|Publisher:||Arch & Gravity Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||4.70(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.70(d)|
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In a city of sapphire, diamond and steel, rain comes from dark heavens. Crystal spires glimmer silver where they touch the heaving sky. Tonight they might be free, in this downpour.
In the wake of a reborn age, storms come from an unsettled sea. The wind gives a low, mourning sigh, between the towers, like loneliness in a duet with peace. The choir rests, the light in their windows showing them dry. There is no thunder from the bridled sky. Spirit manifest, through showers a soloist descends — a young, dark bird on untested wings — through the depths of night and wind.
In the valley Halcyon, a man stands at the intersection of two roads. His arms are out, palms open. His bare chest holds the beat of a tireless, four-chambered heart. It syncopates with the draw of his lungs, tightening muscle over his cascading ribs, anatomy in symphony, driving oxygen. He wears nothing at all, save the rain. Bringing a hand to his head he runs it through his long black hair, water rushing between his fingers. Neurons fire with melody. So he lingers, looking at the sky bearing down on his eyes, drenched in lamplight. Pale skin covers his thick bones. Veins of red and blue run throughout. Naked under the stars' wet eyes, he does not feign anything, as passersby and electric cars slow down.
The chaotic rhythm is on his stolid skin. He may be a fool, bare in the torrent, with his lips parted in a widening smile. Regardless he stands as a monument on this corner. Harmony comes up now behind him.
"Azad. What're you doing?" she says, wrapping his black raincoat onto his shoulders. She ties it quickly above his waist and looks up at him. His smile does not falter, so that she gives one in return. "What the fuck are you doing?" She repeats it softer, tapping his sternum with her fist, though still met only by his grin. "You dumbass. Where'd you leave your clothes?"
At this his laughter breaks open, his eyes shift away, and he shakes his head. He looks at her face again. Her hair is black, her skin fair. She is delicate and strong, confident and young, staring up at him.
His eyes shine pale gray in the dark. Water drips down his long cheeks, as from his black goatee it falls. Azad sweeps his hands up through the rain, through the hard light of cars. His fingertips touch her face. He brings her forward, kissing her forehead.
"What's this?" she asks.
Their unity is poetry; an apparition. In the flash of lights rolling by she smiles at her brother, and he laughs.
Truth is a firefly, this halogen night. Desire itself is in these lights, ignited but for the loss of the sun. Shining clear is the pool of the moon, surrounded in deep clouds. Lost then in the storm, one sapphire drop amid a billion fallen tears — seed of a shy perennial, breaking on the winter road — Harmony looks up at her brother. She is the past meeting the present, waiting for the future. She says,
"Azad, I'm getting cold."CHAPTER 2
"It's an enigma, Harmony," says Orion.
"Is it?" she asks, taking a sea-green pipe from his hand. She puts it to her lips, inhales. A slender coil of white vapor twists from the herbs in the bowl, writhing out of a soft flame. It flowers from her lips toward the ceiling ventilation screen. Water silently flows down the window. The night outside is dimmed, the shaders set halfway to gray. It is dark but for their dim glow, that is warped a little where the water streams. Harmony lives with her brother on the twenty-ninth floor. Reclining with Orion in the gray living room, on a big green couch, watching the powerless, dark 51-inch monitor in the focus of the far wall, she holds the glass absently while pondering his choice of word.
She exhales slowly, smiling. "You're so particular about your words. There's a name for the new pipe."
"Particular," he repeats intently. They pause. He grins.
"He is strange," she says and nods again, slower.
"That's what I said." He quiets, then, "Did he speak?"
Harmony shrugs. "A poem." She smiles. "About flowers, blooming in winter. I guess, just that some do."
Orion smiles as he says, "Flowers for December."
He says, "A paradox."
"You don't think I'm a flower."
"Yes, but you wouldn't believe me. If I said it."
"Of course I would. If you meant it."
He frowns. "Flowers do sometimes bloom in winter."
"Some do. You wouldn't say it."
"I might. I say you're endless. Sexy."
"My notion is pure," he says. She suppresses another smile. "Meanings are more important than words."
A quiet passes.
"We were talking about Azad," he says.
"So we were."
"Let him be."
There is a pause while she thinks. She takes a deliberate breath, releases it and says, "I've never understood why. He's my little brother. I guess, what he does is get out of, well, my control."
"You want him to keep his clothes on?"
She touches his arm with the pipe, saying, "No, I don't mean that. But yeah."
He takes it from her, resting it in his hand for a moment in silence. Orion is a solid man, athletic and young. The subtle light of his active mind holds in his eyes. His skin is ashen, his short hair full and brown. A smile curves across his face.
"What?" she asks, returning his grin.
"Nothing. Just ... that bird has flown."
She rests her head on his shoulder, taking a remote control from beside her feet on the couch. The room is lit in a sulking blue as the monitor comes to life before them, and invisible speakers embedded in the walls begin to sing, gracefully, "Lips curl. Life circles. I might learn in time."
"I like this one," he says.
"Yeppers." She replaces the remote.
"There's such sweet hell in her voice."
