Monday, February 18, 2002
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