On this far-away horizon we fly, age-old balloonists, at peace. I long thought, in the moonless nights, reading, dreaming, of those eons ahead of us – the universe ‘s infinity, the long journeys, our transformation, progressive, imperceptible, on the shores of time.
Old-fashioned I am – we are – in the eyes of the past centuries, albeit not our own: fashionable we might become, on those alien planets we visit in the midst of our everlasting sleep.
Explorers, yes, young still, without the edge of possible awake, for we will never return, to the old world, to the mother ship: lost we are, willing prisoners of an endless tale, one many times recounted – till now.
Now, we live the dream, sliding by foreign stars, through the intricacies of space, as we were convinced we would, one day, not by magic, but driven, prepared, accepting the fate of those who deny their own mortality…
The next evening, he watched her performance, came to her dressing room, and saw many of the same faces. He made sure to pay proper attention to Mme Guérard: having been in foreign courts before, he knew to recognise the power behind the throne. Soon – much sooner than the fiercest optimism could have imagined – she came across, took Barnaby’s arm, and bade her coterie goodnight. As the three of them left, the scrimmage of Parisian dandies took care of not to appear put out. Well, perhaps they weren’t.
From Julian Barnes, “Levels of Life, On the Level” (© Julian Barnes 2013)
Image: Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Félix Nadar 1865
Tirelessly, we walk along the shore, the light reflected from the trees, as if attracted to your beauty, the sea breeze caressing your hair: a summer poem.
Deep in the cove lie the lazy rocks, and, perhaps some deeper secrets, even a sea monster and her mermaid lover?
We laugh: waves lick the sand, wooing the careless couple, telling again the tale of her, whose face launched a thousand ships…
Are you Helen, the peerless beauty whose fate was to have Troy destroyed?
Or are you the mermaid, for ever courted by the many tentacles?
She’s a workaholic, always on the move, alert, unstoppable. To meet her is an experience, her smile contagious, and this feeling of a hard mind behind her long eyelashes. She travels, she comes to you, she’s punctual, the tools of her trade in her long bag, full of marvellous attires. One guesses her luggage contains more…
A committed professional she is, of the sort that cares only for business, really, while all the time making the customer feel he – mainly “he” – is important, and it works. For it is impossible not to like her, even admire her, her energy, her skills, at what amounts to seduction, of a very temporary type.
Here, there, everywhere, how does she maintain the balance, keep healthy, even glowing? She’s a sexy woman of character, her strength well hidden behind irresistible charm. Men are forgotten as quickly as won: she’s a model, much travelled, and fully booked.
He woke up, immersed in the low hum of the ship, secure and relaxed in the familiar cabin he shared with Anna: she was already up, probably busy in the kitchen.
It was his birthday: every earth-year Anna would prepare a surprise for him specially for that day, last year it was the hyperspace astrolabe, a marvel of exquisite art and navigation engineering skill: Anna, ever attentive and watchful, his dedicated and beautiful companion, so human in the small imperfections he’d learnt to admire.
The door opened, silently, and there she stood looking at him, her warm smile on the sensual lips: “Good morning my love, are you ready for a cup of coffee? Happy birthday!”
He paused and took Anna in his arms: then he saw the small boy, standing proudly at the door, holding a steaming pot of coffee: on the boy’s face he saw himself, through eons of time.
“You see, I did not forget what you said last year about not having a son with you on this long voyage… He’s so much like his dad!” said Anna, smiling the eternal woman’s and mother’s tenderness, Anna, the near-perfect human, the elite replicant, his lover in the immense solitude of space.
There is a medieval ring to this word: retribution: it evokes dark feuds in the Italy of the late Middle Age, just before the Renaissance woke up to the rediscovery of antiquity. We may think of those great families bent on revenge for some sinister hidden murder, and ponder on the condottieri (another interesting word) leading band of assassins for the cause of their lord…
“Retribution may refer to:
Latin, from retribuere (“assign again”).
retribution (plural retributions)
- Punishment inflicted in the spirit of moral outrage or personal vengeance.
- 1999, Barbara Hanawalt, Medieval crime and social control, p.73:
- 1. Revenge is for an injury; retribution is for a wrong.
- 2. Retribution sets an internal limit to the amount of the punishment according to the seriousness of the wrong; revenge need not.
- 3. Revenge is personal; the agent of retribution need have no special or personal tie to the victim of the wrong for which he exacts retribution.
- 4. Revenge involves a particular emotional tone, pleasure in the suffering of another, while retribution need involve no emotional tone.
Image: Blues vs. Greens (Byzantine Empire) at http://www.swide.com/art-culture/history/romeo-and-juliet-montagues-v-capulets-and-other-famous-gang-rivalries/2013/04/30
She wanted to be herself, confident and able to chose: where she would go, who she wanted to live with, or not, what she would do with her life.
Long ago, when she was still a little girl, she had made up her mind: she would not follow, she would not go with the flow, even more: she would lead.
And now, she was here, on this world, alone of her species, surrounded by creatures who were so different from humans, and those creatures worshipped her: the huge bodies, armoured like monsters of legend, capable of shifting megatons – they approached her silently, their tentacles raised in sign of submission.
She was so small, on this planet, so far away from her own star, the only survivor, she was so alone, and yet she felt the prospect of a new life, after all, she’d even started talking with them.
Suddenly, she knew: at long last she’d found her destiny: she would be queen, she could even, perhaps, find a way to start a dynasty: this world had immense resources, and she would reign on a powerful people.
Image source: http://alexandra-sousaa.tumblr.com/