their secure lines just so no one would get between him and me.

I went back to my room, feeling rattled. Afraid is more honest. I tried to sleep away the rest of the morning but really I just lay there listening for the sounds of the troll. From his room I heard throat clearing and much coughing. He’d hack so hard I swear I heard the wet tear of his trachea. Rolling around in his cubicle he bumped the wall more than once, and it felt like a taunt. I didn’t go out to the communal toilet and just peed in my room’s small sink. At some point I fell asleep.

When I woke again I heard the troll in that communal bathroom. He was shaving at the sink. I was actually feeling terrible right then. Too lonely even for fear. I got out of my sleeping bag and soldiered into the bathroom, stood three feet away from the troll, and threw some bass into my voice.

Hey, look, I began. Are you following me?

Yes.

What kind of boar’s hair was this guy growing? I heard the scratch of his razor running across his throat. It wasn’t some disposable either. An enormous contraption, it wasn’t electric. It looked like a settler-era plow. As it pulled across his pinkish skin the sound was a crackling fire.

Why are you following me? This time when I spoke my voice had all the man knocked out of it. I almost whispered.

I’m going to kill you, he said. There was still shaving cream on the right side of his face. Then I’m going to eat your flesh and put your bones in my soup. I’ve done it to others and I’m going to do it to you.

You really are?

I am.

He stopped shaving but hadn’t turned to me this whole time. He only looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror.

I stumbled into the toilet. It was where my feet directed me. My room would’ve been more sensible, but it’s hard to be sensible when you hear a threat like that, so I went to the shitter instead. It had a full door so that I was on the inside and, at least nominally, safe from him.

He went on shaving that prickly neck for fifteen minutes longer. Out of fright I had to pee, but was too scared to pull down my pants. The sound of metal on skin went on for so long that I thought he must be regrowing the hair he’d just cut.

My hirsute pursuer eventually ran water in the sink and after that he came to the toilet door. He knocked as if I was going to open up for him.

Hello, he said. Hello?

I pressed my hands against the cool, blue concrete walls on either side of me. If he bashed through the door I was going to press myself up and kick him straight in the teeth and then do a backflip out the tiny window behind me. Sure I was.

Why be so afraid? he whispered. "I could tear down this door right now, but I don’t want to be boorish. My name is Gorroon. When I come for you, you will know it. But, oh my, I can smell your blood from here."

Because of Gorroon I never saw the puffins. He left the bathroom, chuckling to himself, and eventually I stepped out of the stall. I rolled up my sleeping bag and supplies then went to the front desk to turn in my key. The teenage girl at the desk—the same one who’d checked me in, the one who’d told me about the Norsemen—was sad when I told her I was leaving without hitting Papey.

Have you been? I asked her.

I haven’t, she admitted. But I’ve seen many puffins.

She had a dimpled, wide face and couldn’t have been more than seventeen. As she talked I leaned with my back against the front desk just to be sure Gorroon wouldn’t rush the lobby with a hatchet and surprise me.

The girl’s work schedule was seven days a week, eight hours each day. When I commiserated, assuming she must be working that much because she was broke, she laughed and corrected me. I like to be here, she said. What else would I do today? My husband is at home without a job.

You’re married?

There was gold on the ring finger of her right hand, but you’d be excused for missing it. The metal was whiter than her skin, thin as thread. She was already married at seventeen, and at thirty I was still as single as a child.

Does everyone here get married so young?

No, no. A lot of women have children and raise them alone. The father might live nearby, but not in the same home.

We’ve tried that in the U.S., I said.

And what did you find?

The boys all grow up to be crybabies.

She laughed. How boring that must be for the women!

The bus arrived out front. A few passengers disembarked. Still I stayed at the desk with the girl. I realized there was something I wanted from her. Not sex. Maybe corroboration. I wanted to tell her about the troll, but it seemed too silly to say out loud. And yet this was a magical land. That’s what all the tourists were told.

Do your people really believe in elves and all that? I asked.

I wondered if I sounded desperate. If she’d laugh, or scold me for being a gullible foreigner. Instead she only sighed.

If you ever see one then you will have faith. If you never do then you won’t. It is the same here like it is anywhere. And both sides will never accept each other.

A fine point, really. One I would’ve been willing to accept at any other time in my life, but right then I wanted a direct answer.

