Warped Mirror

WARPED MIRROR:
In Which Falda Is Suitably Entertained.
by Electric Keet

every sphere in line to be outside of orbit and white makes colours at the edge of a lens

I was naked and dreaming. Abstracted masks floated about like characters in an Eridian play. A massive tin labelled “meat” stood nearby, a magnitude larger than myself and casting the opposite of a shadow. Notions tickled the edge of what could be comprehended. I was a wolf well out of her element.

time was earlier and this loop is closing new new new we all split like pure beams and come back

Distant starlight glinted off of an array of perfect squares. I walked to one, and some of the masks followed, orbiting slit-eye moons observing. I tilted my head, not quite understanding. There was a person on the other side of the glassy pane, a grey-furred vixen with unfocused edges that bled colour.

do you see do all of you see this is lens albedo mirror reach to me reach and twist the loop

I strained to lift my arm, to initiate contact, to touch white to grey, to ask what it meant, to complete a circle—


Yaz, Ira, and I were sitting in the main social area of the hostel, him cradling a restorative cup of kaflet and the raccoon and myself sipping at white tea, when Lady approached with the smooth discomfort of a headache. She was wearing that horrible vest – a rough-looking, shape-muddling canvas thing the colour of overcooked spinach. “That’s the last time I let zim handle dosage.”

Yaz and the freesia over his ear stayed aimed toward his data-scroll. “Said that last time.”

I motioned with my cup and saucer. “They have hot drinks over there, and something claiming to be fruit juice. That would help.”

The reindeer turned slowly toward the labelled carafes, then jerked back with her eyes pinched shut. “Blin! Words hurt to look at right now.”

This time, Yaz looked up. “Are you still feeling it?”

“Must’ve been the long-acting variety.” She nodded slowly and motioned toward the rooms. “S’prolly why Eekay’s still asleep. If it’s done this to me with my metabolism, zie’ll be glitched for a while yet.” Under her breath, she added, “Serves zim right.”

An idea snapped to mind immediately. “We have an hour or so before we have to head for the port, yes? That would be enough time. Ira, would you assist me in a bit of harmless fun, a sort of prank?”

Zir tail twitched through the air behind zim as a way of smiling. “I would be glad to assist.”

Lady dug into the pocket of her vest and pulled out her auto-concierge. The silvery disc settled in her palm like a flattened egg and lit up. It projected the image of an androgynous mooncat head complete with the eye-whiskers that almost looked like antennae. It spoke pleasantly. “How may I assist, friend Aesc?”

The reindeer mused out loud. “Aren’t these things so blinkin’ cute? Shame I gotta give it back when I leave.” Then, she said to the holographic head, “I want you to let Falda here into my room, spot?” Before the thing had a chance to even acknowledge her request, she tossed it to me and said, “There. Prank zim with my blessing. Just don’t do anything that’ll make us late for the flight.”

The cheerful mooncat head popped up again. “Friend Flosadóttir, may I provide you assistance in finding room fifty-three?”

I smiled politely. “No thanks, I know the way.” I clasped my hand around the concierge and beckoned Ira along.

“What are you going to do to zim?” the raccoon asked.

I grinned. “Nothing zie wouldn’t do to zirself.”

“How can I help?”

We rounded the corner and stepped into the lift. “Two things. The first is to play along and be convincing. The second is to be a distraction.”

“I’m a distraction?”

“Zie will realise quickly that zie has been tricked. If we run in opposite directions the moment zie does, zie won’t know which of us to pursue first and we will both be safe.”

To zir credit, Ira did not decline. At the fifth floor, we opened the third door – unlocked automatically by the pocket concierge – and certainly enough, Eekay was sprawled out awkwardly on one of the two beds, mostly undressed with zir tail draped over the side. I motioned to the cat’s shoulder-bag and whispered to Ira, “Find zir mirror.”

By time zie had it out and unrolled, I had extracted the eyeliner from the bag at my side. “Good! Now, we write a species on the mirror, wake zim up, and imply that zie had a tank job done and forgot about it.”

Ira’s eyes went wide; zir tail was still for a couple moments, and then swished with amusement. “You’re evil, you realise. In a way I like.”

“I know,” I grinned. “Now, what species?”

“We’re on Luna. We could say that Alba talked zim into becoming a mooncat.”

“Clever, but not convincing. Zie would never change to something less capable of housing an ego the size of Jupiter.”

“Perhaps a raccoon?”

I gave Ira’s ears a friendly ruffle. “Nice try.” Then, I remembered the bizarre dream. “I think I have it. Ready for this?” I carefully brushed the words “grey fox” onto the mirror’s surface and showed the result to Ira.

