Beneath Foreign Tides

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Waves lap at the cusp edge of the astronaut’s open visor. A saline swill that now sloshes into his suit and streams down across his body, running its length before agitating the warmth that stings and clings at his thighs.

His arms are outstretched. His wrists laced into the chain that binds him to this rock, this wave coddled mass which juts out like a spire from the shore. A sandy arch bends at his back, a pretty cove on the peninsula tip of a lushly forested continent. A special place on a distant blue world into whose sacred soil his ship had, but yesterday, fallen and severed into smouldering scrap.

The voices, the wonderfully melodic chants of the humanoids who dragged him from the wreckage, they sway on the shore behind him. Blurs at the very edge of his sight. They have brought their children, too. A family day at the beach, a spectacle to savour. He pants through his nose and the air thumps as they wail and they summon, as they offer his body to… what?

A god. A daemon. A big fuck-off fish?

The astronaut’s mind races as he calculates the gravity. Similar if not exactly that of earth’s, he surmises. The bitter mist at his lips is laden with salt and the air is sweet and fresh in his lungs. Oh, if only the fingers of liberty were now to reach up through the sand. But, he is not home and there will, surely, be no sandalled hero to swoop on down and save him now. And the tide lifts as it breathes.

The astronaut bashes his head backward against the rock, the igneous nature of which had not escaped his inquiring mind, and his helmet engages and its visor curves down and seals shut with a hiss. A few last gasps of air, and the explorer wonders what is to be the last ever image he is to see, as his lip quivers and he chews the certainty of his death.

“I know who your god is. I know this daemon toward which I am, now, presented. It is the sea. The great undulating carnivorous beast. That which you respect above all else. You pay out of fear, because it feeds you and when angered it grinds up your ships. Ignorant fucking baying primitives. You take all I am for a plate of freshly caught fish?”

The water foams up and rolls over his helmet and he blinks and he stares out across a pristine and beautiful plain. A forest of verdant strips that reach for the surface and curl like pennant banners in the now gentle brackish breeze.

He sees her. And what he sees enters his mouth and forms into a thick oily scream, a terror that bites and swallows last of his oxygen. His eyes bulge and the pressure behind them balloons and fills up the inside of his head. And the beast grips the sides of his helmet and her tongue lays flat at its visor and the acid that leaks from its pores eats at the glass as she licks.

The next day, a small group of children gather and throw stones and shells and sand at the deflated suit which hangs on the rock like a scarer of crows.

A tiny girl steps forward and, with the tremor tip of her finger, she traces the strange badge at its chest.

De Lellis, John.

Beloved. Lost to the galaxies silent pull. Sinking and folding beneath its distant foreign tides. He lies where he longed to be.

The Ice Pane

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

“Do you know what happens when you stare into television static?”, he asks.

“You start to see patterns, forms that join and fuse and start to make sense of the chaos. The flickering separates like pulled away meat, not completely, just enough for the bones below to be glimpsed. And, we can see just what it is that holds up the crackling pixel-bound madness”, he replies.

But today, as he stares again into the lake, he can find no shred of sanity in its cruel and noisome horror. No good can be plucked from the empty drop that falls beneath its surface. The deep fleck filled hollow that surrounds the stab beam of his torch.

What was that last thing she said? And he breathes in the night’s air and it slits like a pipe to the throat.

As a child he had wandered off and lost himself here. The tapping had drawn him to the ice. He’d fallen to his knees and drawn his arm across its flake packed surface and there, beneath the window, she hung.

This tiniest of things. No larger than a kitten and, for a moment, he’d thought her just that. Her eyes staring upward creamy and blind. A pet, cast into the water as trash. But, then, she moved and he saw the pale translucence of her skin and saw she’d a tail and not legs.

That first winter he sat night after night and told her things. How his mother and sister would char the backs of spoons and then draw up its bubbling mess and push it into their arms. And how they made him do things for money.

Then she was gone. He tried to find her when the ice melted away but she disappeared into each new year’s thaw. These winter-less months were long and painful and he longed for the cold to return, when he could tap at the ice with a staff until no longer it cracked and, again, she’d return to the light.

They grew up together and though she never uttered a single word she spoke to him endlessly, evolving into the most beautiful thing and he cried as she swirled in the deep.

She made him breathe when he felt as if his lungs were a sea, when he spoke of the loathing he tried to supplant as he picked at his thigh with a fork.

All they’d left was his husk and she’d filled it, topping and levelling him off. Intricately piecing him back. Steadying him as he stacked his detritus in unfinished towers in the middle of a place in his head.

Stacks that wobbled at the slightest of movement, but pillars nonetheless. Legs to hold him up and present him bitter and sodden with doubt to a life from whose wheel his hands did so constantly slip.

