The man stepped down from his palanquin. Clean bare feet fell gracefully on soft, dark soil.
There was no dirt under his fingernails. Obviously wealthy, but he looked keen. In truth, he'd lived in the capital his whole life. But his tutors raised him well. He knew tha(more)t any man who thought himself too good for the land that fed him was an ignorant man, indeed.
It was a crisp late-spring morning. Yellowing poplar leaves sifted to the ground around his feet.
The sun emerged over his left shoulder from a nest of smooth, white branches, birthing cold light on a barren field. The man had steeled himself for the worst, but as the sight before him rooted itself in his mind, his jaw dropped. Rotting brown stalks, row upon row, field upon terraced field, as far as the eye can see.
"This was supposed to feed an army," he said. The words spilled from his lips like the last breath of a man drowning.
I kept my eyes down as I spoke.
"I'm afraid it goes like this for miles."
No 'sir', no 'my lord'. No trite honorifics. Those of us who sweat and bleed and break ourselves to feed the world don't feel anyone is above our station.
He shook his head piteously.
"War is upon us. We have legions of well-drilled soldiers, fine steel, machines of destruction designed by the greatest minds the world has ever known. And we can't even keep a few shriveled leaves on their god-damned tables."
"It is not our failing," I began coldly. "We-- we followed--"
I trailed off, seeing the strange, faraway look in his eyes. He turned to me, a pained expression etched across his face.
"This is more than failing. This is the kind of tragedy that undoes empires."(less)
Keith walked into the galley to see Lance and Pidge huddled around the island in the center, staring at something with a burning intensity. Lance had his arms folded and had all his attention on whatever it was they were staring at, so Keith shrugged and walked over, draping(more) an arm over Lance's back and leaning forward to look as well.
That went about as well as could be expected, as Lance yelped and jumped upright, flailing his arms comically wide. Keith simply stepped aside and avoided the worst of the Startled Lance Fallout. Pidge merely looked up at him. "That was mean."
He shrugged. "What's that?"
The item that had fallen under such scrutiny was a clear carafe of thick blue liquid. Lance, having mostly recovered, jabbed his finger at it. "Coran says it's milk."
"Blue milk," Keith said, unimpressed.
"Yeah, I don't think that's milk," Pidge said. "I'm not trying it to find out, though." She shot a considering glance to Keith, who shook his head and backed up.
"Don't look at me, I'm lactose intolerant," he said. "Besides, alien milk is still milk, right?"
"There is no way I'm putting alien boob juice in my cereal," Lance said. "I don't care what Hunk says."
"If Hunk says it's fine then it's fine." Keith had grown bored of this diversion and was fetching a drink from the cooler. "I don't get the issue here."
"The issue is it's blue," Pidge said.
"I'm going to go milk Kaltenecker," Lance announced, and flounced out the door. Keith blinked after him, and then looked at Pidge, who had returned to regarding the carafe with intensity. Keith shrugged, stuck a straw in his drink pouch, and wandered out of the galley, heading for the training deck.
He /really/ didn't understand people, sometimes.(less)
Keith broke out at a run, past Lance, and straight into Shiro's arms. Shiro's hair had grown long and unkempt, the trailing ends tied into a loose tail that vanished into the thick material of his cloak. He wore a week's worth of scruff on his face(more) and the most baffled expression Lance had ever seen as he looked down at Keith in his arms. Lance's hands tightened on his blaster rifle, although its muzzle was still pointed down at the soil under their feet.
"Keith?" Shiro said, and his voice, so familiar, so /missed/ sent a shiver down Lance's spine. "What are you doing here!?"
"I thought I'd never see you again," Keith said, choking on the words, his hands fisted tight in the material of Shiro's cloak. Lance's heart was in his throat and he swallowed around the lump it created even as Keith lifted his head slightly, looking back over his shoulder at Lance imploringly.
Shiro had tentatively draped his arms over Keith, that look of confusion melting into a gradual wonder. Then his attention drifted back up to Lance, and the bayard in Lance's hands. Lance felt a prickling sensation creep down his back, something wasn't right. Something was very, very wrong.
It was all in the way that Shiro was looking at him now, concern and wariness and he had his arms around Keith but he didn't open them to Lance, too. They had been looking for so long, and Lance should have run straight to Shiro just as Keith did, but instead he hesitated. Instead, Lance took a deep breath, steadying himself but even so he still wasn't prepared, there was no way he could have been prepared for /this./
"Who are you?" Shiro asked, and it was like the world fell away.(less)
I thought when I came out of the mountains I'd be a whole new guy, but instead I was just the same with a few photographs in tow. Memory baggage.
