a. He was 13 going on Einstein but she didn’t figure out the Ruse, a military grade lockpick in the guise of an IQ puzzle. An opportunity to get laid overcame her professionalism & while she was gone the kid lost the cuffs, stole her car, and crash-decapitated her Ken-bot.
b. Her paragliding partner armed w/ a meaningless gold band & bad-boy charisma recognizes her & she says “I was a TV celeb way back.” She sips her 3rd (lavender-lime) martini as his fingers play the music of abandon on hers. He’s mantled in the mythos of Jupiter, but is she up for playing Io?
c. I’m yoked into the Heston family drama, the glitterati of high tech. Their smarty-pants kid has to be driven cross-country for rehab, and I want to keep my autonomous car so I’m cop for the duration. I assumed he had a drug habit. Boy, did I underestimate him!
d. Sunlight glinting ’round the curtains means she’s woken alone in a motel king, lips bruised, her bounty-hunter rep swinging in the breeze. How come her collars are always jalapeno hot when she grabs them and at dawn turn ice melt?
e. Sky in tumult over the wild-cranberry bog, thunder exploding thru stacked cloud and lightning uprooting the trees. The rain’s as sharp as blades. I’m Jimmy-Cho deep in mud with the bog exhaling smoke and burning here and there. Something nearby makes sucking sounds. Damn that kid.
f. Why she’s dangling on a rope anchored to a hot-body rock-climbing coach? It’s an exercise in mid-life folly & she’s about to die. Too young. She swings & catches a green sapling. It holds. Hah. Age isn’t time’s passage. It’s rank capitulation. (Image)
g. Arabella paused in polishing the bent chassis and surviving mirror to say, “Happy to report no mice in your tailpipe, Dixie.” She missed her junked prototype of a smart-car, how Dixie ignored a question or answered in falsetto with a vomit of needless data. Her soul car.
h. Arabella’s intent–relaxation. Perched on a Holiday Hotel barstood,she was a horny cougar heating her hormones w/ spiced martinis. No contenders in the bar. A Sex-Bot option in her room? Exactly how deviant could relaxation get?
i. After the acid incident I renounced bedding other women’s guys. But Ken? If I wasn’t in love w/ him, I was enamored, and the ball was in Suzy’s court when they divorced. Now she’s gone dark & I’m waiting to pass go. Can you die from too many cold showers?
j. Euth-Center elder death in Joytown is viewed as entertainment, and though Arabella is there only to collar a skip, she’s bullied into watching the old folk succumb to their mass poisoning. Drained of all emotion but one, she has a powerful yearning for her surrendered Glock.
k. I played whore w/ Heston half the night & he signed his smart-car over to me, a merry-go-round of mutual perks. I left at 3; had to walk a dog. Expected a call-back, but it turned out he was only Heston’s body double. I’d’ve put that bullet thru his head if I’d known.
l. The death audience surges into the yard, but I back up the armored truck to scare and scatter them. They carry nothing to hurt me unless they can shut down the AI, and that’d cause my mayhem than anyone here can handle. I select ‘war-mode’ & explode through the gate.
m. If Dixie were a cat, I’d let her curl in the sun with kibble crumbs and game the sparrows, but she’s my wheels–the stubbornest, most prescient hodgepodge of automotive A.I. ever wired. She’s a one-off relic, a junked prototype, but without her I’d be so dead.
n. I’m borderline crippled, like crushed clamshell fills my sneaks, like I’m allergic to inelegance. I’m scanned & let inside the community but I’ve only a plastic pistol and zip-ties to tame Vince & sneak him out through the bot-guard defenses.
o. Perched on Dixie’s hood, Arabella’s ridiculously happy with an Ocean-City favorite, a tequila-lime ice cream cone. Nibble, swallow, lick. The wind teases her hair and she teases laughing gulls with fake handouts. Until a bold bandit scoops up her cone. Oy!
p. A guard in khakis with Joyful embroidered at his absent heart bars my entry. The gun-metal glint in his eyes is AI but I tolerate and manipulate all kinds. I smile conspiratorially. ‘I know we’re not in Kansas anymore but this is still the USA, right?’ (45)
q. From streetlights to trees, the community is rigged with surveillance equipment. Revolt’s a local obsession, and every camera’s blindside is secretly mapped. In gray hoodies, the black hats assemble to perfect and release the obliterating Malware: BIG BROTHER IS DEAD.