Girls. He knew they could sense the unease that slid through his veins. But with her, he thought that she loved him. That they would be together and one day she would break through the ice and she’d kiss him.

And he would kiss her.

“Be”, that’s what she’d said.

We were warned. The winters have become obsolete. It snows. A dirty black sludge but for years now the lake no longer forms its thick window crust.

“I remember the patterns you wove. I’ll do this life to its very long end. I will not waste this thing you’ve helped me become.

Though I’m jealous, like a god, for I so want for the peace that you have”, said the man into the murk at his feet.

Alpha Hold

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

“Do you want to go on an adventure?”, asks Lee.

“To where?”, answers Lindsay.

“Up and into the universe.”

“In that?”

“Yes, in that. It’s an M2-F2 Star Hopper.”

“Don’t you have anything better to do than hop around the stars? Plus, isn’t the M2-F2 a single pilot module?”

“I made it bigger, just for you.”

“That’s the most beautiful thing that anyone’s ever said to me.”

“You really should come. You’ll love it.”

“How do you know so certainly?”

“I’ve seen you in your room, hanging out of your window with your hair dangling down from the sill. You gaze up into the heavens for hours.”

“That’s not creepy.”

“I think you want to know what’s next.”

“I know what’s next.”

“Seriously?”

“Eternity”

“So you coming?”

“Of course.”

“OK, the cockpit’s a little tight so, you know, our shoulders might touch.”

“Won’t that mean that we’re married?”

“You’re ridiculous. Please pay attention, this is an expensive piece of hardware”, he says, detecting an uncommissioned quiver in his voice.

“Jesus, you’re sensitive… OK, shit’s getting real. Coms are open. Looking good at NASA One.”

“Do me a favour, see that thingy flashing on the HUD… no, not that one, the one underneath it. That’s the Ballistic Control System Arming switch. Flick that bad boy on.”

“Got it, Lee. Oh God, did you remember to arm the lightening rods?”

“Of course, I did. I’m not new. Hold on. Throttle engaged.”

“Circuit breakers in. God, I can feel it. The speed on my skin. It’s incredible.”

“Inboard and outboards are on.”

“Lee baby, I’d come a smidge forward with the side stick, just sayin’.”

“Seriously, whose piloting this thing?”

“You, oh great wrangler of steel birds. NASA One repeats we are OK, and looking good. Which is nice.”

“What the hell was that?”

“Blow out!”

“We’ve lost Damper three!”

“Pitch correction to zero.”

“We’ve lost Pitch! I’m losing altitude!”

“Correct pitch. Primary hold has failed – Mayday!”

“Correction, Alpha Hold is off.”

“Turn selectors, Emergency!”

“NASA One!, We can’t hold her! She’s breaking up, she’s…”

The girl pulls herself, as if in slow-motion, through the horrific swath wreckage until she reaches what is left of his legs. And, although her own legs are crumpled and ruined and her arm hangs uselessly at her side, she inches her face until it hovers over that of her love. And, with his eye puffed and hanging from its socket and with the hell of the carnage still ripping and bleeding from her ears, she leans and mutters through rocket fuel blackened teeth.

“Don’t worry, my sweet love. They can rebuild us. They will make us real.”

“I’ll tell you what you can do. You can rebuild this bloody living room. Cushions back on the couch, fruit-bowl space helmet back with its fruit and you Lindsay, need to get home. It’s a school night”, said the woman who’d put her hand on her hips if only they weren’t covered with pizza dough.

“Mother. Switch your attention to zero. Protocol override 99+06. Listen. Please. I want to feel as the ancient things that created us felt. This sad charade as we look like them and even pretend to eat like them… There is only one truth. Only one thing, I truly know that we share”, says Lee V109 system 00098 batch 010168, and he reaches, and takes the hand of the wonderful girl that he loves.

Hell’s Cells

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The Prisoner

Lucian Lockley is in a cell on the moon. He lays on the stainless steel bench and his eyes take leave and run up the side of his cage. The walls seem to angle inward. Elongating in his mind until they all but touch at a point miles above his head.

Earth. That filthy scratched eyeball that spins miles below the back of his mind. A wasted rotting place. Paradise, he thinks.

He wants to go back. But he never will. He wants to smoke and watch television and fuck other people’s wives. He wants to slide the Earth’s dirty sheath deep down into his skin. He wants to feel its warm sweating tongue, as it licks through the halls of his veins. He wants to play with his kids.

It’s been years now since the end arrived and a new beginning began. When wealth and circumstance again divided us up into tribes. How fast the richest of the rich raked at our resources. How swift and neat as they built, and then ascended to their purgatory villas in the sky.

