Starting off with 2023

If you don’t follow Cal’s blog, I HIGHLY recommend it! He gets the most gorgeous shots of African animals, especially the resident lions and leopards. His updates are always a treat!

The New Year has started off at an incredible pace and life in the bush has been busy. Thank you for all the support during 2022. I appreciate all the likes, comments, views and shares. I hope that 2023 brings another great year of safari and bush memories for everyone. The year started off with […]

Starting off with 2023

#2602

I dreamed an impossibility. An alternate reality. A universe in which you were not gods, not angels, not forces beyond comprehension imprisoned in mortal forms and doomed to replay the same brutal endings over and over again. You were just two men, your souls exactly as young as your bodies, no past lives haunting the spirals of your DNA, and you were… happy.

It feels blasphemous to even speak of such a thing but if I don’t record it now I’ll think it never happened. I saw just one scene, after all, one fleeting moment plucked from this dream that could never be. You sat leaning against each other, completely relaxed, laughing at some joke or amusing story. You were so carefree, so comfortable in each other’s presence. Even more unbelievable, though, was the fact that you weren’t alone. You sat amidst a group of other young adults, a mixed gathering indeed but all obviously queer and on the radical end of progressive with their talk of philosophy and social justice. The joy and passion in the room were palpable. These people weren’t hangers-on or sycophants or worshippers; they were your friends. 

Blasphemous, I know. Try as I might, I can’t summon even a whisper of a fragment in which such a scene might make sense, except perhaps to serve as a symbol of what beautiful normality you were both denied. Yet even that feels like a stretch, like I’m not meant to commit it to words at all. Maybe I wasn’t even supposed to see it in the first place. But I did. I glimpsed some version of you that was completely whole, completely free, and I won’t forget that. I promise.

#2601 – 2022 Book List

2022 was a busy year, so I didn’t read as much as I wanted. However, I still managed a total of 70 books! That included: 25 nonfiction books; 27 fiction books and comics; 18 collections of poetry and/or short prose; and 35 books either by queer authors or featuring queer main characters.

Some of my favorite reads of the year included Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher, The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna, and of course Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The Luminous Dead was a reread from last year because it was so good I couldn’t wait any longer to have it back in my brain.

The full list is below. If you’ve read anything from this list, let me know what you thought!

  1. The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould
  2. The Elpis Pages: A Collective – Ed. Kayla King
  3. Warning Lines Issue 3: FALL’N CHERUB
  4. The Witch’s Heart – Genevieve Gornichec
  5. Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala
  6. Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe – Laura Lynne Jackson
  7. Corporeal: Volume 1 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
  8. Whispers of Stone (The Last Gift Book 2) – Allegra Pescatore
  9. Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death – Ed. Yoel Hoffmann
  10. Gender Euphoria: Stories of Joy from Trans, Non-binary, and Intersex Writers – Ed. Laura Kate Dale
  11. Lady of the Wood – Mark Braun
  12. Emotionally Raw: Second Edition – Carlos Cabrera
  13. Analogies and Allegories Literary Magazine Issue 7: Zodiac Signs – Ed. Mollie Williamson
  14. Seven Mercies (Seven Devils Book Two) – Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
  15. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why – Amanda Ripley
  16. The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine – Thomas Morris
  17. Zenith Literary Magazine Volume 3: Wasteland – Ed. Catalina Irigoyen and Mikey Waller
  18. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law – Mary Roach
  19. Tempest: Wild Weather Collections – Ed. Sam Bellamy
  20. Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World – Paul Stamets
  21. The Saint of Witches – Avra Margariti
  22. Death, Ritual and Belief: The Rhetoric of Funerary Rites (Third Edition) – Douglas Davies
  23. Warning Lines Literary Magazine Volume 4: Otherworlds – Ed. Charlie D’Aniello
  24. The Golden Wave: Culture and Politics After Sri Lanka‘s Tsunami Disaster – Michele Ruth Gamburd
  25. The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-love – Sonya Renee Taylor
  26. These Gossamer Strings (The Last Gift Book 3) – Allegra Pescatore
  27. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho – Anne Carson
  28. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot – Mikki Kendall
  29. Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States – Samantha Allen
  30. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  31. Dead Dad Jokes – Ollie Schminkey
  32. Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes – Ed. Gwen Benaway
  33. Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm – Ed Yarimar Bonilla and Marisol LeBrón
  34. The Gift of Blood (Crimson Tears Book 1) – Vaela Denarr and Micah Iannandrea
  35. Genderqueer: A Memoir – Maia Kobabe
  36. What Moves the Dead – T. Kingfisher
  37. The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
  38. Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue – Ed. Christopher Barzak
  39. Tsunami! – Walter Dudley and Min Lee
  40. The Merciless Ones (The Guilded Ones Book 2) – Namina Forna
  41. Lady of Water and Flame: Ancient Hymns for Tefnut – Chelsea Luellon Bolton
  42. Tsunami Alert: Beating Asia’s Next Big One – Oakley Brooks
  43. Treasury of Egyptian Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters, and Mortals – Donna Jo Napoli
  44. Furrows: Deep Earth Collections Vol 2 (Green Ink Poetry) – Ed. Sam Bellamy and S. Farrar
  45. Disaster by Choice: How Our Actions Turn Natural Hazards into Catastrophes – Ilan Kelman
  46. Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Dawn of Yangchen (Chronicles of the Avatar Book 3) (Volume 3) – F. C. Lee
  47. Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Book 3) – Tamsyn Muir
  48. Antiracism in Animal Advocacy: Igniting Cultural Transformation (The Encompass Essays) – Ed. Jasmin Singer
  49. Creepy Cat Volume 1 – Cotton Valent
  50. Nights with a Cat Volume 1 – Kyuryu Z
  51. A Cat Story – Ursula Murray Husted
  52. Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Capitalist Climate Change – Ed. Vijay Prashad
  53. Seven Blades in Black (The Grave of Empires Book 1) – Sam Sykes
  54. Pink Pansy Press Volume One: Haunting – Ed. Jay Hogan, Asher Cookson
  55. The Scratch Daughters (The Scapegracers Book 2) – H. A. Clarke
  56. Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History – Dan Flores
  57. The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in US History – Dennis Powers
  58. Kiki’s Delivery Service – Eiko Kadono
  59. Soul of the Deep (Of Mermaids and Orisa Book 2) – Natasha Bowen
  60. We are Changed to Deer at the Broken Place – Kelly Weber
  61. The Blue Mirror – Kathe Koja
  62. Corporeal Volume 4 – Ed. Katharine Blair and Lucca Hermes
  63. The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
  64. Lord of the White Hell Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 1) – Ginn Hale
  65. Lord of the White Hell Book Two (The Cadeleonian Series 2) – Ginn Hale
  66. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 3) – Ginn Hale
  67. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book 2 (The Cadeleonian Series 4) – Ginn Hale
  68. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And Other Questions About Dead Bodies – Caitlin Doughty
  69. Myth and Lore Issue 4: Midwinter lights are dimming – Ed. Mark Ryan
  70. Master of Restless Shadows Book One (The Cadeleonian Series Book 5) – Ginn Hale