Zie nodded and said, “That should do. Here, I’ll wake zim up.”

“One moment, I have another idea.” I snagged a pair of tissues, one to brush with a word and the other to tie the first in place. Ira had to stifle a giggle. “All right, now we are ready!”

It took more to wake the dozing cat than either of us expected; the most zie would do if nudged was bat zir tailtip in the direction of the disturbance. When I shouted zir name, zie finally startled awake. “Euh? Whuh? I’m up. Mizza flight?”

“You didn’t miss your flight,” Ira translated. “But… er….”

I handed the mirror to the snow-leopard. Zie stared at it and blinked a few times. “It’s… a good look for you,” I prodded.

That seemed to do the trick. “Aw, fraz. Did I squeak in a tank job while I was chemmed?” It worked! The last of the Key Logo in zir system meant zie saw in the mirror what the words on it said. “No wonder I’m so tired. What a time for me to do this.” Zie looked at each of us in turn. “Does Yaz know?”

“Not yet. There is no time for another change before we fly, though.” So far, I hadn’t said a single untruthful word….

Eekay pinched thumb and forefinger to zir muzzle and sighed, “Not good. Wrong time for this. Middle of the Thirteen….” Then zie looked down to see the strategically-placed tissue. “Oh, I don’t believe this! I got rid of that, too? That was my favourite part!” It took every ounce of willpower for me to not burst out laughing.

Ira, it turned out, was frighteningly good at keeping a straight face. “You seem to have made a thorough night of it, Eekay.”

Zie looked in the mirror again, shook zir head, and muttered more to zirself than us, “It’s a bad time for this… I’ll be out of sequence… just not ready, not done yet….”

The situation was suddenly stranger than I would have guessed. Eekay sounded different than I had ever heard zim, as though taking a situation seriously for the first time. I looked to Ira a bit nervously. Had we gone too far somehow and touched a nerve? Had we been too convincing? I honestly had no idea how to deal with a serious Eekay.

“I’d like some privacy,” zie said soberly. “I’ve a full bladder, and once that’s taken care of, I’ve an explanation to come up with to tell the others.”

The raccoon and I nodded politely and headed for the door as the imagined vixen shuffled toward the lavatory. However, once Eekay saw zirself in the unadorned vanity mirror, the spell was broken. “What? Did I just imagine it?” Zie started to laugh, and Ira and I looked at each other with relief. The prank worked after all—

The restored snow-leopard shouted, “Oi! You lot get back here!” It was enough to send Ira and I sprinting in opposite directions as planned. They probably heard zim on the ground floor.

THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE:
Whereby Yaz Is Reminded That He Has Far To Go.
by Electric Keet

We walked along the esplanade at the edge of the city-dome, looking back and forth from the grey-and-white starkness of Mare Serenitatis outside to the grey-and-white starkness of Lunarian geometry within. Both had an abstract appeal, somehow too crisp to be real.

“Does it bother you?” I asked.

Falda shook her head. “That he is changing? Of course not.” She fingered one of her rose quartz ear-cuffs, then sighed. “Perhaps a little. He speaks differently, he walks differently, and he was not wearing any symbol of our house.”

I tilted my head a bit. “I suppose he found something he wanted, just like you did.”

“He is… a strange mirror,” she said. “I did not want to serve with my pack, so I left and became independent in a way that few Callistian wolves ever are or want to be. He did not want to live as royalty, so now he serves as a citizen here in a way that few humans would ever do. Part of such an orderly society, always knowing his place and what he can do to the best of his potential….”

I looked at her, and she was staring toward the edge of the city with misty eyes. I knew that look. “Falda? You’re happy, right? I mean, are you? If this isn’t want you want to be doing—”

“Oh, Yaz.” She grinned at me, suddenly back to her usual self. “This is exactly what I want to be doing right now. Later, I will do what I want to do then. I promised myself that.” Then, she was back to the city. “I just wonder, that is all. This place is sensible, and… what is the word… ascetic? Not quite. But everyone is polite and happy here. It is an inspiration, yes?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way, especially after what Bell said, but you have a good point….” The truth was, I hadn’t thought of it that way at all until the last few days. Lunarians found elsewhere in the system tended to come across as distant and a little haughty. At home, however, they were positively friendly.

For a few moments, our only sounds were footsteps on the walkway. Falda was the one to break the silence. “Anyhow, what do you want to do after the Thirteen Ribbons?”

