Monday's Muse

The Metamorphosis of Doubt

This is the summer of my life, the time when life’s early rains and startling frosts turn to warm winds and growing fruit. Yet a blight crept across my summer’s first revolution, a niggling vermin. It sucked at the unripe fruit and left it shriveled, and it called me friend.

Doubt does that.

It was a slow and subtle chewing at the leaves in the place where I inscribe my days, with vague promises of excellence in exchange for my personhood, couched in a gentle gnawing that slowly stripped the growth away.

Metamorphosis is not just about the transformation but the waking up aware of it. Awareness is everything in such instances. Is there something non-verminous in our blood? The taint itself is not in question. When a verminous epiphany occurs, the question is whether we recognize it.

So I saw this thing that had become me, and I found I couldn’t live in its shell. (more…)

For The Young Who Want To

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

~Marge Piercy

(HT: A.S. King comment on this article)

The Moonborn Code, Part 8

< Read Part 7 | INDEX | Read Part 9 >

8: Counterintelligence

The head of the Baffin lab was a short, pudgy man with an amazing puff of curly grey hair. Wes thought he looked like he should have been wearing coke-bottle glasses, to put it in a mysterious old term he’d once read. Something Wes had only seen in pictures, but it would have fit.

The man’s name was Sage Benton, and he had never quite lost his Boston accent. He trundled along between gleaming stainless steel work surfaces that were subtly oversize for his stature, rambling on about what was state-of-the-art at Baffin Arctic Base, and what wasn’t.

Then he halted and did a 180-degree about face, clapping his hands together in front of his chest. “Not that it matters, since the state of the art just ate Planet Earth.”

“Tell me about that,” Wes said. “My orders are to get to the Winnipeg facility. What are my chances?” (more…)

The Moonborn Code, Part 7

< Read Part 6 | INDEX | Read Part 8 >

7: Agent

Wesley Liu blinked at the lanky, awkward man standing before him. “Uh…I see. What exactly do you do?”

Dr.-Cayley-Willows-of-the-University-of-Toronto-Department-of-Mathematics raised an eyebrow. Then he opened his mouth to elaborate.

The guy at the bank of computers cracked his gum. “He’s a bean counter.”

Willows closed his eyes with an expression of physical pain. “No, fractals and other such point dispersions, three-dimensional in particular. It can’t be as accurate as I’d like, but it can do the job. Come with me.”

Wes started to walk forward, but his feet felt like lead. It wasn’t too much effort, it was just — not what he was used to. “Wow. I thought the grav difference wouldn’t be too bad, the way they’ve got the lab section set up in Terramoon.”

Willows turned around sharply and squinted at Wes. “Gravity. Gravity…”

Wes blinked. “What?” (more…)

The Moonborn Code: Part 6

< Read Part 5 | INDEX | Read Part 7 >

6: Baffin Base

The moonship arced toward earth, or so Wes imagined. It was all automated. He couldn’t see a thing. He sat in the silent nothingness, feeling claustrophobic and wondering what kind of damage being earthside would do to his altered physiology. He’d been in the Terramoon colony nine years, more than enough for every cell in his body to be different than when he’d arrived.

He was going to die younger than he’d expected. Nothing he could do about it. He slept.

The ship’s scream woke him in a panic. He flailed and hit his hand on the emergency eject shell surrounding him. Good thing the children were sedated. The G’s compressed him, and he struggled to breathe. The ship swung side to side, only a faint motion from minor course corrections, but the excessive gravity ripped at him.

He heard a ping, then a voice warped by digital static. “Come in, Terramoon shuttle.” Then in the background, “Level him off a bit, his face probably looks like silly putty right now.”

The gravity relented, and he could speak. “Terramoon shuttle here.”

“Terramoon shuttle, this is Baffin Arctic Base. How ya doin’, eh?” (more…)

The Moonborn Code, Part 5

< Read Part 4 | INDEX | Read Part 6 >

5: Homeworld

Wesley Liu was the first to volunteer for the Earthside drop. Elgin Parker didn’t need much time to think about it. Three seconds, maybe. “I can’t think of a better man. You’re approved. Your mission is to take Shuttle 32 to the Arctic station, where the extent of global contamination can be confirmed before proceeding, and a course of action more easily planned than we could do from here. From there, you’ll be given a course to take you to the Level 4 lab at Winnipeg, Canada. Your goal is to deliver three of the Moonborn to the facility there.”

Liu slouched deeper into his seat. He unfolded his hands from behind his head, lowering his arms and crossing them. “What about the rest of the kids?”

“Others will be responsible for them at a later time. Our first priority is to make contact with the lab. The team there needs a chance to examine potential outcomes before we proceed.” (more…)

The Moonborn Code, Part 4

< Read Part 3 | INDEX | Read Part 5 >

4: Moonborn

Wesley Liu stood very still, cradling the unconfirmed infant. “But every single one in the nursery is . . .”

The Head Midwife pressed the retract on the gestational incubator’s catch table. It slid out of sight into the bank of incubators without a sound. “The defective ones don’t make it that far. If we detect a problem during incubation, we abort, test the DNA and review the cell replication records. It’s very rare that any of them make it to birth with an undetected defect.”

Liu lifted the wrapped baby back against his chest, shifting back from Jenna. “And if that happens?”

“It’s only happened twice since we launched the homo sapiens trials. It’s the same as an incubator failure. We destroy them, do testing, and analyze records. It’s unavoidable. The Moonborn Code starts out perfect, but entropy happens.”

Liu looked ill. (more…)

The Moonborn Code, Part 3

Read Part 2 < | > Read Part 4

3: Midwife

An incubator was beeping. Jenna Parker moved to key in the sequences that would massage the Moonborn infant from its watery culturing chamber into the world. Her husband was sleeping soundly, she was sure. They lived separate lives, lived them contentedly. They each had their own passion for their careers, independent yet alongside the other. Neither was particularly interested in the work of the other, so they suffered no competition. At least professionally. After all, Elgin Parker held three PhD’s and was the Project Director. Jenna Parker was simply a biochemist and the Head Midwife to the Moonborn. Kind of like being the janitor—essential, but invisible unless inconveniencing someone. (more…)

Serial Story: The Moonborn Code

It’s not entirely in my comfort zone to do this without an editor involved in the process, but just for fun, I’ll see what I can make of it from week to week. (Expect between 600-1000 words each post.) About a year ago, I banged out about 2800 words of this story and then left it. Shamus calls that “padding,” so I’ll post them in the rough and keep going from there. And hey, if you like it, share the link around… (more…)