The idea that you can run away and become someone new has become bullshit to me. The traumas,(more) the heartbreaks, the daily stresses are going to stick with you no matter where you go to run. Mountain peaks, sand dunes, wide prairies leading to a barn your future self built. Generous hideaways, but even they can't shield you from the memories you've sown.
Instead I found myself staring at 30 square miles of sand thinking about how small we all are. Might as well be atoms in the gram scheme of things. No, smaller. Once you divide down to that point the sadness seems less immediate, more distant. There you are in the moment waiting for, what, exactly? Salvation? No. I don't think there is salvation in this life or any presupposed next.
All you can do is make the best out of what you've got. If what you've got is 6 grams of weed and a sure thing laying on your bed, then I guess that's an easy call to make. But it isn't. It finishes and you sit up in the bed stoned off your ass and wondering how you got there in the first place.
So you sit on that hillside, at the miles of sand, and you let your thoughts blow away with the wind. Maybe, like the dunes, all you need is time. The memory baggage will pile up, but pieces will blow away.
It's sad, but it's something. Sometimes it helps to let time make your decisions for you, because you know where your conscious mind always leads.(less)
Cindy tapped her foot as she crossed her arms. John had halted, his eyes fixated on a small building with a sign positioned next to an open door.
WELCOMING ALL NEW AND RETURNING CUSTOMERS.
(more) "John," Cindy said her weight shifting from foot to foot, "JOHN. If you want to go in, go in already. We don't have all day." John's feet fidgeted as people walked by, his heart urged him forward into the building but his brain held him back.
The building often went through patches of new management and was usually closed for long periods of time. John couldn't help feeling as if the place was nothing more than a joke, taunting him every time it re-opened. He pressed his face against the glass which prompted Cindy to do the same.
Cindy's face scrunched in confusion as John turned to her saying, "This place is almost never open and when it does you never know how long it's gonna stay open."
"What do they sell here?" She asked him.
"I don't remember." he stated
"You want to go inside?"
They went inside.
Sitting at the front desk was a small man with a headset on, his fingers busy clacking away at the computer in front of him. The man hadn't even wait or looked up from his computer before he had started a conversation with the approaching couple. "Welcome to Nervosa, where we can make all your dreams come true!" The clerk smiled at the two. "How can I help you today?"(less)
They ate the stale doughnuts that used to be encompassed in a perfect soft glaze that made the doughnut better but was now just a hard disk of sugar. They washed this down with coffee, not sweet coffee, not rich coffee, just coffee with a 1:1 ratio of water(more) to coffee; so much so that it was now not watered down coffee but coffee infused water. They ate here because they were poor, that what they'd tell you, only that wasn't the truth. They were both pretty well off, but didn't want to spend the money on nice doughnuts over a deal that neither of them really wanted to make but neither of them had the heart to say that. They both thought the deal would help the other so they agreed to it, but if neither of them wanted to make the deal in the first place then how did they come to the idea that they were making a deal in the first place? They forgot. But they made the deal none the less, do you believe in fate- it was the sort of thing that happens but it didn't change either of their fates. They made it over a weak handshake and it was weak just like the coffee and the belief that this would help them. They did it anyways and went on with their life. I think it was that weak handshake that made the whole thing so uneventful. Maybe if one of them had vigorously shook the other's hand than they would have felt inspired and changed someone's life, each other's life, their own life- but it was early in the morning, and they were sleepy so they both went back home and got back in their beds for a 15 minute morning nap.(less)
She looked over her shoulder, no one was near.
It's time to do it.
It was sent, a malicious file entering the systems of many.
Digging into their misspelt futures, prying open their shells of idiocy.
Every single typo in the world was collected, arranged to form(more) the single most important message, a message of life, of death, of truth and light.
She looked at the words, figuring out the true meaning of the universe.
Only she can't.
"What does it say?" she questions herself.
It was illegible, corrupt English. Even the nearby people did not understand.
So is it just a typo? Or is it something more?
Be aware of what you type.
The reading was off. The altimeter indicated we were cruising just above sea level, but it had to be bad data, since minutes before I had flown over the last of the mountains that flanked the entrance to the bay. That meant I had to be flying at least 5000 ft. I pressed(more) the reset button, hoping the instrument would recalibrate and start working again. The display blinked then came back online. Nope, still garbage.
I told the tower about my problem and indicated I would need verbal updates as I approached my destination. Wilco, came the tower's reply.
I needed a new instrument cluster, but I couldn't afford the upgrade until I made a few more runs and deposited a few more checks. I glanced at the cooler buckled into the passenger seat on my right. Successful delivery would recoup the cost of the flight and make me 5000 bucks. That would pay my rent and expenses for a couple of months, and maybe put a down payment on a new altimeter. The rest was gravy.