r. She breathes as though she hasn’t since her last visit to her foster mom’s hotel suite, unaltered since the heyday of NJ chic.
s. ‘Suzy, I called a million times.’ ‘First that got thru, I guess.’ ‘Where the hell R you?’ ‘Taking care of business. My business.’ ‘So, I’m out of the loop?’ ‘Heston’s involved.’ ‘He’ll screw you.’ ‘You had your shot at the big time. My turn now.’
t. Moonlight bright as day but I’m draped comfortably in tenebrous shade as I sip bubbly and build momentum. Guy I’m eye-stalking has to be a lifetime of regret in progress but I’m a sucker for dizzy spins on the roulette wheel of new horizons.
u. She’s golden. A guy-magnet w/ smarts, height, & curves. In her acting career, he face was compared to morning sunlight, her hair to a Botticelli angel. The mystery is how she’s 33 now but never truly loved. Should she try dressing up in nice?
v. Dxie’d executed somersaults to get out of traffic snarls before, but when she began hovering as they idled thru a tunnel, Arabella barked, ‘It’s hopeless. Quit it.’ Dixie was no sedan. She revved, got cut from the line, had to ride out on a flatbed.
w. Elbows on the bar, I crunch thru the free, pre-mauled nuts that must be dusted with LDS, so enrapt am I by the blue bubbles rising in my drink. If only I knew why Suzy uprooted herself and vamoosed the moment we aimed to save humanity’s collective ass.
a. T. S. Eliot. Sedate affairs, our cocktail parties. Gin oils our memories of bygone affronts, of our steadfast honor in the teeth of wifely melancholia, stubbornness, and pernicious habits. We fervently raise our glasses to the madhouse doctors who mute and restrain the wretched women.
b. Renaissance Theatre: The somewhere mattered not a whit to the wayfaring players, masters in the art of persuasion & chicanery. In each town of their vagrant route, they trod the boards to amuse an audience w/ bawdy farce while young cut-purse Rafe, dressed for the role of Whore, accosted the fat aldermen.
a. Imperfect of form, a tripartite creation of human, hawk, & koi, she strives to make the most of her allotted span, in turn a flyer in azure heights or swimmer in green deeps, and in between she struggles in the sanatorium to paint-by-numbers w/ fin and talon.
b. The cells fused & multiplied before the lens & the genetic mix of E. coli, mosquito, and tsetse fly crawled from the petrie dish. His thumb flexed over the winged chimera, a self-delivering lethal weapon. Either way, it was murder. (40)
c. Full Moon hollers in joy then waves to her cosmic BFFs. She zooms earthside & burns lakes to hissing craters as lover query her absence. She lets the tides roil and rides the wayward crests. Until Gravity drags her home & spanks her bum red.
d. ‘Unlikely story,’ the cop says. I open my garage piled high with corpses. ‘See, I kill my darlings and they fall out of my WIP. We had fun, y’know?’ ‘A book burning’ll get rid of them … The dragon topples on him. Ooh. I never wrote a whomped-flat cop mystery before. (50+)
e. Wings lamed by thorns, her heart a tom-tom, she scrabbled up the scree bare yards ahead of Hunter & his hound whose fangs slipped thru fae flesh like razors. Trapped atop the cliff, she sang for her vassals. In fury & thirst they came for blood.
f. The shifting silver sheen of a myriad fae wakes the girl hiding in a rowboat, nameless victim escaped from a thriller and fallen into a fantasy. The long diaphanous wings of fae cut her face like nails, but she expected trouble. Mace will dull their shine.
g. Samwell is yanked from a sweet reverie over his abundant harvest when he sees that every grape has been gnawed. His head pounds. Blasted fairies, glittery layabouts w/ shameful sexual practices and a bellyful of addictions. His wine is gonna knock their socks into migraines. (51)
h. Princess Lilac’s a crucible of pique & perfume. Her Redwood army dwarfs her, her Boxerwood war-dogs are lovable scamps, & her Jack pines wink at her. How she longs to blaze bright! Witch Elm oblige, and Lilac becomes the 1st ornamental bush-comet to eclipse the sun (39).
i. I read of demons, vampires, & ghosts unleashed from sanity & strayed into sleeping & waking dreams despite electrified & barbed fences. Stunned, torn, & raging, the phantasms bleed ink from poetic fingers. Little psalms of horrific vulnerability.
j. Wildfire abated but the habitat ruined, woodsy folk migrate to the city. They touch whiskers before they separate: foxes head for trash piles; chipmunks shelter in watermelon rind, and rabbits dig up a football field. Fawns Mo and Flo kick it up in heavy traffic.