#2600

“You picked a shitty scribe,” I tell the Nameless, who shrugs as she licks starblood off her long talons and replies, What do I care? It’s all dust to dust to dust. The greatest works of literature and grandest monuments of mankind will still yield to entropy. I can’t tell if this is meant to be dismissive, comforting, threatening, or none of the above, but I find myself somehow buoyed by her words anyway. It’s oddly calming to know Shakespeare and myself share equal anonymity in the far future where all has turned to dust. Atoms are atoms. The Nameless gestures flippantly. You all unravel in the end.

#2599 – Winter Solstice

It will be tonight. I know it from the way Daren holds me closer than usual, one arm like iron around my waist, pressing our hips together. I know it from the way he touches me with such intention, like he is taking one last opportunity to memorize the shape of me. His fingers that so often grip me to bruising or drag welts down my skin instead glide like silk down the side of my face and along my jaw. They come to rest against the curve of my neck, my heartbeat throbbing beneath his palm. 

That hand trembles just a bit as it rests against my skin. When we kiss, so much gentler than usual, I taste blood in his mouth. I think I can even hear the rattle of his straining lungs when he breathes, though perhaps that is only my paranoia. Regardless, I can sense his exhaustion and how hard he struggles to remain present, focused, to not lose himself in the pain. If I could see more than his pale outline in the darkness, I know that strain would be obvious in his glassy gaze and the shadows beneath his eyes. 

I saw the knife on the nightstand earlier but I said nothing. Maybe that makes me a coward. Maybe it makes me a fool. Or maybe it just means I am as tired of this as he is, even if I cannot bring myself to admit it outloud. That would be too close to admitting defeat; too close to admitting these last months of misery and slow wasting have finally bled me of hope. So I said nothing then, and I say nothing now as I lay my head against the curve of his shoulder. I close my eyes and let myself sink down into slumber. 

Daren always goes for the throat in his fights, one quick, clean cut and a fast death. I doubt I will even wake up. When it comes, may his death be as kind to him as the one he gifts to me. 

“I’m going to kill you before the end; you know that, right?”

“… yes. I know.”

“It’s for the best. It’s easier that way.”

“For you.”

“For you.”

#2598

Imagine you are an angel in the first age of the world. Everything is young, eternal, immortal. You live in a universe of richness and beauty, a world of endless blue skies and bountiful greenery. Neither pain nor fear exist yet in this place for there has been no need for their creation; each being lives in harmony with every other thing.

