Lament (poem)

Stars_Ablaze_by_sumopiggy

Lament

If I could trek in your shoes
Across space and time
And into the hearts
of outcasts

I would light a fanatic’s fire in them
Like the one you lit in me

If I could reach the stars
A million years from here
And trace the contours
of the universe

I would search for you in stardust
And in the faces of other outcasts
Like me.


It’s been a while since I last posted, but I couldn’t let Leonard Nimoy’s death go unmarked. Spock has, and always will be, my hero.


 

Image credit: sumopiggy @ deviantART

The Pilot

alien-landscape

The Pilot

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked, his voice a perfect blend of concern and compassion.

I sighed. “As soon as I got out of the cryo chamber.” How many times had I said that in the last three days? “The star on the viewer wasn’t right. It should have been a red dwarf. But I guess the computer woke me up because something went wrong.”

“What went wrong?” He leaned forward in his chair, pen poised above a notepad.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I was too busy worrying about surviving the crash into your atmosphere.” Memories of the planet’s surface rushing to greet me flooded through my brain. I still couldn’t believe I’d survived.

Neither could they.

The alien psychiatrist nodded sympathetically, but his eyes belied his doubt. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t really blame him. Who knew there was another planet with sentient life that looked like humans? And the odds that I would end up here by accident must have been infinitesimal. It didn’t help that my ship had engaged its self-destruct protocol as soon as we entered the alien atmosphere. I was lucky I got out before it imploded.

“You understand that we’ve found no evidence to corroborate your story?” He tapped his pen against the notepad.

“Yes,” I said.

“How do you explain that?”

“I can’t. I’m not an astrophysicist. I’m just a pilot.”

The psychiatrist sat back in his chair. His pen rested against his lips. “So what made you go to our Supreme Leader’s private residence?”

More of the same questions. I sighed again. “It’s just where I ended up. I didn’t know whose house it was.”

“I see,” he said.

I’m not sure he saw anything. He thought I was either a terrorist pretending to be crazy or just a crazy person with massive delusions. He clearly didn’t believe I was an alien.

“You’ll get the DNA test back soon, right?” I asked.

He nodded.

“Maybe you should just wait to see the results. I know we look alike, but I’m really not from here.”

“You’re just lost,” he said.

It was my turn to nod and his turn to sigh.

He looked at his watch. “Okay, let’s take a break. I’ll go check on the tests.”

I watched him leave, then turned to look out the window at the alien world. It was a lot like home, but the vegetation was different, and the sky was more purple than blue. It also had fewer people than Earth. I remembered the vast expanses of virgin land I’d seen as my ship plummeted toward the surface. Pristine. Unspoiled.

As the minutes ticked by, I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. The sound of the door crashing open awakened me. I turned sleepy eyes toward the psychiatrist.

“Who are you and why are you here?” The concern and compassion had disappeared, replaced with anger. And fear, I think.

“You got the test results,” I said.

He tossed some papers on the table and visibly tried to collect himself. “Yes. You were telling the truth. You’re not from here.”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

He pointed to a line in the test results. “This is not biological. Your DNA has been altered.”

“More like augmented,” I said.

“Why?”

I looked at him. “I think you already know why.”

He dropped into his chair. “So the fact that everyone who’s come into contact with you is sick is no accident?”

I shook my head.

“You said you were lost,” he said.

“I lied.”

He nodded and his shoulders slumped. “How long do we have?”

“Your species will be extinct in about a week. The disease is very aggressive.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Why us?” he finally asked. “Why here?”

I smiled. “Because your planet is beautiful.”

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This is my submission for this week’s speakeasy challenge, in which we had to use this sentence as our first line: “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. And we had to make some reference to a photo prompt, which you can see if you click through to the challenge page.

An announcement for those of you who are writers: I will be running a writing workshop this summer, in cahoots with my fellow speakeasy editor, Natalie. It will give you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a professional editor at a total steal! You can register over at yeah write (my workshop is the Gold Lounge/Tier 3).
Or you can email me for more details.

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Image credit: Dan Verkys @ deviantART

Worlds Apart

Reptile_by_Maysiiu

Worlds Apart

My people came to this planet when I was just a little boy, fleeing persecution on our home world. I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember the long, dark voyage to our new home. I remember stepping off the ship into golden sunshine and being awestruck by how different this new world was. And I remember the first time I saw them, the inhabitants of our new world. I watched them greet my people from my hiding place behind my mother’s legs.

They looked like us in some ways, but their skin was a different texture and their ears were long and pointed. They had tails, sort of like the monkeys I’d seen in the zoo back home. And some of them had very sharp teeth. As a child, I was terrified of them. I heard the adults whisper about the inhabitants’ strange and ungodly rituals. I heard the older children talk about the terrible things the inhabitants did to children who strayed from the village.

Even still, they let us stay. We built our settlement close to the river. And, except for ceremonies that the entire settlement took part in, I stayed inside the village walls like the good, frightened child that I was. But childhood doesn’t last forever.

