The journey starts with a single murder, and this journey has begun. As Oleander and Mint flee their home in the Appalachians, we meet a mostly metal robot, a concerned inventor, a creature from the depths of the sea wrestling with her place in evolution, and a crew of characters that somehow meet because of an unintentional death off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Love, murder, engineering, and evolution send this cast of lonely creatures into each other’s orbit finding out that time was always waiting.
When Mint woke up she wondered what Oleander was doing. He was hours into his day when she swung her legs over the side of the bed. She moved around the kitchen while he walked through the cold wind rushing the channels between old growth and the stills that burned hidden along his route. She liked the way he smelled on those mornings. He reminded her of medicine and campfires, and she smiled when he opened the door.
Oleander and Mint
Mint could not stop throwing up. The smell was bad, but the sounds that the body gave up in the fire were worse. She watched Oleander feed limbs of pine and man into the flames. As she watched him, in between heaving whatever was left in her onto leaf litter, she wondered what all this meant. What kind of man was Oleander? Oleander was sweating so hard. His hands were burning, calluses building and bursting under the friction of the old saw handle. The bone gave way faster than he imagined, but the old saw problem of sticking mid cut reminded him that when it seems easy, something always comes up. Oleander welcomed something familiar thinking about that. It seemed so unusual to get hung up in the saw, and he paused to remember how in the middle of all this he could be amused by the memory of muscle memory. The sweat was hot over the fire, and as he stalled to remember, he looked up. Above them, between the pines, the stars were thick and the night was as clear as any he had ever met. The wind was all around him. He couldn’t feel it, but he could see it in the pine tops moving against the sky. Oleander looked at Mint, who was looking at him, and he could not stop the smile that came from somewhere between the ground, those stars, and everywhere there was to be.
Peripheral vision is for prey. Silas had none. His world was in front of him, detailed and tunneled. Sometimes he would fall over a tricky root or an overgrown vine that was outside of his tunnel. For a time this was frustrating until Spring was almost over. Silas stumbled over a rock, which was always more painful than the normal obstacles, and on the way down his time slowed to snap shots of a wolf falling. Each photo of his fall was a different season – rain fell, gusts of wind, snow, heat. His body compensated in the air like usual, but this time he Was hyper aware of every shift. All his questions about lust stopped for a moment. Silas realized that he had not been quiet in months. There had been a constant humming in him like an interstate just out of sight. Silas reached ground and his ankle didn’t hurt. He sat there and thought what had just happened. He thought about how to think in the future so it wouldn’t be so loud. But its not that loud, he thought, more dull than anything. Silas found himself walking again, he wanted to replicate the quiet. His new awareness of the highway made it more like living under the flight path of an airport where the planes hung like toys over your house, big engines droning. Constantly. Silas wanted to fall again but he couldn’t now. Each hazard of the forest was a moment of hope followed by the realization that it was the hope itself that was ruining whatever hope he had of replicating perfection and that this was spiritual irony. It used to be so much more quiet.
Not knowing much about wolves, Silas found himself without words. There was nothing to say anyway. The questions stayed longer in silence. Trying to find that space when thoughts were gone, Silas moved along old migratory routes. He could not see the packs behind him reawakening to the runs that development stole. They loped easily with him leading. He found that field without meaning to, saw meaning in that, and stretched out for a rest. The pack spread evenly among the older trees, waiting for him to rise.
Saphron and Abraham
Somehow Saphron complicated engineering. It was a knack he had down. Abraham came online in whirs and hums, still loading relevant data. He could not help but want the robot awake. The house felt warmer when Abraham was on. The robot was waiting for programs to install when he decided to alter his own coding on several areas that seemed inefficient. Saphron watched with pride while his creation found free will, believing that everything was operating as planned.The cold was hard on the wind. It blew through everything that Saphron was wearing. The jacket felt like glass against his skin and tears were burning on his cheeks. The field looked as frigid as he felt. Abraham was nowhere. The grasses were dead and flat in the wake of Fall’s arrival. Looking across the land, only the tree stood out. It sat tall and bare, exhausting Saphron as he walked against the weather toward the space it commanded. When he got there, all that way crossed, the data flooding him under panic that was humming above the currents, there was nothing to see. Saphron sat hard against the tree. The wind went clinical, howling hard under the bright grey sky. He heard the tone sequence. It was coming from the other side of the trunk. A flash of heat filled Saphron as he leapt up and came around the side of the tree, the bark burning his hands.
Abraham was everywhere. Pieces scattered around the robot’s limp torso. An arm, a series of circuits, and clutched in the limb still attached, a crushed ball of Caribou heart. Even in that cold, the stink was all over the ground. Saphron wondered how he did not smell it before. The tones were fading, and as he tried to make sense of the scene, Saphron realized that he was not alone. Love was in his chest. It hurt against his eyes, it hurt in his breath, it opened in his stomach. Saphron was there with what mattered to him. Even in pieces, Abraham was still around. He forgot to be cold as he picked up his friend.
Cicily sits on a rowboat built for failure. She doesn’t try to decipher the horizon that is now just blankets of snow. That is not why she is here. The ocean rides itself in to swells that build and stand proud over each other. Sea Whip is below and only knows the Pacific as heavy and slow. She has never been this close to air. Her mind drifts and rises like the swells that tear across the surface.