"But what do you believe? I said. Have you ever seen one?"

Just then the bus driver grumbled into the lobby. He asked if there were any passengers getting on the bus. The girl patted my hand lightly then nodded at the driver.

There are two, she said.

The ride from Djupivigor to Skaftafell was three hours. I tried to write one more postcard to my ex, but there was an unsteadiness to the roads that showed up in my penmanship. Earlier I wanted to write asking for help, tell her about Gorroon. This time I was trying to write an apology. But the pen wouldn’t stay steady on the card. If I’d mailed it to her she wouldn’t be able to understand a word.

We moved from the mountainous surroundings that I’d taken for granted into these ongoing fields of long-cooled lava. Evidence, on either side of the national highway, of an eruption that took place 640 years earlier. Old things here. The fields weren’t barren, but grown bright green, mossy puffy tufts.

We stopped at the lake called Jokulsarlon, where the farthest end of a great glacier crumbled into colored hunks of ice. Even these fragments were three and four stories tall. Some blue, others white. This glacier had been moving, incrementally, for centuries, dragging across the land. The ice was packed with brown and black earth in varied zigzag patterns. Our bus parked for pictures. I was one of the first shooting from the shoreline. There was so much I never imagined I’d see in my life. How lucky I felt, just then, to witness this.

Meanwhile Gorroon stayed near the bus.

I wondered if he was afraid of the cold or getting too close to the glacier. How do you defeat a troll? Sunlight was supposed to be one method, but there was Gorroon smoking a cigarette by the bus, standing in direct sunlight. Should I put salt on his tongue? Make him say his name backward? If I knew a trick, I would have used it.

Instead I just watched him. Gorroon didn’t even stare back at me now. He didn’t have to. We were past threats. His aggression was a promise. I understood he was going to grab me. A free-floating dread. Women know the feeling I’m talking about.

Back on the bus we rode for another forty minutes until we reached a tiny white sign welcoming us to Skaftafell National Park. There wasn’t much to it. One building, a parking lot, campgrounds, and a mountain. We parked, I disembarked, rented a tent, and made camp. There were lots of folks doing the same—more of those aging European couples, as well as some Icelandic families. Too crowded a place for Gorroon to get me. I could sit out my time down there and stay safe, or I could go up the mountain and see what came.

With the sun up twenty hours a day there was still a lot of time to climb. I started moving at 4:00 p.m. Rain stopped, the daylight was vivid. Foreign languages, heard as I passed a handful of tents, sounded profound around me.

At the far end of the campground there was a well-established path that slipped onto the mountain, and once I was on it the land, the people behind me, dissolved. Buses in the parking lot, children calling to parents. Instantly there was only me.

This trail wasn’t steep, it just went on for so long. I took pictures of waterfalls until I was sick of waterfalls. Soon the ground lost most of its grass. Just dirt and stones. Mostly stones. Walking on them made my ankles hurt. Another forty minutes and the pain had reached my knees.

When I turned back I could see, far below me—even beyond the campgrounds—a hundred little streams, runoff, faint melt from the glacier behind this mountain, bleeding out to sea. They crossed each other playfully. I was watching them so closely that it took a few moments before I noticed the troll walking up the path. He was using a cane.

His beard had grown. Down to his collarbone. His red scarf was tied below it. He didn’t wear a hat. The stick was small, but store-bought, redwood. He waved to me. He didn’t hurry. I turned toward the peak and went up that way. If I could have run I would have run, but my legs were aching.

I didn’t come to Iceland for anything. Iceland came to me in a dream.

And not one of my paranoid racism dreams that, me being black, occur at least once every twenty-eight days.

I dreamt I was in the future. It didn’t look all that different from now, I just knew it was a later date. I was in New York. By the Gowanus Canal. Around me thousands of other black people wore yellow rain slickers because the day was overcast. We had boats. Or rather, boats were docked. Catamarans. Those cruiser types used for whale-watching tours. A hundred of them taxied up against the docks in Red Hook.

Black people climbed on the catamarans to capacity. Once full, the boats went out to New York Harbor and from there the sea. Those of us on the shore cheered, and those on the ships excitedly waved back. No one carried suitcases, but I knew we were leaving America. Not being deported. Forget that. Choosing to go.

And where were we off to? Iceland.

