Louder Fenn

Monday, February 18, 2002

The Spare Midge
Modicum 6

When we got to Rock, Midge didn't hurry through the Wall. She planned to go on to Shento and complete Scott's errand, since there was no reason not to; but for Midge there was always time for diversion. She put the bags and me in a hotel. She got herself fresh and, within the hour, had left. I didn't follow. I didn't want to. I didn't need to. And she knew I would only slow her down. Midge went alone and found her streets to burn; and I stayed alone, her streets burning inside me.

Some hours passed.

Our bags were unpacked, our clothes in the drawers. The small mess in the bathroom — from Midge's freshening up — was gone. Several times, the aetherweb tap had cycled past channel 3096^3.

Finally, I was outside.

A vendor sold me a small sack of food. He took my money.

A commercial took my arm, wrapped it in neon, and told me that I could be better than I was. It touched my palm where the vendor had and suddenly pricked into my money (without my consent, because its Am could tell I wasn't the screaming sort); but my bits were too few for its taste. We were far from the gestalt of our family's bank on Takla Makan, and Midge, who knew I had little use for money, had given me little of hers. The commercial was peeved and sank back into the sidewalk.

A train crossed in front of me. It took me to the body of Ursula Kato.

I had known Ursula was on Rock.

She was lying in state. Her death's convulsion had toggled her armorskin, and her flesh, normally a kind of newly fallen snow (despite her scars), was now forever an oily chitin; and her blue and silver eyes were shut behind the black of the EM filters. She had been left in her armorskin — which was impermeable even to hostile molecules — so that no worms would ever foul her. Across her belly, under her crossed hands, lay her sword. In its hilt was a fragment of Rigel, which she herself had collapsed during the Many Minute War. She wore an amice with her Army's colors. There were no flowers, not for her; but candles covered her wide bier like huts on an evening hillside.

Ó 2002 Louder Fenn

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