Stories from No-Longer-Published Magazines

The Surge of the Static and the Roar of the Stars

(from the Winter 2001 issue of The Missing Fez)

Dancing on an Updraft (Lu)

Today was the start of school, but right before dawn the new aurora aura came on.  School or no school, we had to do it.  I mean Veronica, Pella, Sherona and me.  We made our calls.  We made our plans.  We had to go.

If the aurora aura scares you, you don’t go.  If the glitzer and pop are too magnetic, you stay home.  If your balance is not what it could be, you stand down.  But none of those things are true for Veronica, Pella, Sherona and me.  We are always only too ready.  We eat new things for lunch.

Out onto the roof and avoid the cameras.  Down onto the street and find Sherona.  I glow gold; she shines mercury.  We find Pella in copper and Veronica bronze.  Metal makes it happen.  We go way out into the blank dirt lot and set the static.  Then we just stand in the middle and wait.

Sometimes the updraft takes an hour.  Sometimes it never comes.  This morning it came so fast Pella said, “It was waiting for us.  It loves us bad.”  The static poured like ice water.  The aurora aura was unbearably magnetic.  We danced until our hearts couldn’t beat any higher.  Every time the updraft tried to let us down, tried to forgive us and ask no more, we stayed and danced.

It can be any metal.  It could be platinum, it could be lead.  That’s the main thing to remember.  That and keeping your balance.  That and singing the static.  That and eating the new.  Too bad we stayed too long and got taken.  A yell and a long, hard fall.  So now, here I am. 

“I’m so disappointed in you,” my father said when he had to come and pick me up like some lost loose change.  “Just you wait until things get stable.”  Big news, Dad:  Things will never get stable.  Bigger news:  I’m not disappointed in me.  It’s true I tore up my arm, but as soon as I heal and the time’s ripe for updrafts, I’ll find Veronica and Pella and Sherona and do it all over again.

Heat Strike (Lu’s Dad)

It’s the first day of school, and Lu is in the clinic.  I can imagine what her mother will say.  And I left her there, defiant in her glitter-gold, because I had an interview this morning.  It’s been a year since I changed jobs.  Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who isn’t up-to-the-minute.

I had to trundle in circles for a while before I found that new communications- remunerations complex off Highway X.  While I was standing in the stacking lot, shuffling resumes and trying to get my bearings, the temperature suddenly shot up.  Like somebody focused a magnifying glass on an ant and I was the ant.  Then I remembered something Marky told me, and I knew it was a heat strike.  “A heat strike could give you heat stroke,” he said in that way he has, and then he told me they happen most often in stacking lots.  And they can go up to 400 degrees.

When one of the security guards saw me via satellite, he came running out with a conductor pole.  It flashed like a light geyser and caused a big wind to kick up, but eventually the heat strike was conducted.  The security guard gave me some health-ade, and I asked him what they’re planning to do to prevent this.  He just said something like, “Better management of stacking dimensions.”  For some reason, I wanted to laugh. 

I was late for the interview, so I tried to blame it on the heat strike.  A thin, angry-looking man in an expensive remunerations outfit just said, “These are unstable times; we have to be prepared for anything.”  I nodded and mumbled like he said something profound.  I hate myself when I do that.

When things do get stable, Marky will come home. He can do a science project about heat strikes, and I can give him my eyewitness account.  If anyone will want to hear about it, Marky will.

Noise Storm (Marky)

School started today and I wish I was there.  No joke.  Instead, first thing this morning, Freddy and I were trundling outside the fortification.  We were trying to find food Aunt Dear could cook without lessons, but right away we got caught in a noise storm. 

Later, when we explained why we were late, Aunt Dear pulled that big blue thing up around her shoulders and said, “Now tell me again about a noise storm.”

Freddy got mad.  “Here’s what I’ll tell you:  I’m lucky I can still hear your stupid questions.  I’m lucky my ears weren’t blasted out of my head.  That’s what I’ll tell you about a noise storm.”  Then he went off to play gravity games.  I just said, “It really wasn’t so loud,” because Aunt Dear looked like she was about to cry.

Aunt Dear is a very big woman, so she needs lots of food, but she doesn’t know how to cook what they have in the fortification.  She’s afraid of the new things, and she hasn’t gone outside in eleven years.  She’s so far behind, she’s still catching up on shoe technology.  She just says, “Leave it to the kids.  They’ll figure it out.  It’s easier for them.”

“Where’s that Freddy?” Aunt Dear asked after she ate all the food and then licked the crumbs from around her pale pink mouth.  “I need somebody to explain,” she said, heaving and thrashing herself around a little, pushing the button to turn on the omni-set

 “I’ll explain,” I said, and Aunt Dear sighed, and the omni-set started up.  She pulled that big blue thing up around her shoulders and said, “What’s that?”  She sounded like she was scared and excited all at once.  “An overdrive toaster,” I said, and I tried to tell her that if she would use one we could get all our food from inside the fortification.

“I wish Freddy was here,” Aunt Dear said.  “He knows how to tell a person what’s what.”  I didn’t want her to know what Freddy said before he left:  “I don’t plan to explain nothing – never again.”

When my dad left me with Aunt Dear, he said, “You’ll have a lot of fun.  Freddy will be there.”  My mom said, “Just think.  No school.  It’ll be like a vacation.”  But it doesn’t feel like a vacation, especially now that everything’s going to be up to me.

Holes in the Sky (Marky’s Mom)

This morning I was riding to work on the plane-train.  I told my phone to call Lu at school.  I wanted to ask her how she thought her father and Marky would handle the news about my reconstruction.  My phone told me Lu wasn’t at school.  Just before we got to Third Street station, I looked out the window.  I saw an advertising floater, flashing and blaring, drifting upward.  And then I noticed there was a hole in the sky.  It wasn’t a big hole, but through it, I could see blackness and three stars.  I turned to the small old man beside me to ask if he’d ever seen anything like it, but he was asleep.  Then the advertising floater slid through the hole in the sky.  I thought I could hear a popping sound.  I asked my phone to find Lu. 

Just before we got to Sixth Street station, my phone told me Lu was at the clinic.  I told it to call her there, but the satellites were overdrawn.  I looked out the window again.  There was an even bigger hole in the sky, and, though there was blue all around it, through the hole I could see lots of stars.  I called out to the conductor.  I shouted, “Look!” but he didn’t pay attention to me.  The small old man beside me woke up and seemed alarmed.  I smiled at him to reassure him.  A cloud floated through the hole in the sky, and a flock of pigeons followed it.  My phone succeeded in reaching the clinic, but the nurse put me in stasis and left me there.

Just before we got to Ninth Street station, I looked out the window again.  There was a hole in the sky on the right side of the plane-train, a big hole.  Then, through the window across the aisle, I saw another equally big hole.  I called out to the conductor.  I shouted, “Wait!”  The small old man beside me woke up, his eyes wide.  I told my phone to call the clinic, but it couldn’t hear me.  Then the holes merged, and there was blackness all around us.

Now all the passengers are very quiet.  The plane-train is veering from side to side, and the vibrations are intense.  I take the hand of the small old man beside me, and we breathe together.  The stars rush past us, roaring.