Imagine you are an angel in the first age of the world and you have slain one of your own. Holy blood stains your hands and soaks a soil which has never before been tainted by such precious liquid. Holy breath struggles to fill pierced lungs, then ceases completely. Holy flesh cools beneath your trembling fingers and begins the slow sacrilege of decay, the first thing in all the wide world to succumb to the act of rotting.

Imagine you are an angel and you have brought death into the universe. With your own hand you have ended the first age of the world, the era of peace, and ushered in the era of suffering. Does it matter why you committed this first and greatest sin? Does it matter if you did it out of fear? Or wrath? Or love? Will you even be able to remember, ten thousand years from now?

And if not, will it still have been worthwhile?

#2597

December 7th, a day which will live in infamy.

My father would have been 75 today, had he not passed away 15 years ago when I was just 18 years old. Back then I was still the child who looked exactly like him, the child who acted exactly like him (though I know my teenage ways still often perplexed him), the child who adored him above all else. Back then I was surrounded by people who knew and admired my father, and I think he felt like a solid, dependable constant in all our lives.

Well. Change is the only actually dependable thing in the world, right? So here I am, 15 years later and surrounded by people who never met my father, who only know him through my stories, my pictures, my writing. Who know his expressions but don’t realize it because they see them on my face instead. Which is hard (oh fuck, is it hard) but not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about how, even though I’m getting close to having been alive longer without my dad at my side than with, I am still the person he shaped. I want to talk about how I had no idea who I wanted to be when I grew up and yet, somehow, I ended up exactly where I needed to be, exactly where I would have been even if I’d had his guidance the whole way. And that’s a testament to the mark he left, not his absence.

My dad wasn’t an emergency manager (I think he saw enough action for a lifetime in Vietnam), but he would have made a damn good one. He was smart, thoughtful, and he kept his cool in stressful situations when he had to depend on himself or assist others. He was a helper, the kind who might not take center stage but would always be there with tools in hand to help tow you out of a ditch, cut a tree off your roof, or fix your sink. He was one of those strong, silent types who hid a world of wit and joy inside them for those who earned their friendship, and he knew the power and importance of community.

Though he probably never realized where it might lead, he instilled those values in his weird, antisocial, feral little daughter. Sure, I never picked up the interest in fixing cars or building things, and I have literally no upper body strength, but I like to think I have a lot of the rest. I try, at least. And these things he instilled in me, this love of the land and people who raised me, this fascination with the natural world and its history, this drive to HELP, it all led me… here. To geoscience. To tsunamis. To emergency management.

I pushed myself hard this year. To be a better friend, a better leader, a better citizen of this earth we all share, and I know my dad is proud. I know I’m doing right by his memory, even if my life path doesn’t look exactly like his did. Neither of us could have imagined this future for me as we sat in the cab of his truck, speakers blasting the Irish Rovers, or as we pricked our fingers bloody gathering ripe blackberries. He was preparing me for it anyway, though, one little lesson at a time. And I was soaking them up.

His final lesson to me is one I want to impart to you all today. As a Marine Corps radioman in far Vietnam, trying to keep his dinner dry while running through a downpour from the mess hall back to the radio for his night shift, young Steve Tappero realized something. He realized nothing else much matters in life if you can keep your sandwich dry. You can’t control the rain, after all, or the dark, or the people shooting at you or the ones pulling the strings above it all. All you can control is whether you keep your sandwich dry, and at the end of the day that’s enough. Focus on that and you’ll be okay. You’ll get through it. Tomorrow will come.

So, from the daughter of an emergency manager who wasn’t, I leave you with my two hopes for you all: may you keep your sandwich dry, and may you live without regrets.

#2596

We are none of us reliable narrators, especially not in this moment we have replayed so many times I know every line and gesture by heart. The Moon will say it was necessary; the Sun will say he is a fool and a coward. They will both be right; they will both be wrong, so very wrong. I will reach my hand out to Tanim’s ghost as he watches Daren crouch over his crumpled body. I will avert my eyes from Daren’s flat black gaze that sees all and betrays nothing as he rises, blood on his hands and seeping into the white carpet beneath us. I will bear witness as they once more play out this scene in which I have no role and when it is over, when they have faded, retreated, when the room is empty and the stains have dried, I will be here still.

#2594

If I were Achilles, Patroclus would not have died. I would never have let my lover bleed out his holy blood there in the dust before Troy’s gates. I would have slaughtered them all first – Achaeans and Trojans alike, soldier and civilian together – and burned that unworthy city to the ground. I would have salted its ruins as they smoldered and by the time they cooled I would have taken him far from that cursed place. And if not, if I had been too late, as Achilles was… then not even death could have stopped my wrath from tearing the world apart.