a. Whatever the science of it, she’s lived for millennia & saved the residue of each joy & danger inside fragments of leaf or linen. 1st, the bundle filled her arms, then a barrow, now a wobbly grocery cart. Unwrapped, a shred of the past comforts her w/ hot tears. (42)
b. My kid’s eyes start leaking but the rain bleeding from her skin worries me most. She wakes on a soaked mattress, puddles on the floor. Doctors can’t treat her: she’s a water nymph not sick. In winter we hurl snowball out her window & cheer w/ every target hit. (42)
c. The synapses dilly-dally, chanting about vitamins and brain-strengthening exercises. I reach into my cortex for a thread of knowledge mastered and preserved w/ mothballs. The catalog spins. Data cackles as it slips off and hides. Guess I’ll google it. (50)
d. Their banner of arcane symbols furled and unfurled without a breath of wind as the invaders’ darts each found and stilled a living heart. Bravery was an ideal defeated, and the survivors decamped to the familiar perils of the swamp.
e. The antique bangle in the shop window is hers from lives past, the silvery form mutated but the magic unmistakable. The wearing of it bestows pure joy but early death. The dying forgotten, she remembers thrilling parties and her darling lovers. She considers spending rent arrears to reclaim it. The kids tug on her sleeves and pull her down the street. (46)
a. Trite’s Reality is chock full of balloons marked with winking eyes. Mr. Trite turns catalog pages for the young couple new to town.
He says, ‘Here’s a block on Main Street you’ll need to go round a few times; lover’s lane with a permanent full-moon set-up.’
‘What about starter homes?’
‘Yep. All sold with a black lab and l.5 kids.’
b. –Fishbowl’s a town going places. Yessir. Precious little unemployment & schools produce astronauts like there’s no tomorrow.
–Isn’t it bizarre there’s only one industry?’
–That’s on our mayor. He’s repairing his spacecraft before ICE gets wind of him.
c. In the safe zone, algorithms had assessed the risk of all behaviors likely to promote injury or death. Children, cars, sports, & alcohol were banned. Diet & exercise were prescribed. Despite the absence of weapons, the death rate held steady at 100%.
d. Elsewhere was a family trap of 7000 trees, acres of unblemished lawn, and 2 cars in every picket fence. Alcohol, opening of closets, public airing of dirty linen, & harsh words were banned. But across the track, the drug lords & speakeasy madams made up for it. (50+)
e. Cliche-Town’s rehabbing its infrastructure, signposting roads less traveled with vista lookouts over the slough of despond, restoring burned bridges stone by sooty stone, rod by warped rod of Chinese steel, and raising the roof on a new museum of twitter antiquities.
a. Eaze blunts the anxiety & I sack out, a level B miner on my 15th cloning & no rebel. Tho genes do go rogue they say. My Sensitive spoons with me; this Matt Model favors my ex-husband whose genes perished on Homeworld. Matt’s AI’s corrupted but I’m game.
b. The shipbound High Lord provides his rare-earth miners w/ every necessity. Much beloved are the opportunity trees whose giant bubble fruit allows any daring soul to enter & be lofted into his awesome presence. As his emissaries, they rule the galaxy.
c. Nitric acid couldn’t bit thru her boots and survival gear lay heavy on her back. No way to move fast under the night’s pelting rain but she needed shelter before sunrise, before the scent of petrichor rose from the wasteland & the sun rendered her a column of ash. (54)
d. Bees extinct, the land was one unending scar of grit and we did terrible things to each other to survive. The hybrid robo-bees gave us hope & we threw parties to celebrate the bounty. Until our kids disappeared, live hosts to hellish bee larvae.
e. AsteroidZ to Homeworld: Emergency! Glory holes everywhere are erupting with molten au. Devastating loss of miners.
Homeworld to AsteroidZ: Production bonanza you say?
AsterodZ to Homeworld: But the dead miners?
Homeworld to AsteroidZ: They’re old batch clones. We’ve upgrades waiting in the wings.