All the black folks in the United States were moving to Iceland because no one lived there anyway. This was a dream, remember, so forget the gaps in logic. Finally I got on a catamaran. I stayed out on deck even though it began to rain. It was okay because suddenly I was wearing a yellow slicker, just like the others. The engine was so powerful I felt the vibration up through my shoes, strong enough to shake me.

The drawbridges along the canal had been lifted, not so much for clearance but to wave goodbye. As our boat pulled away we passed the garbage transfer stations and old warehouses that had yet to be refurbished. They were slagged apart, walls falling, broken down and decrepit. I could see into each one as we went by. As we moved I was overjoyed. We all were. Imagine that: a happy story about black people.

As we sought larger bodies of water our boat passed a warehouse as ramshackle as the last ten. But this one was full of gold. Not just gold. Honey, too.

Honey in jars and bowls. Two hundred clear containers. Honey spread sticky across the wooden floorboards. Yellow candles were lit and flickering. I heard the wind against the side of my face. Rain slapped my temples, but I felt warm.

Gold coins were gathered into piles two feet high and just as far across. Yellow fabric was strung up on the walls, tied into enormous bows. It was a majestic and reassuring sight. As if we were being told—by who, I don’t know—that we were doing the right thing. Not running away, but running toward something. A fate we couldn’t imagine. I understood, in that moment, that this dream was meant for me. A message.

Go.

When I woke up I booked my ticket.

Near the top of the mountain Gorroon fell farther and farther back. Maybe he was heavier than he looked. My own thighs were boiling from the exertion. I was nearly jogging to the top. On the path I passed no one. A ribbon of clouds descended over me. A mist came down from the gray sky until it touched the peak of the mountain. Then it descended farther, consuming the earth quietly until the trail behind me was obscured. There was still the trail ahead. Around the next curve of the mountain path I finally came to view the great glacier. Skaftafellsjokull.

I still wasn’t anywhere near it. The ice sat miles away from the mountain, but I saw it clearly. Sunlight reflected against ice particles in the air, surrounding the distant glacier with pixie dust. This was the place where I’d meet my fate. Nowhere could be better. Once I understood this, I calmed. Even took out my camera and took pictures of the world while I waited for Gorroon.

When he arrived I saw that his beard had grown since I’d last seen him an hour ago. Now it had reached his navel. He stooped deeply as he walked, resembled the old Chinese women at the Canal Street train station. I always wanted to protect their fragile-looking spines from injury, scoop them up in my hands and carry them to a room full of cushions. For an instant I felt the same affection toward the troll.

Our breathing was different. His was much louder.

Not used to the climbs? I asked. I actually taunted the thing. I snapped his picture with my camera.

His cane had a blue stone embedded in the handle, which he rubbed with his fat, yellowed thumb. I’m having a hard time with this part, he admitted. I really didn’t expect you to go all the way up.

I smiled about it, even laughed at him.

But once he’d recovered his breath the troll stopped seeming like a fool. As soon as he could stand straight he was next to me. I didn’t even feel the movement, like water trickles through a closed hand. From ten feet away he’d seemed like an old man without the sauce to catch a cab. Now I could see his mouth quite clearly, he was that close. His teeth were tiny. Splintered bone fragments. Hellish. Hideous.

Hello again, he said.

He bent down, almost like a bow. Instead, he grabbed my left leg and pulled it from under me so that I fell backward, landing on the stones and snow. My camera went tumbling along the path.

Wow. He had small hands, but a strong grip. One hand on my left ankle, one on my left knee. I struggled, but it was a cursory movement. Just to say I tried. He pulled my knee toward him and pushed my ankle the other way. The pressure was instant, amazing.

I looked down thinking, Will my knee pop out of the skin? Will my ankle turn to splinters? Gorroon patiently insisted that my lower leg snap.

Then my left hand moved into his long hair.

I hadn’t meant to do it. I wasn’t thinking, just suddenly fighting.

The stuff on his head rivaled his beard for length. It wasn’t as greasy as it looked. It crackled in my hands, like straw. I grasped closer to the scalp until I found a patch that wasn’t brittle. My leg began bleeding down into my left shoe.

Once I had a tight grip I leaned back so all my weight was pulling at his skull. His skin tore away from his scalp. He started panting.

Had I hurt him?