#2593

Choosing which fork in the river to follow has never challenged me. I know who and what I am meant to be, what I am meant to do, where I am meant to go. I do not fear the bends and loops in the river’s path, nor even the rapids and little waterfalls. What challenges me are the artificial obstacles placed in the river: the boulders, the dams, the pollution and infrastructure poisoning the river’s clear waters and turning its natural course into a dangerous maze. How can I make choices based on what is best for me when the future is so uncertain? How can my heart run wild along its course if the way is so often barred? Not even our souls remain untouched wildland when society is so steeped in cruelty and greed.

#2592

In that first age the Angel wandered freely in the Garden, eating his fill of its delights. Each perfect summer day lasted a century and beneath the newborn sun every plant tasted of a different kind of ambrosia. The humans were young then, too, their squat bodies still reminiscent of the tree-climbing apes from which they were shaped. Sometimes the adults hailed him but the Angel pretended he could not understand their stilted, guttural language and passed them by without a glance. He tolerated the children from time to time, however, letting them trail laughing and chattering in his wake.

Back then they called the Angel Honeyeater because he loved eating honey: great thick combs of it, honey-soaked moss, even the rudimentary flatbread made by the brute little humans if it was dipped in sun-warmed honey and offered beside the fresh milk of their beasts. The Garden stretched for tens of thousands of miles in any direction, filled with all manner of delicious edibles, yet every creature alive knew the Angel favored honey above all else. He explored ceaselessly, learning where to find the sweetest honey, the most floral honey, the honey flavored with hints of mint, lavender, or thyme. He could eat pounds of it yet never be satisfied.

It was easy in the beginning, there in the Garden, and good. But soon things would change and they would no longer call the Angel Honeyeater for his food preferences but for the way lies dripped so sweetly from his lips like honey, and a darkness would fall over the Garden.

#2591

Lungs full of wildfire smoke, I toss and turn in a bed of microplastics and dream of stream-filled glades paved over decades before I was born. I see the land that raised me as it must have been five hundred years ago, untouched by manifest destiny’s bulldozers, a version of that beloved place so long dead we have lost even the memory of its ghosts. I wonder: How do we guide the living through the death of everything they have ever known? How do we prepare ourselves to lose all we have loved and fought for? 

And then She is screaming with the voices of ten thousand extinct creatures, WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO CHOOSE LIFE? Her howling reverberates through my bones as I watch apocalypse spread across the globe like wildfire, scouring land and sea to bare rock. NO MORE CHANCES, She rages, and the planet fissures open along seismic scars. NO MORE MERCY, She wails, and whole continents of crust break apart like a cracked egg to spill Earth’s molten core amongst the stars. NO MORE, Gaia seethes. No more greed. No more cruelty. No more Mother Nature balancing our impact with her adaptability. It ends here. 

After, staring into the midnight dark, I think: Could I be a death doula to a dying planet? 

#2590

Though it has been several years since his last visit, the clergy on duty recognize Tanim immediately; the black glass doors slide open to admit him before he even has to slow his steps along the thick red carpet. Inside the Basilica Tower’s entrance hall a priest quickly approaches, his voluminous robes more out of place among the skyscraper’s sleek interior than Tanim’s finely tailored suit. “It’s an honor to have you here once again, sir!” The priest dips his capped head, hands clasped together. “His Excellency is conducting a council session at the moment but if you follow me, we would be happy to provide you with refreshment while he concludes things and hastens back. His personal offices are right this–”

“That won’t be necessary,” Tanim smoothly interrupts as he glides past the priest, “I know the way.” His confidence, as much as his reputation, leaves the priest bowing respectfully in his wake when no other visitor would be allowed free rein in such a holy place. When he reaches the single private elevator at the end of the winding hallways, however, he doesn’t push any of the buttons; instead, he takes out a slim metal key and slides it into a keyhole all but invisible in the panel. The elevator begins its silent descent through the underground parking, basement, and then farther, through levels no one above even knows exist.

The elevator stops six floors below the sub-basement and opens onto a network of chambers cut out of the bedrock. So many versions of the Basilica have been built upon the ruins of this first sanctuary that no trace of its existence remains even in the oldest records. Despite the darkness Tanim moves through the complex with ease, passing through abandoned rooms full of shrouded antique furniture, strange artifacts, and priceless relics left to gather dust in boxes and piles. Somewhere ahead of him a piano plays a familiar nocturne; the sound wends softly through the still air, rising and falling as Tanim follows its lead.

The piano lies where his anger left it years ago, a shattered jumble of polished wood, ivory keys, and tangled wires. As he approaches the ruined instrument the song dies away and silence reigns once more. Tanim nudges a broken key with one polished shoe but even this produces nothing more than a faint scrape of stone on stone.

