Art With Arms Contending Categories Tags


25 May 2017


Selection from the first chapter of my sci-fi novelette, Abrasion, coming soon to print …

(Note as of January 2022: this story is now first-of-three-stories that make up the novel-sized Echoes of a Future Truth. See also Isolation, Miralogia, and Resistance on the blog.


    The heavy soles of her boots ground the rubble of several thousand years a little finer with every shuffling visit to the ancient square. On this day, she carried her obligation across the courtyard; a prop to satisfy some ancient duty of lapsed relevance. Coming to a stop in the center of the gravel expanse, she scanned the outer edges of the square where a familiar collection of uninspired structures stood exactly as they had just before the end; 20th-Century architecture in all its coincidental glory.

    Each of these accidental landmarks had been preserved in a kind of physical holographic projection at a time long after the passing of anyone who might have suggested other historical eras more worthy of emulation. It was meant to be comforting. But walking over the crumbled remains of the last real buildings – and everything else buried below – only gave her a feeling of dread.

    Reenacting childhood visits to the doctor, she lifted a hand to lay against her own chest. When she was a girl – nervous on a cold, vinyl-topped table, half-shrouded in a hospital gown – a warm stethoscope revealed mysteries and the doctor’s wordless smile said all was well. Then, she felt safe. The grown woman was not so well equipped. Her own hand felt cold against her sternum – beneath its rising and its falling, her fingers found no reassurance. Nor did the nearly-empty spaces around her provide any relief: they were low-rent amusement park rides filled with hollow, mechanistic beings. And each facade in turn refused to give its secrets up; they always faced in her direction.

    She understood that she herself had been ridiculously propped up, that she too belonged in the ground. She sensed the vast, cold network of tiny interlocking spaces beneath her, extending through the strata of broken stone like the absence of a nervous system that once animated the intercourse of living things. She again surveyed her own being for signs of life.

    I should be dead, she thought.


    She stood now in the silent, agnostic emptiness, wanting to shrink from the simple challenge of walking across this cruel space one more time. As often happened in the quiet, her mind became crowded with unwelcome images of alternate versions of herself – the Priestess; the Goddess; a towering plume of ash, smoke, and fire to rise above the horizon. Though, at times like this, she generally believed herself to be an inconsequential relic, her day-dreams were closer to the truth: that among the last shrinking pieces of this ruined world, she was royalty, clothed with the sun.

    But to an observer her entire physical and affective presence would suggest an indifferent determinism that was almost empty of thought, almost without prejudice – inanimate, elemental; her thick coat and canvas coveralls like the crust of a planet barely binding a volcanic interior. An artist might choose to carve her portrait out of a tree trunk, and leave it rough, without ornamentation, or color.

    But dreams and appearances were two sides of the same flipping coin. Would she be the head or the tail? The danger of course was that it might all be true: the apocalyptic and the geologic. After all, it was Common Knowledge that inside of her was the growing threat of an authentic, end-times disaster if ever she came in contact with anything of real value.

    She was, in fact, the planet’s last Act of God, waiting to happen.


    She passed through the doorway of the shimmering image of City Hall and approached the placid, alert receptionist. Her boots now tread more gently. The hardwood floor squeaked in a comforting way.

    ‘Afternoon, how may I help?’ said the ghost, with the earnest frigidity of a dream remembered by a stranger.

    ‘I’m here to pay my utility bill,’ she said automatically, playing her part.

    ‘Certainly!’ said the nobody, the everybody-who-ever-worked-a-desk-job, reaching into a metal lock-box for a bound stack of receipts. Lifting the top pages free, he folded the back cover up and under them, recorded the date on the first page, simultaneously imprinting a copy beneath it. ‘Another beautiful day,’ he remarked as they acted out the ritual, passing facsimiles between them.

    Normally, some minutes of this pleasant conversation could go by before she tired of it. She sometimes let herself speak freely, giving herself to the consolation of human interaction, even if it was only an elaborate recollection. Today, she was in a mood, and didn’t respond. The receptionist was not insensitive.

    He softened, just a little, and leaned back with a slight tilt of his head. He spoke with the subtlest expression of concern: ‘Anything else I can help you with?’<p> </p>




images … Eleutheria, circa 1942, woodcut, by Spyros Vassiliou; Anonymous, 2015, paper sculpture, by Zoe Maddalena

email for more information on this project.