The mountain, the glacier, they seemed to be waiting for an answer. Which of these two do we get?

You can’t have it, I told Gorroon, but he wasn’t listening. I don’t think I even understood what I meant. There was blood on my shoe, yes, but there was blood in my left hand as well. His blood.

My right hand went for his beard, and the left was doing so well that I decided not to intervene. My body knew what it was doing. You might even call my determination happiness. He’d take my leg, but I would steal his face.

As my right hand came near his whiskers, Gorroon opened his mouth. I thought I was far enough away that he couldn’t bite, but he had a jaw like a shark’s and the teeth popped past the lips to reach me. The outer edge of my hand was there for him to rip, so he tore into the flesh and then pulled backward, peeling the skin and taking some meat. My right pinky curled down on itself and wouldn’t straighten. I still had feeling in the rest of that hand.

I thought maybe I should just roll and take us both over the precipice, but the point wasn’t to kill him anymore. I’d begun to doubt that such a thing was possible. Kill a myth? I’d watched enough horror movies to know that an unwatched monster always returns. So instead, the point was that I should live. I refused to die. If I had to stay here with him, on our backs, for fifty thousand years then that’s how it would be. Think of all the travelers, men and women, who would be spared Gorroon’s attacks if I did. Wouldn’t that count as something good? We’d be here, locked in battle until our bodies calcified, until we became another landmark on the mountain, one more folktale.

My leg wouldn’t break. It was obvious from the troll’s frustration. He might have liked to scare me by appearing triumphant, but when he attempted to laugh it made his shoulders buckle. It seemed like he was stifling a sob.

Meanwhile my grip had locked onto his scalp, all nine of my usable fingers pulling there. Who knew I was such a wonderful, stubborn bastard? In my experience there seemed to be only two kinds of men—brooders and brats. I’d come all this way, hoping to discover a third option. I’d never cared if I turned out to be rich, or brilliant. More than anything I just wanted to prove to myself that I could be brave. That, unlike when I left that good woman behind, I wouldn’t run from the hard tasks of life. I’d messed up before, but I wouldn’t do the same this time. I would persevere. My fatigued brain was commanding my hands to release, relent, surrender, but they refused.

I refused.

My camera was found by a pair of Belgian kids out hiking two days later. They uploaded the pictures to the internet, even the last few, where Gorroon’s face was captured. Our thrashing bodies, with the glacier in the distance, filled the last clear shot the camera snapped. Generally, the pictures were dismissed as mere online hoax. Most commenters on the page said they could create better images without leaving their homes, right on their laptops.

But if you’re one of the few who felt compelled, somehow lured to Iceland, maybe by those photos or even by a dream, then follow the journey I’ve laid out here. When you reach the top of the mountain and see the glacier in full view, there’s a short tongue of land that juts forward. It’ll seem a little dangerous to walk out there, but step onto it anyway. At its edge you’ll see an enormous boulder. It’s as big as two men. Come close. Press your ear to the cold stone. Forget the doubts of nonbelievers. Quiet your breathing. Listen. Yes.

I am whispering in your ear.

Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows

N.K. Jemisin

The alarm clock buzzed at 7:00 a.m., right after reality rolled over. Helen tapped the snooze button for ten more minutes. When the alarm went off again, she believed for a moment that a man was in the room, creeping toward her. She sat up ready to lash out with nails and fists and feet, then memory returned and she chuckled to herself. A dream. Habit. Too bad.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, TwenWen!

[Thursday, ??? feels like 10 p.m.]

Hel, you had the rapist dream too? Thought I was the only sicko! Y’know, back in college psych they said those kinds of dreams are a representation of your subconscious yearning to be rescued from your out-of-control situation. (That, or you want a penis. ^_-) Usually I try to keep mine going awhile, see if he actually manages to score. Never does. Figures; even my Freudian fantasy rapists are pissant schmucks.

In browsing news, surprise! There’s yet another spec-thread running among the BumBloggity brats. The government did it version 2,563,741. Wish they’d get back to aliens or God; those are more fun.

BTW, gang, meet SapphoJuice (his blog). He’s in a snowy reality. Has a studio, poor guy.

Hey, anybody heard from MadHadder lately?

