Rayla discovered the jacket in the back of a Salvation Army sale. Its camo green had faded to a dingy brown. Good enough for 50 cents. She tried it on, shoving her gloved hands into the pockets.
She touched someone’s fingers.
We are one and we are many. We are shrubby willow and cotton-grass; we are moss and heather. All we need is this peaceful state of being. Enjoy the sun, listen to the birds, drink the mist. But there’s a new voice among us, and she won’t let us rest.
Night and day, she whispers about a man in town.
Ainsley Miller flips the vanity mirror open in her pristine, bulbous vehicle. She’s been parked out front of a nondescript apartment in a rundown Westside neighborhood, trying to psych herself up for what’s to come. A thin mist coats her windshield, each raindrop a sphere of flaring purple sunset in the distance.
It’s just a job, she tells herself, staring out at the world, the tension so thick it buzzes throughout the entire dusty suburban beach town.
Harmony wouldn't have trusted herself to maneuver her Lectra-Van up to the camp toilet without autopilot, but it was as though the van saw the toilet and, realizing that the driver was stopping for the night, wiggled in on its own. The hatch dropped and unsealed the sphincter gasket, and just like that, they were connected to the camp’s plumbing.
Randy Joe Eastman popped a few aspirin in his mouth and swallowed them with a mouthful of last night's coffee. Two in the afternoon and he still wasn't dressed for the day. But, hell, that'd been most of the last twenty-nine years, driving from city to city, playing a night or two at whatever club or bar or honkytonk would pay him enough to keep him going.
They only gave me the job because I’d been in the school play. I was the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which my school put on for the same reason they’d done The Sound of Music the year before and Cheaper By The Dozen the year before that—high schools are full of kids who want to be in the musical, and those plays are about families with a LOT of children.
She was only two when the now defunct U.S. government launched Skylab. Now she was pushing seventy-four, just below the waitlist cutoff to be on one of the last Mother Board Transports leaving Earth. A global consortium of corporations had decided no one above the age of seventy-five would be allowed to board. That would be it. Sayonara, Terra.
“The admiral wants you in room L17F5,” Lau tells me. “They say it’s urgent.”
As if the buzzer wasn’t enough of a reminder, I give her a quick nod and finish putting on my scrubs in shades of medical blue and military green before grabbing the most important item in my arsenal—the trusty brown rope I’ve been using since I started this.
Severina planned to wear her replica Top Diva tiara for her performance at the Galactic Gala, but my augmented vision indicated we'd already diverged from that. The diva, whom her team often referred to as the Princess, was wearing the real deal as we prepped her wardrobe in a locker room that was generally devoted to an entire team of athletes.
You were never sure if the first time you noticed the spot was in a dream or not. It could have been a dream.
It was early one morning, an hour or two before dawn. You had long since kicked the sheets down to the bottom of the bed in the muggy night, only to feel chilled now in the cooler morning ...