I got the job from a friend of a friend who had contacts within the Chinese government. My having a pilot's license and a plane got my foot in the door, but it was my Chinese heritage that sealed the deal. I never asked what it was I was carrying for them, I knew better. At various times, I've thought it could be human organs, contraband wildlife, sensitive information, drugs. But the quantities of whatever I'm moving have always been small enough to fit in the same plastic cooler taped shut with duct-tape.
That I never know what I'm moving, I'd like to think contributes to my own security, but I could be fooling myself.
Rose, who was our mom, came to our house one time during Christmas. I remember a car outside pulling up and there being a change in the room and the way that everyone acted. I remember having to say hello and then a time later...when I was outside and(more) Rose asking me if Julie was prettier than she was and did I think Dad would think Julie was prettier than she was. She tugged at her costume and pulled it down and then led me out of the bathroom.
Rose asked me if we had all had a nice time at the Super Bowl. She was crying. I remember her taking the big glass jar off the counter and opening it and eating out of it with a spoon. She looked at me and said, "It's nothing like the sugar bowl."(less)
The sugar bowl at the dinner table
Is pure hypocrisy.
There is no sweetness there
And there never will be.
Only cold faces
Stuck in their stone-faced masks of disapproval.
(more) The plates are stacked with variegation of foods
Yet they refuse to recognize any color other than one.
They sit there in negligence
Ready with their slurs.
But what they aren't ready for
Is the rainbow after the rainstorm.(less)
Adam’s momma was still shopping at the getting place, as he sat on it's steps he smelled apple pie cooling in the pig farmer’s window one house down. The boy couldn’t help himself and before he knew it, his ten year old feet was moving to steal it. While the farmer’s(more) yard hens clucked and nagged, Adam trotted away delighted with his plunder when a blast from the farmer’s shotgun spread his bread pan all over the yard and by the time the pig farmer’s wife got to Adam, the chickens & hogs was already eating his brains off the ground. We couldn’t do nothing but stand there and watch, it was on private property and that was that. You don’t steal round these parts, not from them!!!!(less)
Gorlicans, it turned out, were slippery little bastards.
Really, Shiro reasoned, he shouldn't be surprised by this. The small, lizard-like species was especially common in the systems on the furthest edges of Galra territory where the Empire's grasp was the shakiest. Gorlicans sold their services to the highes(more)t bidder, and often double and triple-crossed their employers to the tune of whomever could pay them the most.
All that being said, this Gorlican in particular neatly ran through the small gap between Shiro and Keith and almost disappeared into the maze of street vendor stalls. It was only thwarted by the fact that it didn't expect Hunk to be as quick as he was.
Hunk caught the diminutive alien with one hand and hoisted it, and it screamed and screeched in a native tongue that had more in common with the background fauna of a jungle cruise than the common tongue that mercenaries and traders spoke. It curled up, clutching its tail between vestigial arms, and glared darkly as it spun slowly in Hunk's grip.
"Trying to run when we walk through the door isn't the smartest plan," Lance said, and jabbed the small alien with his finger. It hissed at him and snapped, but Lance was at least quick enough not to lose a finger. "Space cops make another arrest!"
"It's not an arrest," Shiro said mildly. "We just have some questions," he added, directing the second part of his statement toward the Gorlican. They weren't /actually/ 'space cops', no matter what Lance said to the contrary.
"What sssort of quessstionsss?" the Gorlican responded finally, in something approximating a language they could understand. "I will cooooperate, for the right priccce."
"How about: 'not turning you into a hat,'" Keith growled.
The Gorlican thought about this for a moment. "Fair enough."(less)
This was the electoral version of a mass shooting.
You called us crybabies for challenging the nature of the election and its results. You claimed the opposition never whined like that eight years ago, when Obama was elected.
Of course there are mountains of evidence to contradi(more)ct that. For example, millions of Americans still refuse, in the face of irrefutable evidence, to believe that he was even born in this god-damned country. One of whom you put in the fucking White House next year.
But evidence never mattered to you much. Did it.
I've always known that fact-based reasoning was a tenuous business at the best of times when it comes to politics. But how did we become so deluded as to take a trust-fund baby from New York City who fucks over contractors and builds with Chinese steel, who will contradict himself constantly and tell bald-faced lies until he's blue in the face, who thinks it's funny that he can use his power to sexually assault women with impunity, and prop him up as the poster child for blue-collar rural American values?
I wish I could blame stupidity. I really do. But idiocy of this magnitude can't be an accident. You wanted to go against the narrative. You saw an opportunity to throw sand in the public's eyes and stab them in the back while they're down. And you took it.
This country is our body, our community, our home, and for a little while, you weren't getting your way. So you chose to burn the whole thing down with everyone inside.
You told us we should try to move on. If you get your way, there will be nowhere to move on to.(less)