Life, post-prolif: she climbed up from the futon and shuffled across the room, her feet chuffing along the tatami-matted floor. When she reached the kitchen she took care to yank the fridge door open so that the glass bottles would rattle and clink. Noise made the apartment seem less empty. Then she slapped onto the counter the items that would comprise her breakfast: a cup of yogurt and a cellophaned packet of grilled fish. She rummaged awhile for the stay-fresh drink box of chai tea concentrate; she knew where it was, but rummaging helped to kill time. The milk was as fusty as ever. Irrationally she always retained the vague hope that if she got up soon enough after the rollover, it would taste fresher. Mixing it with the chai covered the not-quite-sour taste, so she microwaved that for three minutes and then used that to wash the fish down.

Chewing, she paused and grinned to herself as she felt a bone prick the inside of her cheek. She’d eaten the packet of fish seven times lately without finding it. The bone was always there, but tiny and easy to miss. Finding it made her feel lucky.

It was going to be another beautiful day in infinity.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, SapphoJuice!

[Cinco de myass, the year 2 bajillion and 2]

SPINNYSPINNYSPINNY

Hi, all. Thanks for the warm greetings. My daily routine includes two hours of spinning around in my desk chair. My mom never used to let me do it before, so…whee!

Yes, Marguille, your guess as to the origin of my username is correct; I am indeed a squealing Herbert fanboy (sorry, Conty, not a lesbian =P). Only got Children Of in my studio, though. Sucks donkey balls. Big hairy fat ones.

Ah, c’mon, Twen, specthreading is fun and oh so good for you. Granted, it’s pretty much a complete waste to wonder how and why the quantum proliferation occurred because we can’t do dick to fix it…. And granted, the BumBloggers do seem to have the same arguments over and over (and over and over) again…but hey, there’s comfort in the routine. Right? Right? ::listens to crickets::

Hel: wow, Japan? You must have been quite the adventurer, before.

Jogging; she loved it. The rhythmic pounding of the hardpack under her sneakers. The mantra of her breathing. She would never have taken up jogging if there’d still been people around to watch her, maybe point and laugh at the jiggly big-boned sistah trying to be FloJo. Before the prolif she’d only just begun to shed her self-consciousness around the Japanese. They rarely stared when she could see them, and her students had gotten used to her by then, but on the street she’d always felt the pressure of the neighbors’ gazes against her back, skittering away from her peripheral vision when she turned. The days of Sambo dolls at the corner store were mostly over, but not a lot of Japanese had seen black people anywhere except on television. My parents must’ve felt the same during grad school in Des Moines, she’d always told herself to put things in perspective. It hadn’t helped much.

Now, free from the pressure of those gazes, she could run. She was fit and strong and free.

Around her the barren, cracked desert stretched unbroken for as far as the eye could see.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, KT!

[Saturdayish, The House That Time Forgot]

Fighting the lonelies. Everybody still out there? Conty? Guille? Hel? Twen? (Hi, Sapp.) I haven’t heard from MadHadder either. What if the silence got him?

Don’t want to think about that. Topic change. Did you know Mr. Hissyfit keeps going through the rollovers, too? I guess cats do think.

Sappjuice, it sounds like you’re living in Fimbulwinter (sp?). I’ve got grassy plain. It’s boring, but at least I know it can’t kill me. You have my e-sympathies.

She liked best the fact that the day started over after about ten hours. Incomplete reality, incomplete time. She’d stayed awake to watch the rollover numerous times, but for a phenomenon that should’ve been a string-theorist’s wet dream, it was singularly unimpressive. Like watching a security camera video loop: dull scene, flicker, resume dull scene. Though once the flicker passed there was grilled fish and stale milk in her fridge again, and her alarm clock buzzed to declare that 7:00 a.m. had returned. Only her mind remained the same.

She usually went to bed a few hours after the second alarm. That gave her time to print out the latest novella making the rounds in cyberspace, read it in the bath, and maybe work on her own would-be masterpieces. It didn’t bother her that the poems she wrote erased themselves every rollover. If she wanted to keep them, she posted them online, where the mingling of so many minds kept time linear. But doing that exposed the fragile words to the scrutiny of others, and sometimes it was better to just let them vanish.

She decided to post the latest one to share with her friends. The new boy wasn’t a friend, not yet, but maybe he had friend-potential.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, Marguille!

[Sunday, 5 Marguille’sMonth, 2 years A.P., 2 a.m.]