As a teenager, I let my rebelliousness lead me outside the settlement. I explored the woods until I knew each tree by touch. I tasted the forbidden plants that the older teenagers whispered about, enjoying the fuzziness that would creep over me and soften the edges of my vision. My favourite place was the riverbank, where I would go in the afternoons. I loved to sit and dream as the indigo water lapped at the shoreline, or skip ruby red rocks across the surface when the water was still.

One day, as I approached the riverbank, I saw an inhabitant sitting at the shoreline. My first response was that visceral fear from my childhood and I almost turned to flee. But at that moment, the inhabitant turned and looked at me, then smiled a sheepish smile. He was young like me and he was holding one of the forbidden plants in his hand. I found myself smiling back, surprised to find this common ground between us. My adolescent curiosity carried me forward and urged me to take the forbidden plant in his outstretched hand.

That is how I met my first inhabitant friend, Mica.

In the years that followed, I learned a lot about the inhabitants from Mica, and discovered that our people weren’t so different after all. His father taught me how to identify plants and how to extract their healing properties. His mother showed me all the best fishing spots along the river. And his siblings asked me endless questions about my people and our home planet. Over time, my curiosity grew into understanding and my understanding grew into affection.

Then I met Naia.

Naia was Mica’s cousin and her family lived in a village further inland, at the foot of the mountains. The summer I turned twenty, Naia came to visit. Despite my friendship with Mica and my affection for his people, I never expected to fall in love with an inhabitant. But meeting Naia was like finding a long-lost piece of my soul. I looked into her eyes and I knew we were meant to be together.

However, as my fondness for the inhabitants had grown, my people had become more rigid about the line between us and them. So when I told my parents I had asked Naia to become my wife, it didn’t go over well. They tried to keep me inside the village walls, first with guilt and then with force. But I was a young man in love. I think I could have scaled a hundred village walls to be with Naia. Scaling just one was easy.

That was a long time ago.

Sometimes I miss my people, but now that I am a parent, my focus has shifted to my children. I love watching them grow into amazing little people, gifted with the best of both their parents. I see how loved and accepted they are here, in Naia’s village, and I wish my parents could see what I see. Some days, I think about taking my family to visit the settlement of my childhood, but I am terrified of what my people might do when they see my ungodly children, hiding behind my legs.

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This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, in which we were tasked with demonstrating changes in perspective as we age.

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Image credit:  Maysiiu / deviantART

O is for…

Octopus_Amsterdam_by_shinmat

Welcome to the latest instalment of my Vocabulary Series! This week, I have a fun sample of words beginning with the letter O. It turns out that there are a lot of great words that start with O, so it was tough to narrow it down to three.

The first word I chose is wonderfully long and complicated, but if you can master its pronunciation, it will lend you an air of sophistication when you use it.

Obstreperous (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears around the 1600s. Comes from the Latin obstreperus, meaning clamorous, which comes from obstrepere, meaning to drown with noise or oppose noisily. In turn, obstrepere comes from combining ob, meaning against, and strepere, meaning to make a noise. Strepere comes from the Proto-Indo-European strep-, which is thought to be imitative (kind of like early onomatopoeia).

Definition:  Unruly, noisy, and difficult to control.

Example:  The children at the School for Supernaturals were normally obstreperous, but it was always worse during the full moon.

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This next word has an almost religious sound to it, though maybe that’s just to my ears. Either way, it’s a neat word with an equally neat meaning. You should see if you can find a way to work it into a conversation this week.

Ossify (verb)

Etymology:  First appears in 1713, meaning to turn into bone. Likely a back-formation of the word ossification, it probably comes from the French word ossifier, which in turn comes from the Latin words os, meaning bone, and –fy, meaning to make into. The figurative meaning of ossify first appears in the 1850s.

Definition:  Turn into bone or bony tissue; harden; make or become emotionally callous; make or become rigid, fixed, or unprogressive in attitude.

Example:  Mimi couldn’t turn people into stone like her big sister, Medusa, but being able to ossify her competition still ensured she would make the cheerleading team.

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The bonus word this week is one of my all-time favourite animals. They’re smart and dextrous masters of illusion, and sometimes I wonder if they are actually the first wave of an intelligent alien race on some sort of reconnaissance mission to Earth.

Octopus (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in 1758 as the genus name for a group of eight-armed cephalopod molluscs. Comes from the Greek oktopous, meaning eight-footed (okto=eight, pous=foot).

Interestingly, the proper plural form of octopus is octopodes. However, in English we normally use octopuses. Using octopi is incorrect—it comes from the mistaken assumption that the –us in octopus comes from the Latin noun ending that takes an –i in its plural form.

Definition:  A cephalopod mollusc with eight suckered arms, a soft sac-like body, strong beak-like jaws, and no internal shell.

Example:  The octopus overlord watched the scout’s footage with mounting horror. He tapped in the coordinates for Earth. It was time to turn the tables on the humans; tonight, his crew would feast on human sushi.

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As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Image credit: shinmat @ deviantART