AsteroidZ to Homeworld: So, you take this as a win-win?
f. The composer-architect’s innovative Symphony-Sphere was an imposing AI-driven orchestra-in-one. But the instrumental confluence amplified its habitual dissonance, and the impact was lethal. A glorious agony of total annihilation. (40 plus)
g. The dwarf planet teeters on the rim of the Kuyper Belt, a bleak prison for cloned miners fortified to live a centuries-long orbit before disposal. The laborer’s shift is torturous, but the honeyed bliss of relief is readily available with brothel-bots.
h. The dark period of Dwarf X’s lunar cycle stirs up thrill-seekers, and the Cosmic Govt preemptively sends out new clones. All murders and bone-headed adventuring occurs then but the clone slaves know their genes are immortal when they seek solace in riot and mayhem.
a. Bonfires of the slaughtered bodies smoldered, smoke impenetrable, & stink so foul & otherworldly Zara had no name for it. Whipping movements caught her eye, for where fire failed, human flesh was become ground zero to alien terror. –
b. Zara’s energy is low, and Mom rushes her to Dr. ***, a hero medic of WWIII whose care is exceptional but whose telomeres are fatally short. She analyzes Zara’s bio samples in her lab, diagnoses epigenetic distress, not the wasting plague! And prescribes hormones.
a. Panto season draws all homeless emotions but by far the keenest is Anguish, the audience so caught up in the razzle-dazzle absurdity the target is unaware of the osmosis of possession. Hoping the kids are asleep, Mary unlocks the door to a blood splatter horror.
b. Shadow exchange began as a children’s tag game and developed into a lovers’ ploy to engender romantic delirium. In the ensuing collapse of that natural bondage, lost & amorphous shadows bonded with their own kind. Now they mass wherever lights are dim and swamp the unwary passer-by with their fathomless dark grief.
HOME: Coal-fire warmth & a pall of cigarette smoke w/ news buzz on TV. Dad lights up & watches a newscaster while I’m in an armchair, legs wrapped around Mam in front. My cheek rests on the Persil-scented cotton of her dress as, one by one, she snips my toenails.
a. EVICTION: Missy is quick in the figurative sense, her twin sister dead, head-shell cracked like a soft-boiled when Missy pushed her downstairs 50 years ago. Missy & the ghost dwell in bitter acrimony in an apt in Papa’s house, where he haunts the upper floor bordello.
b. THE KILLING: The vivid bustle of daily life had dimmed in an instant to dreary gray, a sense of sleepwalking thru a bladed mist, moist & cutting. Shrouded and hurt, she wound thru a cemetery’s store of forgotten tombstones until, at last, she lay in her own fresh-dug grave.
LOST DOG: A vicious stinging rain soaking thru your Burberry right off the bat, and you should’ve worn wellies, but the dog’s run off & he’s a dope in traffic. Hours you roam, find a shivering mat of fur in a shop doorway. Nose to nose, the static shocks you both.
PHILADELPHIA: That part of the city had been a white-flight casualty, w/ its vacant factories & lots overgrown w/ garbage trees & rubble. But even before gentrification the dour frontage of rowhouses might hide postage-stamp paradises of peony, river-stone pond, and gnarled wisteria.
a. The guilty verdict condemns the blanket thief to transportation. Sickness and maggoty food near kill her, & in the colony it’s field labor ‘mid the slaves. But she dwells in paradise, cosseted by warmth & fragrance & gold-eyed Sampson’s nectar kisses.
b. i) With wise and gracious Aris, his father’s favorite concubine, the young sultan Omar inspects recent harem acquisitions. Aris summons from the chosen a thin Armenian purchased, Omar recollects, with a camel-load of carpets. He demurs & thumbs up the lip of an African wench to check her teeth. He freezes under the sky-blue gaze of the Armenian, overwhelmed heart and soul by her passion.
ii) The fetching beauties delivered annually to Khalid’s harem leave him cold. Let them prepare sweets, sweep tiles, or find joy where they might. He begs only the nectar of Estella’s willing lips. Tho his slave, she owns for all time the immensity of his love.
c. By law, whores’ newborns were left to wilt on the high altar, prey to the gods’ ravens. Eyes plucked out, a fair, fragile child wails so bitterly that the paradoxical gods soften, bestow new basilisk eyes, & teach him the way of retribution.
a. The frogs were gone, now water fowl and song birds. Profound silence where once was a chorale of vibrant life. Here comes the miasma, carrion-foul, descending from a bruised & sunless sky. Its advance tendrils uproot the trees, and we smother the children before it takes us too.
b. All that’s left of him is the love patch. He sang in a band & girls crawled over him he was that cute, my kid, before the crash. Now I wheel him up to the lake & I survey the glassy stillness that is my life. If a movement ever catches his eye, I’ll let him go.