“Hunh?” I shrugged and laughed a little. “Fifteen minutes ago, I couldn’t decide what to do after dinner, and now you want me to plan for a couple months from now? I don’t know. I could probably get my job back at the hotel, if I claimed temporary insanity, which would be easy given what the… the… regional manager did for me….”

Falda laughed a little. “No, you silly man, what do you want to do?”

My own mind reasserted itself slowly from the squid’s influence just in time for my ear to buzz. “Ack. It’s Lady. Sorry, one tick, let me find out what she wants.” I clicked to accept the call.

Zdravstvujte, hozjain!

I muttered to Falda, “She only ever speaks Russian when she’s tripping hard.” Then, to Lady, “I need English, sorry.”

“Yeah, okay. I need… a favour.” I heard Eekay and someone else giggling in the background while Lady spoke, still with a trace of accent. “I forgot to buy meal bars and I… I won’t be clear enough by the flight tomorrow.”

“Send Eekay.”

“Zie can’t go.”

“Noise. Put zim on the call,” I ordered.

The snow leopard’s cheerful voice joined in. “Zdravstvujte, hozjain!

I started digging in my belt pack for the Soma I knew I’d need by the end of the call. “Explain.”

“Lady an’ Alba and I ’ad some free ticks an’ I fancied learning more Russian, so I chemmed us all on Key Logo – hee! – I think we accidentally doubled.”

With the number of times zie’d accidentally doubled, you’d think everyone in the system would have stopped trusting zim to measure things out. “Lady, I can understand, and I don’t know Alba so I can’t say, but I’ve never known anyone as adept as you at getting around while glitched.”

“But I can’t leave,” Eekay said slowly and earnestly, the way I must have sounded when the post-hypnotic influence of the squid took hold of my speech. “The door says not to disturb it.

“What—” I clenched eyes and jaw shut, half in frustration and half in an attempt to not laugh out loud. In classic lack of forethought, Eekay must have left the privacy hanger on the inside of zir hostel room door. “All right, look, why do you need these meal bars anyhow?”

Lady babbled in the background. Eekay responded to her in Russian, then to me. “She’s watching vids and gettin’ a kick out of the programme guide. Um. Word is, everyone on Mars eats only meat and she’ll starve there, or worse.”

“That’s not true. They have plenty of accommodations. Look, just… I’ve made arrangements and I promise you won’t starve on Mars, Lady, and I promise that nobody will eat you.” As I said this, I looked at Falda and let slip enough of a grin that she giggled. “You can get back to your Russian lessons, okay?”

All three said at once, “Da vstrechi!

“Yeah, that. Sure. End call.” Once it was disconnected, I shook my head and snickered. “They all took Key Logo, and now they’re confusing written words for what they say.” The wolf at my side laughed, and instantly I felt better. “Clearly, I’m meant to be a babysitter.”

“You knew the risks of this job,” she said.

I shrugged and dropped the unused Soma stub back into my pack. “And yet I took it anyhow.”

“Why did you?”

In some alternate universe, I’m sure I said, “Because I missed the bodyracing business and couldn’t admit as much after what I did and how I left.” In another, I must have said, “Because Eekay asked me to and zie’s always had that kind of power over me.” In yet another, I’m positive I said, “Because I had the sort of lapse of reason that made me get into the business the first time.”

Instead, I said, “I’m not really sure. Maybe I’ll have it figured out by then.”

Sense of Unity

SENSE OF UNITY:
In Which Luna Exerts a Different Sort of Gravity.
by Electric Keet

I once irritated an architect-in-training – my friend Jantje, in fact – by suggesting that Luna doesn’t have a style of its own, that it’s defined by a complete lack of style. We argued for thirty minutes, right there in the centre of the common campus of my old school. She finally gave up trying to convince me, and insisted that I’d understand if I ever visited the place. She couldn’t have known that years later I would find myself on Luna, in one of her domes, in one of those domes’ many automats, surrounded by precisely the lack of style I spoke of. At the moment, I was also surrounded by thirty mooncats, Yaz, Falda, and the sandy-maned human she’d just leapt up to embrace.

The wolfess’ tail thumped the cushioned booth rhythmically, and she grinned to us. “Can you see the family resemblance?” she teased with a giggle. “Lárus Flosason, meet Bell Gloeckner and Yaz Lenslight.”

“Honoured to meet both of you.” The human nodded to each of us with a grin and a hand held up, palm out. Yaz returned the gesture in that awkward way tourists do. I made a passing motion of it. Lárus nodded. “I hope my little sister has not given you too much trouble.” After I first met her, It took me a long time to get used to the way Falda spoke, conversationally but without contractions, some quirk of the Callistian dynasties that she’d clung to after discarding all else. Lárus spoke with the same quirk, but somehow it annoyed me again.