I agree with Twen; specthredding is evil. But I can’t help it; been reading the Bumwankers stuff (I know, I know). my vote has always been for the government theory. $87 bil. for an emergency fund? Shyeah. Probly only took half that to build some knd of new super-weapon, or hotwire a particle accelerator. I know! Let’s shoot some protons at the terrorists! Yeah! Oops, we bro,ke the universe!

But seriously…I keep thinking that somewhere out there, normal reality still exists. no, scratch that — I know it exists, because it’s possible. Fun with quantum theory! ’Course, that means oblivion exists too. (This is what we get for letting that guy Shröedinger experiment on his cat. Should’ve sicked PETA on him.)

SappJuice, don’t feel bad about your studio. Hel’s Japanese apartment’s probably half the size of yours. (What do you call half a studio? A closet? ::ducks rotten tomatoes from Japan::) Anyway, it’s not like the rest of us are so much better off. What difference does a few square feet make when they’re the same square feet every damn day?

She got the email just before she would’ve gone to bed. The ding from her computer surprised her. Weblogs worked, as did other forms of public communication. Direct, private contact was impossible. Individual-to-individual relays— instant messaging, email—worked, but were always iffy. Most people just didn’t bother to try; too disappointing. And then there were the rumors.

But she read the email anyway.

"To: Hel

From: SapphoJuice

Subject: Hi

Helen (seems so weird to say your full name),

Hope you get this. I read the poem you posted in your blog. I just wanted to say…it wasn’t beautiful, but it did move me. Made me remember the way things used to be, and made me realize I don’t really mind that the old world is gone. I got put in a garbage can by football players *every day* during my freshman year. My mom always used to tell me I’d never amount to anything. How could I miss that? Anyway.

I guess the only thing that bothers me now is the silence. And sometimes I don’t even mind that, but sometimes the snow just gets to me. Why the hell couldn’t my pocket universe have formed around an *interesting* environment? I could dig an endless beach, maybe an endless forest. No, I get snow. It’s so quiet. It never stops falling. I can’t go out far without losing the apartment in the haze. Sometimes I want to just keep walking into the white, who cares? Then I read your poem.

Sappy (yeah, I know)"

She sat at her computer, savoring the newness of the moment.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome, KT!

[Ohwhocares? Someday, somewhen]

Mr. Hissyfit got out. I tried to catch him but he just ran straight away into the grass. I keep going out to call for him, but he must be too far away to hear me.

Stupid cat. Stupid goddamn cat. I can’t stop crying.

She emailed SapphoJuice back and told him that she had feared the silence only once. That had been right after the prolif, when she’d still been adjusting. She’d started running and hadn’t stopped; just put her head down and cranked her arms like pistons and hauled ass as fast as her legs would take her, as far as her lungs could fuel. When she’d looked around the apartment was gone, swallowed into the cracked-earth landscape. Instant panic. The apartment was only a fragment of reality, but it was her fragment of reality, her only connection to the other incomplete miniverses that now made up existence. Even before the prolif she had been happiest there.

She could admit that, now, to him. But back on the day she’d run too far she’d been in a panic, her grip on sanity slipping by cogs. It had taken the threat of true isolation, of wandering lost through endless wastelands until thirst or exposure killed her, to make her see the apartment as haven and not prison. So half-blinded by tears she had run back, thanking God that her shoes were cheap. One of them had an uneven sole that scuffed a little crescent-shaped mark into the dusty soil. The moon had led her home.

BLOGSTER login: Welcome Conty!

RED ALERT

[Day 975 (yeah right I actually keep count in my head)]

KT no more kidding. Fight it. Don’t think about the damn cat. Go out and run — you can go pretty far from your house in the grass, can’t you? Eat something.

Hell, eat everything; it’s not like it won’t come back at rollover.

Talk to us.

The emails she sent didn’t always go through. More than once she had to send them again when they bounced or, more often, simply never got a response. She saw the bounce histories in his attachments and knew that he’d had to send his multiple times, too. Just another day post-prolif.

She did not tell the others about the private correspondence, and neither did he. She knew what her friends would have said. It became something special, secret, a little titillating. As the days passed her dreams changed. Now the man creeping about her room had a face and a much less sinister demeanor. Now he looked like a skinny, geeky teenage