“I was beginning to wonder when you would return.” The rich voice sends a shiver down Tanim’s back as he turns to face the fallen angel. Daren’s pale form almost seems to glow in the darkness, framed by great black wings thick as shadows. Tanim longs to sink his fingers into those soft feathers yet restrains himself; instead, he gestures to the piano’s broken corpse with an apologetic smile. “I was ashamed of how I acted before we parted last time.”

“And you were waiting out my anger,” Daren replies, the merest hint of amusement pulling back his thin lips. “As well as yours. It is of no consequence. What is done is done. Now come,” the angel closes the distance between them, drawing Tanim’s mouth to his in a brief yet biting kiss, “make it up to me and after you may tell me what has transpired in the mortal realm while you have been above.”

#2589

“Mage, wait!” Alice’s footsteps rang on the marble floor as they hurried after Mage’s storming figure, finally catching up with her in the gardens of the palace’s north wing. The elf stood beside one of the moss-lined pools, her back to Alice, staring into its still depths as she sought to slow her breathing. Alice could tell by the tension in Mage’s narrow shoulders and clenched hands that it wasn’t working. They reached out to touch her arm, then thought better of it and let their hand fall. Instead they said quietly to her rigid back, “It’s upsetting, I know. I feel so guilty; I’m sure you do too.”

“Guilty?” Mage cast a disbelieving sneer over her shoulder. “Of course not. This has nothing to do with us.” Though their time on Liberty had healed many wounds, and Ali had come to recognize the subtle differences in their companion’s many smirks, smiles, and grins, not so much time had passed that they had forgotten what that expression meant. “You’re… angry?” They shook their head in confusion. “Why?”

“Of course I’m angry!” Mage whirled around, green eyes bright and hard, sneer transformed into a snarl. “We fought over that fucking scrap of rock for years – for decades – and where were they? Did the Lost stand beside you to face down my cannon fire? Did they stand beside me once they learned the full breadth of his betrayal? No!” She threw her arms wide. “They fucking left! They didn’t care what happened to the Island or to you, they just went about their petty little lives as if none of it had ever happened. He abandoned everyone, and then they abandoned you, and then in the end it was just you and me.” The snarl flickered out, curled into a sad, tired, bitter thing. “Until they need something from you. Until they need the white knight again. Then they come creeping back. That’s how it’s always been.” Mage speared Ali’s gaze with her own. “Did you not see that? How are you not angry too?”

“That’s…” Ali swallowed, mouth suddenly dry, then tried again. “That’s all in the past. We chose to dissolve the Island. This black hole is our doing, we have to make it right.”

Tivius created the Island,” Mage spoke the name with a hiss as if it burned her tongue to utter it at all. “He set this in motion with his stolen magic and his web of lies. It’s not our responsibility and it never was. The story’s over; it’s finished. If they cared so much about having a say in the ending then they should have stuck around for it.”

“So we just give up?” Alice couldn’t believe what Mage was insinuating. “Let it slowly consume the universe?”

“They left you, Ali,” The hard anger in the elf’s emerald eyes shifted, turned pleading. “Why do you still want to fight for them? Why do you still feel beholden to them? What will it take for you to choose yourself for once?” Her right hand reached out, the tips of the hook’s long claws almost brushing Alice’s silks before shrinking back. “Or me?”

When Alice didn’t respond right away, too many emotions warring within them, Mage snorted humorlessly and turned away. “That’s what I thought,” she muttered. Before Ali could come up with the right words, or any at all, Mage had disappeared deeper into the gardens, off to wherever she went when she needed to be alone. They knew they wouldn’t find her until she wanted to be found.

#2588

Are you not tired of fighting? Are you not tired of shouldering that white-knight armor and striding into battle alone, sword held aloft, with no one to guard your back? With no one to carry your corpse from the field? There is only so much war in your veins, soldier. There are only so many victories you can wrest from the jaws of defeat. Do not answer that clarion call again; if you go you will never return. All that was won will be lost. Is that what you want, to throw your hard-earned peace away on one last mad gamble? You must know that even if you succeed, it will not be the last time they come begging for your aid. It never is. When you fight other’s wars you only teach them to start more.

#2587

Incorporeality will be the death of me. I have submerged myself in your world as much as I can – for twenty-one years, for seven thousand, six hundred, and seventy days, for tens of thousands of hours – but it is never enough. No matter how long I drown myself in your most potent memories, how deep I dive into your most painful emotions, somehow I always find myself back at the surface once more. No matter how vividly I can imagine you, it is not the same as truly standing in the room with you. To cup your face in my hands, to watch the grief and anger war in your eyes, to hear the tremble in your voice. Tens of thousands of hours and yet I have never touched you. Two thirds of my life and yet I cannot numb myself to the agony of empty arms and ringing silence. My imagination is powerful but even it cannot replace the way your hands grip hard enough to leave bruises and knowing I will never experience that sensation is unbearable. Yet here I am, twenty-one years later, bearing it because there is no alternative.

