While I’m furiously scribbling for NaNoWriMo this month, I thought I’d keep the old blog rolling by coughing up a 4-part short story. . .
…s t r e t c h e d…o u t…o v e r…t h e…m o n t h.
If that drives you crazy, you can also download the entire thing in one fell swoop HERE and ignore me until December. Ha ha.
Without further ado: Part I
Ghost Ship (Part 1)
Crystal glitters in the firelight, clear Artemisia glazing the sides of twin goblets. The stone room glows warmly, golden compared to the cool opalescence of her body and pinpricks of starlight drifting beneath her skin. She wears the same sheer silk shift of their first encounter. Gossamer as cobwebs, the skirt’s slit panels reveal slender legs and bare feet. Hair, pale as quicksilver, glints in the candlelight as slanted, emerald eyes regard the old captain.
He lingers at the port, a stooped man dying of old bones, his life years beyond a common span, his hair a thin, white halo over a spotted scalp. How she loves him, this alien, for how many lifetimes, for how many hundreds of years.
“Caspar?” She joins him for the view, handing him a goblet.
“Juliette?” he replies with a smile, as if they are newly met strangers, his blue eyes bright despite the pain shredding his flesh. Their goblets chime and they sip the sweet liquor. Outside the ark slowly rotates, the star-swept expanse of space glittering beyond the ship’s outer rings, Earth’s last survivors contained within its sleek, metal hull.
“I always meant to ask you”—he rests a gnarled hand on the clear visi-glass of the port—“why did you leave the view of the ship, why not mountains or a lake, something befitting your imagination?”
“So, we’ll both remember where we are and what’s important.” She gazes at the revolving rings, their tiny, round ports like a strand of luminescent pearls in a black sea. “Come sit by the fire, Love.” She takes his hand and leads him to the wide hearth, settling him on the chaise and lifting his feet.
“You spoil me,” he chuckles as she tucks a fur around his skeletal legs. “Soon you’ll have to find a younger man.”
“The future isn’t foretold,” she says, trickling a thimbleful of fragrant liquor into his goblet. “Nor is it guaranteed.”
“I suppose a virus is unencumbered by time,” he says, a slight wistfulness to his voice. “You are as young and enchanting as the day we met.”
The old reference stings, though she knows he speaks in jest. “And why are Earthlings so invested in time? You are so determined to die.” She sits on the edge of the chaise, her goblet on a small, carved table beside her.
“The bane and beauty of life,” he replies. “Makes it rather romantic in a poignant sort of way. You would have made a splendid princess, Juliette, wooed by a dashing knight in a castle such as this. I love those ancient legends.”
“I know.” Gently she kisses him and then rests her shimmering cheek against the sharp bones of his skull, careful that her touch is light. To her, he is still the gallant captain, tall and broad-shouldered, his eyes moon-blue, chestnut hair a long mane of curls in spite of regulations. With a sigh, he closes his eyes, not asleep but resting, his face content.
Before they first met, she created this room for him, and the illusion has morphed only by small degrees over the centuries. The soaring stone walls and vaulted ceiling are original, as well as the marble columns and floor. The giant chandelier with its dripping, crystal teardrops has lost a measure of sparkle as she slowly dismantles it, but the rest she’s fashioned with exquisite detail: dusky rose drapes with curved swags, the immense hearth, hundreds of ancient tomes in mahogany cases, smoky candlelight and gleaming mirrors, carved chairs and elegant tables, tapestries of bearded men hunting wild beasts, paintings of pink-skinned ladies with golden hair. She takes it all in as her eyes dew and the stars in her arms swirl.
“You created all this for me, didn’t you?” he asks as he gazes at her.
“Yes, over time.” She rises and shifts the logs in the coals with the iron poker’s hooked end.
“It’s been a magical life, Juliette. Thank you.”
“We’ve lived many lives together, and I suspect we will again.”
“Well, my ghost, until the next one.” He smiles, clearly disbelieving her wisdom. Then he dons a valiant face and rises, clutching her arm, his body trembling. At the portal, she kisses him, pours her light into him, once again sensing the young captain of ages ago.
His hand flutters over the sensor and the panel opens. Light-nodes gleam down the gently arcing hallway, illuminating tan walls and gray carpet with the muted glow of designated night. The distant drone of the ventilation system serves as a backdrop to conversational voices. A pair of young crewmen in common blues nod and step aside as their captain shuffles into the corridor and the panel glides closed.