“Quite the opposite,” Yaz gushed. “She’s given us just the right amount.”

Falda slid into the other side of the booth and playfully tugged her brother in after her. “Have you been in touch with Mom?”

“I have. First, though, we’re in an automat for a reason.” Lárus motioned to the table-side conveyor. “See anything you like?”

Lunarian food thus far seemed to consist of myriad configurations of nutritive paste ranging from liquid to solid, treated with synthetic flavourings, all equally palatable. “Well, I… don’t really know where to begin,” I admitted.

“The cuisine is a bit strange at first,” he admitted, “but there’s a certain minimalist appeal to it.”

The word is “ascetic”, perhaps? I thought as I lifted a passing plate. The red edge meant it was a hot dish; everything on Luna was colour-coded. The contents smelled strongly of carrots but looked like a cylindrical parody of such. “Let me know if you spot any raspberry food-cubes, eh? Those are my favourite.”

If the human picked up on my sarcasm, he showed no sign of it. “Mine also. So, sister, you asked about our house. The pack is well, though apparently Sigfús is at that… difficult age, just at the edge of adulthood.” Falda and I nodded with the understanding that only freebirths have. Yaz never suffered puberty, having been grown in a tank; he was born at the age of sixteen. “The family… is as always, perhaps worse. You have heard of the recent troubles?”

Yaz nodded and swallowed. “The territorial scuffles, yeah? No offence, friend, but I don’t understand how there can still be arguments this far down the line.”

“To be honest, nobody really does. All of it is posturing to give the houses something to do besides watching the ems trickle in. A waste.” The way he said it was emphatic, but the disgust didn’t reach his eyes. I trusted him less by the moment. “Mom went on about it for quite some time, but the details are of no consequence. I believe she was attempting to convince me to return home in her awkward way.”

“When will you?” Falda asked.

Lárus fingered the edge of his putty-coloured jumpsuit. “The research collaboration I started here four years ago has been fruitful, and… I would rather not lose those opportunities.” He smiled with satisfaction. “I have decided that this will be my home. I consider myself to be a Lunarian now, as do my colleagues and comrades.”

The wolf didn’t seem to know whether to be disappointed or approving. She looked to me, then to Yaz, then back to her brother. Approval seemed to win out. She wagged her tail within the confines of the booth and motioned toward him. “Will you be…?”

He grinned. “I’ll be going into the tank two weeks from now!”


“Rubin?”

I didn’t answer my father just then. I simply stared at him, terrified of his cautiousness, infuriated at his composure, trying not to admit any of it.

He rubbed his jaw. “Son… it’s obvious that we need to talk.”

“I’ve said enough. I’ve explained enough. I can’t beat that sort of programming.”

He took a single slow breath. “We haven’t been programmed. This isn’t a snap decision or a fad. It’s a choice, a valid choice. Your mother and I have searched ourselves carefully and found the truth… the truth for us. We waited until now for your sake. You don’t have to accept it for yourself, or even understand it, but respect it.”

“Respect? This is a mistake. Another mistake. One you can’t just clear up with a visit to a body clinic and a fresh start.” I resisted the urge to snarl at him, to mock his previous decision.

He closed his eyes and shook his head like I was still some sort of uncomprehending child. “We gave you every opportunity to choose your own path—”

“—and what?” My voice took on that snarl anyhow. “What child wants to be different from his parents? What child wants to stand by and watch his parents become something he’s not? Well? What child wants to watch his parents get brainwashed into some cult without following along just to be with them, eh?” Words tumbled from me. “You’re right. I’m no child anymore. Go ahead! Go fly to the edge of the System, get those other religious psychotics to turn you into whatever, play your horsey games and worship your new horsey heroes.” It wasn’t an afterthought, but it sounded like one when I added, “Forget about me.”

The last I saw of my father was his silent form turning, walking, disappearing toward Charon.


In all honesty, I know those memories are probably more pungent than what actually happened, but it did happen, and it’s all I could think about as I listened numbly to Falda’s brother’s obsession with Luna. After a time, I excused myself and left the automat. As I navigated perfectly rectilinear streets, I walked past so many steel and concrete buildings, so many boxes and domes and boxes with domes, and stared at the cryptic, colour-coded numbers affixed to each. I began to understand. There was a style in Luna, but it had nothing to do with people. It had to do with systems and ideals which swallowed people. The flight off-world couldn’t come fast enough.

« Older entries