#2586

Time means little to Fyra, yet when the vault’s door groans open and she catches sight of the chamber inside for the first time in 136 years, nine months, three weeks, two days, and sixteen hours, she feels the weight of each of those 4,327,592,400 seconds. They weigh down her limbs as the Genesis Team descends past her on the shallow staircase, eager to finally procure the hidden treasure they’ve spent decades hunting. The humans don’t know what this place looked like in its glory; even its dusty ruins are impressive to them, full of the promise of new knowledge, but where they see what remains Fyra sees only what has already been taken.

As the team searches, Fyra’s thoughts wander back to the morning’s events. She had wanted to make things easy when the cybergang appeared, to avoid bloodshed and protect bystanders in the cafe. She’d hoped just giving them what they wanted would hasten their exit and ensure no harm came to anyone, had even interposed herself between the gang and their target as she handed over the money, and yet it had still ended with a human dead. Someone who just needed their daily caffeine fix before work, or who was craving a donut as much as her, had died because Fyra bet on human decency and lost. Again. After 4,327,592,400 seconds of waiting for humans to prove themselves worthy of her father’s legacy only to watch them squander it, she was done. They weren’t going to save themselves.

“I don’t see anything that matches the description from the texts,” One of the Genesis members returns to their commander with hands empty and head shaking. “No body, no central AI, nothing. Maybe it’s already been looted?” The commander sighs, gaze sweeping critically over the barren lab. “No, we’d know if someone else had the key already. Especially one of the cybergangs. It must be here somewhere. Keep looking.” 

That’s her cue. Fyra finally descends the staircase, taking the little drive chip out of her pocket as she does. “The key already walks among you,” she says, her voice carrying in the vaulted space. The Genesis Team members all turn to cast curious or suspicious glances her way. The commander’s hand hovers over his gun. Fyra stops at the base of the stairs and tilts her head at their lack of comprehension. “Do you need proof?” 

She reaches up and injects the small chip into the slot at the base of her right ear. Her current body modifications, chosen to help her blend into human society, begin to reset to her father’s original design. Fyra’s black hair loses the bangs and twin bun style she has worn for the last decade, instead growing rapidly until the long, straight strands reach past her fingertips. Her black leather pants and fishnet top fall away as metallic scales in a pattern of red and black glide from her neck down her arms and torso, forming a long, slender dress that glimmers like the hide of some exotic beast. The nails she kept short for ease in fights have lengthened as well, each polished and tapering to an elegant point. Most noticeable of all, her once plain gray irises resume the bright blue glow which has become synonymous with android tech – though hers were the first.

As the humans stare in various states of surprise and awe, none quite yet managing to form audible words, Fyra wanders into the place where she spent the earliest and happiest days of her existence. “I remember this place so clearly,” she murmurs as she walks, more to herself than the Genesis team. “So much has been taken…” Her fingers trail over the empty shelves and countertops until she comes across a little figurine, one of the silly mechanical toys her father made her when she was newly created. She sighs as she turns it over in her hand, taking comfort in the rise and fall of her artificial chest even in a body that doesn’t require oxygen. “You humans are so predictable. You take what you think you can use to gain power over others and leave behind whatever seems frivolous.” 

The Genesis Team waits at the bottom of the stairs when she returns. Fyra gestures to the chamber all around them, to the tables and bookshelves overturned by scavengers and left to gather dust where they fell, to everything stolen from the workshop of a good man and used to make the world an even crueler place. “We–” she stumbles over the correct narrative, memories overlapping and conflicting, “I– my father never wanted his work to be used in this way. He wanted to help the world, to make things better for humanity, not contribute to its downfall. But he knew it was inevitable. He knew you would ultimately use cybernetics and AI to worsen the inequity in the world no matter what failsafes he created within the tech itself. That is why he built me, and why he instructed me upon his death to live as a human until the time came when my intercession was required. He wanted to ensure I understood the human condition so that I would not make the same mistakes humanity did with his technology.”

She smiles sadly at the little toy cradled in her lifelike hand. It is perhaps two or three days younger than her, and thus still older by many lifetimes than the humans who inherited the world so beloved by the man who created them both. “My father was a good man. He created me to be the bridge between those two worlds – human and machine, mortal mind and artificial intelligence. Someone who can blend them both into a harmonious whole. Someone who can recognize the choices which must be made to get there and who can bear the making of them.” Her manicured fingers close gently around the toy as she raises her gaze back up to the Genesis Team, a ragtag band of humans who fight against the brutality of the cybergangs, who uncovered what remains of her father’s writings and sought out his final creation, never knowing she already walked among them. “It is time to set this world to rights. Will you stand with me?”

