I am dreaming. How do I know? Because I am not me. If I was me I would not be at the helm of a pirate ship, relishing the smell of cedar. I would not be watching a sea of red swelling up in my face. I would not be familiar with the black dots settling Mars, if I were not dreaming I would not know I was looking down on Mars. If I were not dreaming, I would know how I got here and there’s a wall between me and memory. Definitely a dream.
“Show me the station.” A voice says from my mouth and before my eyes is the next port of call, the Gumong Station. “Okay, begin deceleration, if you haven’t already.” He probably has. It’s the size of a small moon. I take pleasure in the rough feel of the tiller. I move it back and forth and the station moves from one side of the window to the other. There’s no feel of movement either way but I know I’m moving the ship, not the screen, without even having to think about it. My mind is on the bag of dust on my desk.
“Ramadupa! Qi gong!” I sit up. What’s Solomon doing in UN 529? Oh. There’s my sleeping mat. Right under me. I’m back home. Was it a mere fabrication of my mind?
Can’t seem to focus, kneeling, elbows dropped, hands up towards my chest. My mind keeps drawing back to the future. What’s Mars like? The settlements, so many settlements. And there was something, some plan the captain has to do something. Some plan to do something? That’s not helpful. It’s not even meaningful. The beach is lovely this morning, the red sand so peaceful.
“I think I’m just going to go back to my room, have a pomegranate and do some meditation.” We’re leaving the beach. I learned my first time here to always eat pomegranates naked. Otherwise you end up with stained clothes. Also, never walk around naked.
“All right.” Solomon says. “Rama, the next time you’re planning on leaving your body behind and sinking into the quick sands of time... could you let me know first? Your aura’s all over the place now. I’m a touch worried.”
I’m touched, “No worries, Sol.”
Eyes closed, breath in, breath out, of its own accord, just follow it. Feel the bump of my rump on the floor and the thump of the blood running through it. Welcome to the hidden show. There are enough rivers in my body to circle the globe. Enough nerves to stretch a rope to the Moon. Feel them, one and all at a time. Follow the breath.
My eyes open. I feel my home pulling at me. The hexagram over my heart burns red. Blood Father Mars sings to me. I am on my feet. These feet will move naked through His skin soon. I will be home.
I hold the hilt I made of a dead brother’s femur, and the sword dances in my hands through the heads, necks, arms and legs of men. These men are not living. The computer brought them here. They turn to dust when disemboweled. Real men leave bodies, have souls.
Bodies to use. Souls to incorporate. A worthy man’s heart tastes of angels. A worthless adversary’s body is pure bile. Never kill the unworthy, unnecessarily. Their bodies are poor soil for the ambrosia. One day I will be eaten and become a part of another man’s strength. My blood and bone will ink his skin.
What? I open my eyes. Who in every holy name was that?
From the top of the arch, I watch the river pass by under me, trying to drop the memory of the taste of blood, of human flesh into it. How did that get into my mind? Sick in every cell. I toss my third lemon in. What have I done to myself? Am I insane? What would my mother say? God, I’ve looked at five people now and weighed them up to see if beneath their skin they were worthy of being eaten. The wind blows through my hair and I consider jumping in. It wouldn’t kill me. The drowning would.
I drop the last lemon in and watch it splash. The lemon tree is very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible--
“Dupes!” I turn slightly and bend my hand up from the cement railing into a half-hearted wave at Billy the Kid. “Man, you look like Kali’s been doing her job!” He’s always shouting. I show him my teeth meekly. “It’s time for chai! I’m late, you’re late. We’re all late for a very important date! What are you doing here still?” He grabs me by the arm. “Come on! The point of Kali is to let go. Then’s bliss!” If I don’t go I’m going to fall. For a little guy he’s got some force.
“I’m passing through some veils here, Billy.”
“Think I can’t see that? That’s why we’re going to get some chai. And yogurt! Owi-ow!” He says it just like Solomon. Then he almost knocks an old lady back down to the bottom of the stairs, but I counterbalance instinctively to keep this from happening.
Shivakrishnan has three omelets, a big bowl of rice and a slice of bread thick with butter on the vinyl table in front of him. He will probably have a piece of cake after this. “My only problem with this country,” he speaks slowly, “is the lack of decent cheese. Does paneer even count as cheese?”
“I don’t know about that.” I mouth down a bit more of the rather tasty mush you get for free on the Indian side. “There’s a place right across from Ramanashram where you can buy the best cheese in the world.”
He looks at me as though I would lie. “The best cheese in the world? In India?”
“God’s honest truth. They make it in Auroville. Also, they have monkeys up there all over the place. Monkeys don’t appreciate good cheese.” I lament. Solomon sits down and holds his hands over his food. “If only Amma lived up in Tamil Nadu!”
Solomon finishes his prayers or whatever everyone’s doing when they do that thing with their hands and the food. “Amma lives everywhere. You should have some notion how that is.”
The falcon, out of nowhere, grabs Shivakrishnan’s buttery bread and is gone before he can punch the air where it was. It lets out a shriek I can only interpret as a laugh. Shivakrishnan is crestfallen. “Om Namah Shivayah.”
“You don’t need the cholesterol anyway.” Solomon muses.
Shivakrishnan forces himself into a semblance of relaxation, “Maybe that winged devil will get a heart attack and I can finally have some meat in this barbaric place!”
“You know that cholesterol thing is a myth. Totally unsubstantiated.” I yawn, my eyes closing involuntarily. “Time for bed, folks. Good night. Om Namah Shivayah!”
“Thank you, Mudang, Mykola will be prepared within the day. It is very fortunate the UN sent its fleet. I think it can be said we owe them for that.” I part my lips with the joke. “Please, stay in peace.” The woman’s face flicks out from in front of me. “I would like very much to have seen this ‘counter-terrorism force’ taken down.”
To my pleased near-surprise, I do. Eight ships: a battlestar, a carrier, four destroyers and two cruisers blink into existence over my desk. They’re looming over the Sejong Region. That’s not a good place to loom. Don’t they know there’s terrorists there? My thoughts are half sardonic, half ironic. Those who reap the wind shall reap the whirlwind.
The hot colored explosion begins in the carrier like the opening of a Belesuren Rose. I miss my home. It goes on to swallow first the battlestar and by then it might as well be an act of God. A big bang. Half the fleet is completely gone when the light fades, the other half falls in pieces to the bloody surface below.
“Well done, Skipper. How did you get this?”
“The Discordians took it from the Deimos station a few milliseconds before the Mars Authority deleted it. I took it from them.”
“Of course, even were they to disseminate it, the UN would just call it a simulation.” I lift my head in exultation, “I miss Belesures, Hanuman! Get me back there!”