They sit quietly, relaxing and listening comfortably. An electric bass rumbles, synthesizers rise, slinking between the crash of percussion. She wails long and passionately. Her voice softens to complete the chorus, "No white dwarf stars. Our brighter fires so quickly expire."
He says, "That's strong."
"It's the opium, Honey."
In answer he restates, "Music is a force of nature."
"Tell me about it," she says. After a thought, she asks, "How so?"
"Well, Poet, rhythm and melody, repetition, lyrical improvisation. It's sex. This journey and destination. Everything is up or it's down. Gravity. Volume. Waves. The moods of your heart." He shrugs his eyebrows, as if to solidify these thoughts in four words, "Life is a song."
Harmony does not reply, but runs her fingers down his chest, over the seams of his pants. Orion grins, kissing the top of her head. She slides intently off the couch, kneels in front of him, and begins to undo his belt. Now Azad appears in the hallway coming from the bedrooms — a large silhouette in the blue. Harmony rises as he enters the room.
"There's the lady-killer now," mutters Orion as he stands, fastening his pants. He beckons with the pipe. "Azad, this is Enigma."
The rain is dissipating when they leave her building. Harmony walks between the two men, holding Orion's hand. All three wear long black raincoats. The city rises to the sky where the streets and sidewalks end, in womanly curves of shining wet gray. Trees, tall and manicured, rise from circles of grass. Electric lights are everywhere, holding back the dark, in windows, on cars rolling quickly by, on rails streaking the sky high above. Winged men fly, shadows racing below the ominous clouds, visible only in moments, flashing through the light between the towers. Angelic wings spread wide they ride the wind in rain, with grace — more than birds and more than men. On the walk the trio moves slowly, watching the night, toward a building in motion, like a shimmering silver octopus, the large tentacled dome of the Public Transport Rail.
People flow through the open, lit chambers. Railcars come on shifting lanes, beneath glowing marquees, seconds apart. Moving steadily, with the organic pulse of the masses, routes adjusting to changing demands, there is not a wait for anyone. The crowd is never still and there are no lines. The apparent chaos is orderly like a clock, every movement precise. There are no tickets, no turnstiles, but six centennial info-bots rise out of the floor. Built of sleek boxes, in the pristine, techno-saturated hub they go often unnoticed, though their green eyes shine. They exist to give information and capably converse about genetics or the weather.
A man passes in the flow of the crowd. Slightly feline, his features are taut, his nose wide. The wild blond of his hair is accented by bright streaks of punk orange. Tall, he moves easily and with grace. Tattoos, visible spikes on his hands and neck, hint at a larger piece beneath. A step to his right are two women. One is a brown-eyed girl, of collar-length lavender hair. At her side is another woman, skinny with dyed red hair, cropped. They wear matching raincoats, crimson with black buttons.
Harmony looks down before meeting his eye. Sayd, where have you been? she wonders.
Digital marquees glow yellow above all the docks. Two bear the word 'Theater', and Harmony is already moving toward one of them. A gray railcar snakes quickly to their dock, across switching lanes, its door slides open and they step inside. As quickly as they are in it and seated it moves.
The hard shapes of the city resolve into a vibrant, water-streaked blur in the railcar's oblong windows. Quiet settles over the passengers, soothed by electric hum, of magnetic propulsion. They fly swiftly, almost silently — above the earth yet beneath the sky. Two silver poles stand at the ellipsoid's foci. A dark man in a long white coat holds on with a lean, long-fingered hand. Two thin arms cross over his abdomen. A small pink boy with red hair watches the man, holding tight to his mother's flat, silver dress.
On a gray cushioned seat is a teen girl, wearing earbuds, presumably pumping music. Her eyes reflect the motion of the windows' light. Her legs are crossed, and her foot moves with an unheard beat. Her hair is shoulder-length, unsubtle waves of blonde, scattered a little. Her eyes are now growing tired, starting to close. Her raincoat is thin, pink and purple, sparkling faintly with an iridescent gleam.
Orion, Harmony and Azad sit across from her. Harmony loosely touches her lover's hand, as a smile plays upon her face, gazing out the window. Orion watches the petite, sneakered foot, tapping at the air before him. Slowly his eyes travel her form, and now meet with hers. She's probably not seventeen, he thinks. Strikingly pretty. The girl smiles at him and then closes her eyes.
He continues to watch her as he feels the train begin to slow, then as it crawls, and when it stops. It is just a moment.CHAPTER 3
The Theater of Light and Sound
Starlight trickles out of the sky with the falling rain, and the Theater flows as if from those same clouds, like molten steel. It reflects the skyline as abstract glitter; a galaxy in neon. This dark, modern cathedral is jeweled with idols of women and men, winged and posed as guardians or perched demons, angels and incubi. Its many domes shine in the cool light, and its spires arc skyward, built of diamonds, rubber and glass. On the lawn around it are dripping willows and arcing fountains — tributes to a gentle giant, may she not shatter them with her breath. The organic curves of this architectural goddess tonight gleam with a soft rain, which gathers beneath her skirts, tracing away down the gradual slope in dark rivulets.