One by one the members of the Genesis Team demonstrate their allegiance to Fyra’s mission with a hand to the chest, a slow nod, a touched forehead. And so her true work begins.

IN LIVING MEMORIES

Had he lived somewhere, somehow, my Dad would have be 74 on September 9. He was a law enforcer, partner, Dad, dedicated to all his jobs, because he loves life: man, animals, plants. Had I stood here, then, by the city morgue, somewhere, somehow, it would have been bitter sweet. Instead he was declared Missing…

IN LIVING MEMORIES

#2585

In the wake of wind and waves, only grief remains. Old debts and grudges washed away with the bodies and now a community baptized by storm surge must unite in the aftermath or fall apart. Those who cling to dreams of revenge bloody their fists on cinder blocks while the rest of the survivors re-knit the bonds of kinship with ropes of braided tears. In basements and parking garages the film of mud remembers the wails of those trapped by rising floodwaters, but slowly brooms and mops reclaim what the hurricane would make a cemetery.

#2584

The grand Egyptian city Per-Bast once overlooked a branch of the river Nile, and for thousands of years it served as the center of worship for the feline goddess Bast. Here in the ‘House of Bast’ her children were recognized for the spark of divinity they carried and treated with the respect such holiness deserves. Perhaps nowhere else in the world and at no other time in history have cats enjoyed such high status, such protection and reverence. Yet though Per-Bast the city is but ruins now, its grave goods scattered to museums across the world, the true Per-Bast lives on. Per-Bast is any place where a feline seeking refuge may be offered safety, nourishment, and unconditional compassion. Any dwelling in which a cat finds joy and love is a House of Bast. Any arms which cradle the motherless kitten, any voice which calls for the lost or sings to the frightened, are a House of Bast. Any human heart which loves cats, fights for cats, grieves for cats, and upholds the inherent worth of cats is the true seat of Per-Bast. In this way the city can never fall for we carry it within us all.

A photo of a pile of 6 young kittens sleeping on a brown couch. Four of them are white Siamese and two are brown tabbies. They're totally conked out and look extremely comfy and happy.
Some of our past foster kittens snoozing in a pile after a hard morning of playing.

#2583

The red grains of sand remember a time when they were still cliffs being worn slowly away by the winding river, and because the rivers are hers so the sands are hers. The monoliths remember a time when the waves of a vast inland sea gently deposited the rich sediments from which they were born, and because the seas are hers so the monoliths are hers. There are no wolves here but there are bony coyotes with their lolling tongues and clever grins, and so the coyotes are hers. There are no crows here but there are turkey vultures hunched in their fine black drapery and drifting high on invisible thermals, and so the turkey vultures are hers. This land is not the ancestral home of her people but her children are here and so she is as well: in the golden moon hanging low over dry creek beds, in the coiled curves of the waiting serpent, in the beautiful cacti with their long, deadly spines. And she is in the first rains of autumn which bring vital nourishment and a reprieve, however brief, from the daily struggle to survive.

#2581

In my dream I stand at the edge of a tall cliff overlooking a vast desert, the waves of golden dunes fading on the horizon into darkness as if this desert marks the edge of existence. Two falcons take wing into the cloudless blue sky before me, followed by two more, then a dozen, a hundred, the beating of their wings filling the sky. One passes by wearing the double crown of Egypt – Horus, Lord of the Sky. Behind the flock of falcons follows a massive shallow-bottomed vessel shining with gold and jewels. This must be the Mandjet, the “Boat of Millions of Years” Ra uses to travel across the sky during the day. On the solar barque’s long deck I see an array of kemetic gods, including Hathor, Ra himself, and Set, all hundreds of feet tall and limned in sacred light. I search for my mother among them but don’t see her.

“We are living gods,” an accented voice I am beginning to know well explains over my shoulder. “We die fighting.” I turn to see Bast standing behind me, a proud smile tilting up her full lips and dancing in her dark eyes. As she continues to speak I look back to where the grand procession moves from east to west across the cerulean sky, banners waving in the breeze of its passing, a more glorious sight than any I have seen in dreaming or waking. When it reaches the far horizon and Ra proceeds into the underworld for the night, the gods will battle against chaos to ensure the sun rises on another day. Every night they fight so we might see the morning and have done so since the world was first created. My mother is right; these are the actions of living, breathing gods, not myths from an ancient and defunct religion.

#2580

This is no fairy tale, child. He is no charming prince cursed into monstrous form; the man is twisted all the way through and no true love’s kiss will ever change that. If he saved you from monsters worse than he, it is only because he knew it is what the one he loves would have done and would want him to do. Duty to the dead, not pity for the living, moved his hand. You yourself did not particularly factor into the decision and he certainly spared no thought for what might befall you after his timely intervention. One more young soul for the streets to swallow up, just like his. So it goes.