And, here, they will wait as we that were left wipe away the shit, the filth from sides of the bowl.

“You’re gonna need a bigger rock. There are so many more just like me. This new time, it’s an incubator. They’re not repairing the Earth, they’re acclimatizing to it. Only the fool now awaits a new Eden. My beautiful, Eden”

The Prisoner’s Wife

Eden Lockley is laying stretched out on her now half-empty double-bed. Her gaze follows the peeling seam of the wallpaper and her walls too stretch, like monolithic slabs above her head. But these do not taper, they just go on and on until they fade to a blur.

She touches the spot where her husband once lay and she loves that his warmth isn’t there. The crack in her eye-socket hurts as she squints and she calls on out into the nothing.

“I’ll shovel in the street. I’ll feed the furnaces as they swallow back down this waste that we laid. I’ll step atop the tiny minds that seek to control me and I’ll climb right up from this hell. I’ll heave up my children and we, too, will live in the clouds. Adapt. Overcome. Kill, if I have to. But I will win.”

The Prisoner’s Lawyer

Leonardo Tito sits on a bed, surrounded with his toys, deep within his sprawling inflatable mansion. A grotesque puff of opulence, that tethers to a cable that holds it 35,786km above the Mariana Anchor Station, deep beneath the polypropylene sea.

The whiskey stings. Its memory pours into his sunken morning eyes and his walls, they appear to slope outwards, and they funnel the most devilish things.

A seething spillage that engulfs him now as he huddles. His clients. Surface dwellers that he allows up into his world, so he can bask as they fawn and scrape for the heady treats that he forces down into their mouths.

“The river…”, he sighs.

Animals. No matter how he cleans them. No matter how he scents and smooths their skin, he cannot rid them of this new world’s acrid taunt.

Tomorrow, he’ll descend. They’ll again bow as he walks to the river. He will wade out into its bubbling swirl and though its acids will feast, he will sit and he will smile and he will lay down in the surging clink lap of its flow.

Adam

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The angel sits at the end of the Pope’s bed and toys with an errant strand of gold thread. Running it between thumb and finger, a residue flicker; a remnant of the mass shunt of energy that had pulled him here from across the universe, that which he can still taste as it lingers like sucked coins in his mouth, strobes into the ornate bedcovers design and sparks it into life.

The Pope, whose name was once Adam, awakens with a start.

“Who are you?”, he asks.

“Listen close. Time is of the essence”, says the angel, letting go of the thread, and so casting the ostentatious gape of the chamber back into its early morning gloom.

“If it’s violence you seek to lay here…”

“I’m an angel.”

“Seriously?”

“It’s so confounding. Your race is so devout, yet you struggle now to accept my validity. I’m an icon of your belief system. But you think me mad. You wail and throw yourselves at the coffins of the dead, though you are convinced that their essence has passed on to a better place.”

“What do you want? Or, are you simply content to sit there and mock?”

“You don’t understand, Adam. I’m not mocking. This is praise.”

The Pope sits upright, and he chews at the skin at his knuckle.

“Centuries ago we visited this world of yours. It was one of countless many that harboured life. We poked around a bit, got to meet a few of the locals and, then, we left. Didn’t think anything of it. Like I said, you are but one of many.”

“Tell me what you want.”

“Well, you see, the interesting thing was just how your species, it alone, how it interpreted that visit. We have been studying its evolution for many years. I mean, I know you were a primitive people but the way you inflated and combined and justified what you saw. How you gave supernatural attributes to people and places that were simply people and places. The place I come to you from, my home, it is the place you call heaven.”

The Pope’s eyes fill, and he shakes the tears to his cheeks.

“The cradle of our repentant souls…”, he breathes into his clasped hands.

“No. No, it’s not. It’s a planet and it has nothing to do with your races bizarre desire to live on past its own end”

“But you are an angel. I feel the light you carry. Please, tell me where we went wrong. Open the path to your kingdom…”

“I am an emissary for a very particular group of progressive… politicians, shall we say. Our civilization has no deities. Not for the lack of trying. We attempted over and over to replicate the type of social control that you managed here on earth with your gods. It never worked. Sure, we have wars but nothing as vicious and as divisive as your catalogue of God sanctioned destruction. Our kind marry who they want, they drink and eat what they want and when they die there is great mourning. Because we know there are no other lives to be had.”

“You want the texts, the scriptures. Don’t you? You want the word, so that your people can see the true light.”

“No, we want you Adam.”

“Come again?”

“We have your book. For years we called on our own great minds to spout its teachings. But none were believed, nor followed. We want to control the masses, Adam. Show us how. They will think you a god”.