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Month: October 2018

Leaving the Rock

Leaving in a hurry sucks. You can’t plan for these kinds of things. You go where you go, and trust that the higher-ups know what they are doing. We’d been there for a good six months, so we’d dug in a fair bit. But, when they yell EVAC, it’s grab and go time. Sure there’s a protocol. But really? No protocol survives an EVAC. 

The seasons are short and harsh on Ginstron. The rain and snow pushed the dirt, rocks and debris until they almost completely covered the rusted power unit. The morning sun shimmered in the drops of dew that formed on the remaining exposed panel. Chirping could be heard in the distance. The unit hummed as it had for the last 50 years or so.

We bugged out of Ginstron for a reason; We couldn’t go back for it. And besides, we were hundreds of thousands of miles away before anyone even noticed the unit was gone. I blame that new captain. He’s a sweaty, nervous guy. That dude is fresh out of the academy and he just doesn’t have it yet. I mean, it took him 4 days to order a inventory. 4 DAYS! There was no way we were going back after 4 days. 

The weight of the mud and rock cracked the containment shield. It started small. Tiny drops of green sludge dripped from the corner. The dry red soil soaked up each drop. It had been unusually dry this year, but the rainy season would start soon enough.

Everyone knows this shit. The D240 power generator is the standard power unit for planetary expeditions. It’s a couple meters in size, but light weight, and durable. At its heart is a small reactor that can sustain a mission for a year or two. We come and go pretty fast these days, so nobody really uses them for that long. I just love how easy they are to fix. We were on Jackson345 and Mel fixed one with a tweezer and some tape from the medical kit. 

Large tree-like plants surrounded the ravine where the unit sat. The canopy of bushy yellow leaves shaded the red ground below. Small purple weeds swayed in the slow breeze. The rains had begun in mountains and a river could be heard rushing in the distance.

We aren’t supposed to leave those units behind? You think I don’t know that? I know that. Everyone knows that. But, you know what, SHIT happens. We put that unit on the edge of the encampment because Sutter needed it there for one of those silly experiments she was always running. That is NOT normal procedure, but hell, the captain signed off on the exception notice. They knew it was out there. 

It rained and rained that day. The river finally burst its banks late in the afternoon. The water rushed into the ravine and took everything with it, including the power unit. Every rock and twig bobbed up and down as the water screamed down the hill toward the valley below. The unit smashed into a tree and was trapped under a large log. The box split open and the remaining green sludge spilled into the water.

Did we leave it on? I don’t know. I suspect we did. Why would we turn it off? I understand why they need to ask the questions, but are they seriously stupid. I mean, you don’t usually turn these things on and off. Sutter probably set up that experiment and left it running the entire time we were there. I suspect that’s why we forgot about it. If we had to trek out there every day and turn if off, I imagine one of us would have mentioned that we had a D240 out in the field.  

Rows and rows of thin leafy stalks shot upward from the valley floor. A human-like figure stood knee deep in the recent floods. Grasping a stalk with all four hands, it yanked a large round black root from the ground. It wiped the curious green watery sludge off the root, trimmed the stalk, and placed in a woven basket slung over its back. Others could be seen in the distance doing the same thing.

Those units make some nasty waste. We collect them, clean them out and store that sludge until we safely get rid of it. I can’t imagine how much shit is in that unit if its been running this whole time. I can’t even imagine. 

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Is this Casserole Still Good?

I drew you with crayons and put you on the refrigerator with those snarky magnets you bought from that drug store in Mobile, Alabama. I put you up next to a doctors note from ’92 and a faded yellow Post It. Did I mow the lawn? I can’t remember if I mowed the lawn.

I put you up here with a receipt from a store for a thing we’re never taking back. There you are between that magnet poem I wrote when I was drunk and a magnet poem you wrote when you were mad.

But, we don’t put things here to remember, we put them here to forget, like day old spagetti and sour milk. We were healthy intentions, that ended up soggy like these months old cucumbers. Moldy like a new recipe neither of us liked.

We are a ripe cacophony of rotten things. A forgotten filter that never got replaced.

I will leave you here until the paper curls and the color fades. I will look at you every day, but never really see how beautiful you are.

And one day, in a purge, I will wad you up and throw you in the stinky, overfilled recycle bin.

Then I will draw you again, to fill the empty space right there next to the landscapers card we never called.

And tomorrow, I won’t notice you as I open the door, pausing for a bit to wonder where all the smudges on the stainless steel come from.

Is this casserole still good?

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Blue Bird Bay

A bird bounced in between the wooden bars of Bay’s cage. He lazily lifted his hand to shoo it away. Damn seagulls after his dinner again. But he stopped. This bird was blue.

We must be close to land he thought. How else would a bird like this be here?

Hoping he could entice it to stay, he pinched a small bit of his fish dinner and tossed it out on the edge of the table.

The bird cautiously hopped closer and ate the fish. Bay marveled at the brilliant blue feathers and jet black eyes. He had never seen a bird like it. But, that’s not surprising, Bay hadn’t seen much in his short life. The Portus captured him at 7, and he had been the Windbearer of the Sentinel Mark ever since.

“Who’s a pretty bird? Where’d you come from? What’s your name?” he said.

Sailors strolled by large wood cage, but mostly ignored him. The Windbearer may sit on the deck, but they are not part of the crew. They are a device, a tool. Truth be told, the sailors only really cared if he was still alive. No one wants to be caught on the sea without a bearer.

Bay didn’t care. He had long gotten over the misery of his situation. He found peace in the little things. The songs of the sailors, the whales, the birds, well except seagulls.

Bit by bit, as the night wore on, Bay fed the bird the rest of his dinner. Luckily for the bird, a well fed Windbearer is the key to success at sea.

Bay pushed away from the table. The bird hopped onto his plate and picked at the remaining crumbs. It finished and glanced back at Bay as if it was looking for more.

Bay twirled his finger and swirled up some dust from the floor of his cage. He made it dance in shapes on the table. It was a simple trick, but he hoped it would keep the bird from flying off. At first it was startled, but soon it was bouncing along with the little shapes Bay made.

Bay entertained the bird for hours. He told stories with the swirling dust. Stories of his family and of his voyages on the sea. The bird watched. Bay wasn’t sure if he understood, but he seemed to be riveted by the motion. Bay tried to stay awake. He knew if he fell asleep, the bird would leave, and he didn’t want it to go. Eventually he lost the battle, his head drooped, and the dust dropped to the ground.

To be continued…

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