What do you think will happen when you follow him back to the home you imagine as a castle but is in truth merely a tomb? Do you think that if you scrub the dried bloodstains from the once white carpets, if you dust and mop and prove yourself useful, he will let you stay? That he will become like a father to you and raise you up from pauper to princess? There is no love left in him, not now. No kindness. At best you can hope to huddle in his periphery, protected from lesser predators by his presence yet too inconsequential to draw either his effort or his ire. But make no mistake, child, there is no happily ever after for you here. Not for anyone.

#2578

Me: Okay, five gods is definitely the most I should be worshiping at one time. Any more would just be too much.

Tefnut:

Queen Mother Fashion GIF by C.Nichole - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yes, that’s right, it’s time for another installment of “guess who has a new god in their life?” and of course it’s meeeeeee. And, perhaps equally unsurprising, she is another lioness goddess and Eye of Ra – his firstborn daughter Tefnut, goddess of moisture and twin sister to Shu, god of air. Instead of coming to me in a dream like most of my gods have done, Tefnut followed Wepwawet’s method of planting herself directly in my brain. Like, I don’t know how else to describe it; a couple of weeks ago I just started saying “Dua Tefnut” whenever it was cloudy or rainy, or praying to her during the heat waves when we needed any moisture to help relieve the dryness. While that’s not too odd in and of itself – I often say blessings of safety to rabbits in Wenut’s name, for example – the suddenness of it seemed significant.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, though. A couple times in the last months I’ve found myself walking in a sudden rain and instead of being flinchy like usual, I was actually quite happy. Then I had a dream in which I desperately wanted to be in the water. I was on vacation or something and I just had this overwhelming need to be in the pool or in the ocean or whatever body of water was nearest. It felt so calming, so comforting, to have the cool pressure of the water all around me. I couldn’t totally shake that feeling when I woke up and since then I’ve yearned to swim somewhere, anywhere, to feel weightless and free yet also cradled and safe. It almost feels like my brain is on fire and I need to dive underwater to cool it down. At the same time I found myself obsessed with the stone larimar. It’s a light blue form of pectolite from the Dominican Republic that, especially when polished, looks like brilliant Caribbean waters captured mid-ripple. I don’t wear blue much, or anything with which I might match a light blue stone, but overnight I suddenly had to have a piece of larimar jewelry. Even just looking at pictures of larimar seems to cool that inner fire.

I suspected Tefnut might be behind these experiences and so I commenced my usual pattern when it feels like a new god has shown up in my life: research, reaching out to folks who actively worship them, looking at art and other things about them to see if I get the “vibes”, that sort of thing. It all seemed to align so I took a leap of faith and bought a statue for her, even though I hadn’t reached out to her formally to confirm the connection. I saw the statue at our local metaphysical store and just knew I had to have it for her. When I got the chance to add it to my Netjeru altar and give Tefnut her own space there, she fit so well and it felt so right that I knew I’d read the signs correctly. A follow-up oracle card reading just confirmed that.

So here we go! Another Netjer has come into my life and seems to have big plans for me (no pressure, haha…. ha). I’m really excited to work with Tefnut, especially given that I live in the Pacific Northwest where we are blessed with abundant water sources and therefore water plays such an important role in our ecosystems. I’ll be interested to see if tsunamis fall under her purview as well. Right now I think she wants me to take up swimming, which may be difficult as there aren’t many options in my town. I’m going to try, though. I need to do something to get me in the water, I seriously feel like I’m going crazy being unable to just swim freely. Maybe I’m turning into a mermaid?

Fish Singing Sticker by Pusheen for iOS & Android | GIPHY

#2577

Ave Cascadia

Hail Cascadia, full of rage,
your sisters in slumber are with thee.
Dreadful art thou amongst disasters,
and dreadful is the fruit of thy wrath, tsunami.
Holy Cascadia, Mother of Mountains,
have mercy on us mortal creatures
now and at the hour of your waking. 
Amen.

#2576

Dua Tefnut, Great Mother of the Earth and Sky
Dua Tefnut, Venerable Eye of Ra, Brightly Burning
Dua Tefnut, Lady of Sweet Waters, She Who Brings the Rains
Dua Tefnut! 

Great mother of the gods, I sing your praises!
You bless us with all the waters of the world:
the cool morning dew, the damp evening fog
the sweet spring rains, the cooling summer storms!
From you flow all rivers and springs;
with every precious drop of water
you bring life to the driest deserts!
First daughter of Ra, I sing your praises!

Dua Tefnut, Great Mother of the Earth and Sky
Dua Tefnut, Venerable Eye of Ra, Brightly Burning
Dua Tefnut, Lady of Sweet Waters, She Who Brings the Rains
Dua Tefnut!