There is a ring of dancers nearby on the lawn, pulsing with the rhythm of an elemental chant, surrounded by onlookers. These are female acrobats, topless with small, simple loincloths of gold and black skin. A bonfire dances high in their center, crackling with raindrops, persistent tongues lapping at the sky and wildly lighting the girls' painted forms. They swing outward, and coalesce again. Their taut, small-breasted bodies mingle in synchronized, interweaving bends and rising, euphoric prayer.
They chant, turning across the lush blades with bare grass-stained feet.
Angels cross the sky.
"Good evening, Harmony, Azad and Orion," says a cordial centennial as they come to the entrance of the Theater. His head is rain-wet, a silvery case for two bulbous glass-and-steel eyes, friendly though inhuman. One of a dozen black-tied greeters on the lawn he has no legs, his thick torso anchored firmly into the earth. Politely, he greets like friends all who will pass by.
"Good evening," returns Orion.
The metal man says, "Please do enjoy your show," turning his head without another sound, following them with the soft green light of his eyes. As they move on his head turns back to greet the next passersby.
Black marble doors glide open before them.
Just inside the cavernous front room they are met, lady first, by three black coat hooks, on a curved rail overhead. Each has a different voice, though no mouth, and knows them by name, recommending a good show before zipping off with their coats, disappearing through a recess in the wall.
The crowd drinks soda and alcohol, at small black tables. Black chandeliers diffuse the light. The banter is soothed by low music, the techno-noir accented by a large oil painting of ten-dimensional calabi-yau super-strings. Nobody is waiting in line, though elevators populate the walls. Subtle lights give shadows to signs, indicating theaters dedicated to astronomy and pornography, Watts and Nietzsche, one the War Crimes of the 20 Century, and a long string of hallucinatory phrases and names like The Ocean of Odd, Shakespeare, Dangermouse, Leon King and Newton, Julianna, Angel Rey, Dynamic Polymorphism and the Imaginarium. Harmony advances toward an elevator near the middle, indicated as the Theater of Light and Sound. The door opens at their approach.
The elevator lifts them imperceptibly, disorienting in its speed and grace, seeming more like teleportation. The door slides away after just a few seconds, revealing the underside of a large, dimly lit dome.
They are somewhere in the sky. Entering, they look for vacant seats.
From above, a feminine voice softly speaks, "Welcome to the Theater of Light and Sound. We are all destined to be here, tonight. You are and I knew you would be, inevitably. Close your eyes and free your mind for the day. Together we will journey. Free yourself of fear and of superstition. Release your imagination. I will be your guide and entertainer. I am the Theater of Light and Sound."
Harmony closes her eyes, releasing her tension in the comfort of an automatic reclining seat. Through her eyelids she sees the dim lights go out. The Theater speaks. "I am the Theater of Light and Sound. Close your eyes," it repeats. "Know that you have time. Know that it will pass. I will be your guide and entertainer. We are the Theater. We are the Light and Sound. Join with me and release your mind."
Disobediently her thoughts stray. She sees Azad smoking with them before they left tonight. Harmony sighs audibly. She resurrects her smile. I always love these nights, she thinks. Still she sees him. Monolithic in the abstract ocean behind her eyes, frightening for his immaturity, his hair is a gentle storm in the breath of her imagination.
"Know that we are safe."
Anticipating the show, her imagining fades.
"I'm glad that you're here," coos the Theater, dwindling to silence. In the darkness there is nothing, scarcely the sound of the audience breathing.
Slowly comes the sound of an ocean — possibly there all along — exhaling long, breathing out — the tide. A wave heaves and crashes, as a wind blows. A gull calls. "Harmony open your eyes," invites the sky, barely a whisper.
A violin warbles lonely from high. A cello moans. Above there is a dark spiral galaxy, below it one pure gull. She glides, trailing an arc of mist into the stars, expressing the cello's pull in the arrow of her flight. She blurs and divides, as a cell split in three — metallic white, cyan and crimson. Like a trick of depth perception they mirror one another, spreading out. Above, the universe ripples, like a pond with rain. It pulses, in circular waves. The cello breathes. Barely visible, an apparition of a native woman's face looks out, behind the stars. At the iris of this dusty cloud, between her eyes, there is a white hole. The opalescent birds flutter and ascend. As they connect they convulse like opposing dimensions, shattering explosively into shards of color; silver, yellow, green and white, a kaleidoscopic supernova. Cymbals crash. A drum thunders, reverberating from the walls. An electric guitar wails on a large power-chord, over the rhythmic chaos of a newborn symphony.
Like a curtain the imagery falls. A racing landscape rises. Saxophones hover over pounding drums. Steadying, stuttering, they march. A series passes of images both real and animated, at once still and rushed, giving dimension to the music. This music, a full-length modern symphony, comes from all around her. A flute cries. The clear sky runs wet like a watercolor with purple and blue. Light crystallizes, at the end of a held note, cast, like the timeless breath of god through the opening sky. Harmony blinks. The guitar returns, swelling chords as the saxophones roar. Then instantly, with a flicker night has fallen. Gnarled trees stand against moonlight.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Genex of Halcyon"
Copyright © 2019 Joshua L Stelling.
Excerpted by permission of Arch & Gravity.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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