c. A peek at the 21st century & journo Angel vows to sit out time in Paradise w/ Milton & other serious poets, a Babel of tongues, but she has them all by heart. The Big Guy doesn’t notice the end of her coverage on war, slavery, pollution & corruption, he’s bingeing Netflex.
d. Mostly you ignore the aging husband rooster-pecking you in the kitchen as he re-arranges the dishwasher, buffs the silverware, and moans if you drink ‘his’ red wine, but the cure is pure simplicity. Coq-au-vin needs only a butcher’s knife and his wine. (40+)
e. She saw vividly how he used to race along the beach imprinted with the day’s footsteps & silvered by lingering dusk. He whipped sandpipers into looping flight & drew raucous screams from gulls watchful on the pilings. On & on he ran from her. Into the bittersweet shadows. (47)
f. In this epoch, we are prey and my inanimate bones will soon molder under layers of this river’s silt. The birds’ brouhaha at gray dawn clarions their hunger, but no raptors yet. A bare chance I’ll survive if I slip back into the water now. (pic).
g. I lingered when our gods fled the crowded slums & war-zones, for I tethered the rampant winds that turn Earth to face the Sun and the Moon. Now I’m frayed to breaking, & in their freedom the winds will sail me to the dying stars with the horseshoe crab and nautilus (52)
h. During the vicious storms, feral kids shelter with the villagers in the caves. Once warm and dry, the loners fight over food rations in the languages of fox, owl, and weasel. When mothers identify their own children snatched by the loony re-wilders, it’s always too late for a hug.
i. I sprint down checkerboard tile floor. Suspenseful sheet notes roil before my eyes. A clef falls on a vase beside my head & its shatters upwards to my feet. Along the floor/ceiling glints a sliver of light. A door. But there’s no handle, no escape from his dissonant compositions.
j. At the Remote Hospice for Incurables, all consideration is given to the cancer patients, so many taken each month by that deviance in the self, that home-grown warlord intent on total domination. At lunar epigee, the dying burn incense together and slam poetic elegies.
Despite the name, the Jolly-Rogers were a dispirited lot, too timid to loot w/cannonball & cutlass, yet they lived like kings on salvage goods thanks to a plate-tectonics phantasm that endlessly shifted Shipwreck Reef & destroyed more vessels than Dany’s dragon.
A POTENTIALLY FALSE, HIGHLY ABBREVIATED, AND SORRY HISTORY OF ENGLAND
a. After a trial republic, Charles Stuart won 1st place in the game of thrones. Enamored of spaniels & courtesans, he caught the disease of world domination from his Portuguese in-laws. The infection was chronic tho the regime ended in a trifling squabble about a pope.
b. No more mystery about the fate of the Canting Bards, the horsehair-shirt clad, ever-fasting holy companions of the Crusaders. A Persian mass grave proves that their godly gift of heart-stopping poetry recitation was cut short by scurvy and starvation.
a. A dating blurb. I cross out ROMANCE and substitute LOVE. A gull unfurls & soars as I wrangle dreams with inchoate words. I give up and sketch the guy I have in mind. A lone figure on the beach, bare feet, chinos rolled. A surge of surf near drowns me, snatches my notebook.
I wipe my face and open my eyes to a man’s hand reaching toward me. The image is ebbing with the wave, but here he is helping me stand up. Bringing love into my life.
b. The server stacked our plates neatly but crashed into the bushes w/ a clatter and an uprising of moths. Ben got up to help, but I sipped Frangelico, basking in the sultry suggestiveness of nighttime gardenia and our secret pleasures. (43)
c. Jolted from sleep, Lily spies a rising moon thru the green-bottle-glass window & hears Betty slipping from the flock-bed, new-stuffed w/ lamb fleece still sour from its urine wash. What sweet poetry will be write for bold Betty naked as moon shadow in sultry night?
d. Independent of gravity, she sails from the horizon in her golden robe & startles a contrail of snow geese into honking cacophony. She spies the poet moon caressed by a cloud, her lover oblivious to her rising. She spreads out a lapis carpet & beckons.
e. The planets in alignment tempt lovers to defy the constraint of gravity and travel hand-in-hand, expectant & joyful, into night’s transcendent bliss. Up & up they float to burn for 1 brief but endless millisecond in celestial triumph.
f. Aris, Omar and Estella above.
g. A moon w/ cusps sharp as love’s urgency shines on the blank pages of our secret elopement.