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When the rains started, the desert erupted with drops slamming into hard dirt and pavement like an artillery barrage from the battle of the Somme. The ground was impenetrable and gave no quarter to the torrent, as rivulets streaked down the dunes in straight lines carving trenches in the sand. A gritty dust was thrown into the air in those first moments of downpour and he choked on it like mustard gas.
His dingy and worn full brimmed hat did nothing to keep the drops from running down the back of his ears and down the nape of his neck, soaking his dull cotton shirt and khaki trousers. Other than his fit of coughing, he hadn’t moved and as the air cleared under the continued assault, the underside of the coyote tinted soles of his canvas and rubber boots embodied the only dry inches of land for miles.
Subtly the land changed color, as the thin covering of dust washed from its stones and pebbles revealing a mix of ruddy rounded sandstones and lumpy pocked basalt. He remembered about how surprised he was the first time he’s seen rain outside of his native desert, in the northern cities where it misted down like the fog is some noir novella. In harsh contrast, the Sonoran wilderness never did anything half-way. It could kill you with heatstroke on a clear day, and could just as easily drown you under a flood in its monsoon months.
The body in front of him hadn’t drowned or died from exposure. The wounds in her chest and head were not the marks of scavenging animals and betrayed a more violent ending.
Large black plastic boxes fill my room and my office space, slowly being filled with clutter and accumulated trinkets purchased from Amazon or Think Geek. In goes my Pathfinder RPG books and playmat. On top I’ll pile my varied assortment of Arduino parts and Raspberry Pi boards, stuffed next to my portable geology kit. Before the lid is closed, I’ll fold and tuck in my going away present from my office mate, Donald Holt, a Hawaiian shirt in my university’s colors with the words, Sun Devils, printed across the pattern. I’ll save my books and throw out my bath robes. I’ll save my DVD’s, but give away my coffee maker.
I’ll pull off hundreds of TV show episodes and movies down from the Morale Drive and tuck a 4 terabyte enclosure into my pelican case, next to a full size telescope my family sent me for Christmas. My work friends will say their good byes to me and I’ll accept a few more friend requests on Facebook or LinkedIn. One or two people will make plans to come out to Phoenix, and with my Sea bags ill take home a ton of memories and lessons.
I’ll leave my fully automatic rifle in Germany. I’ll leave my expeditionary gear in San Diego, and when I board the flight back to Arizona I will be down to a backpack. I will buy a car. I will register for spring classes. I will repaint my house. I will forget Afghanistan.
Elonis Luther’s lungs burned with each breath, sometimes sending him into fits of coughing. He checked the time on his dVice, and let out a quiet groan which he quickly stifled as he remembered where he was. Tent 514 was as dark as a cave, with hints of red lighting distantly erupting from overhead of essential life support equipment and the two large airlocks on either end. From his perch on top of a rickety aluminum bunk, Elonis rubbed the ever pervasive grit out of his eyes. The blue and white brightness of his dVice’s screen seared his retina for a moment and caused his eyes to water, further blurring his vision. After a moment he looked back and saw the 0706 detailed in the upper right corner significating his place in local time. At least it would have, but Elonis knew he had yet to change it over to Bradbury standard. With a few quick gestures he activated the automatic localization software and the clock now read 0000:00 in blinking unison. Elonis thought his software had malfunctioned briefly, until he noticed the rapidly dropping numbers, suspended just below, reading in minutes and seconds that he was just a little while into the timeslip. In fact, he realized with amusement, he probably had awoken just as this point on the Martian surface had entered into that witching hour, the 37 minutes and 22.663 seconds all clocks here stop, allowing for a more regular accounting of time. 24 hours and 37 odd minutes, a free 37 minutes each day he thought with dry humor, oh how much more he would get done now.
He laid his head back down on his pillow and listened to the machines keeping out the cold dry thin air, no wait, That’s not right, he thought, keeping IN the warmth and moisture emminating from every body jammed in this habitation tent. Their collective warmth fed the atmosphere, but wouldn’t be enough if the equipment designed to keep them all alive ever stopped working. Elonis wondered if it was the sound of these vents and generators, or the effect of the dry air on peoples lungs, that kept him from hearing any snoring at all from his new friends. Over the ambient sound he heard a cough to answer his previous one, comforting him that at least he wasn’t alone in his sensitivity to the ever present dust that coated everything. What followed was a relative silence that allowed him to recognize an odd pattern to the air systems. They sounded like rain. Actual rain was impossible of course, but the vibration of the white inflatable plastic tube, the width of a beach ball stretching down the length of the tent, was at just the right frequency to sound like the pitter-patter of rain drops in the dark of the berthing.
Suddenly he had to pee with a painful urgency that reminded him of the revelries of last afternoon in the recreation tent. Several drinks, and the hilarity of everyone’s wild billiards shots while playing pool in .38 gee, had kept him awake against the jet lag for several more hours than his body demanded of him, but not quite enough to shift him naturally into the new time zone. He fumbled for his boots in the dark, trying not to wake the person sleeping in the rack below him, and stumbled to the cramped toilets hygienically closed off from the berthing but still attached. The floor in the vestibule just before the lavatory was leaking warmth into the martian dirt and chilled his calfs which weren’t protected by his boots. Plastic walls, plastic floors, thin but supposedly tough, poured over with dirt, protected them from the radiation that a proper magnetosphere, like earth’s would have kept out. I’d hate to get cancer while taking a piss,he chuckled to himself.
She is descending from the Mountain.
The island-born is descending from the Mountain.
Weena is descending from the Mountain.
She descends on a boat traveling along a tiny ribbon.
From the world of stars the boat travels along a tiny ribbon.
To the world or rock the boat travels along a tiny ribbon.
She comes seeking the house of her fathers.
The island-born yearns for the familiar ground of her mothers.
Weena has come home.
The air here is the same, but different: dirtier but vibrant, dusky but warm.
The land calls to her feet with an urgency so perfect.
It calls out, “You are home! Run through my grass! Swim through my waters! Eat from my trees!”
But she sees no grass to run through.
The island-born hears no ocean to dip her feet into.
Weena smells no sweet fragrances of fruit ripening upon the tree.
She looks back to the sky, beyond her tiny ribbon.
She cannot see the Mountain.
She cannot see the Wandering Ones.
She cannot see the Multitude, Shining in the Sky.
She cannot see the Great River of Light.
She cried out. The island-born cried out. Weena cried out.
“How can the people of the world not see the wonder of the Mountain?
How can they not see the mystery of the Wandering Ones?
How can they not see the majesty of the Multitude, Shining in the sky?
How can they not see the awe of the Great River of Light?”
Suddenly, she missed her life among her islands in the sky.
The island-born wished to see her islands in the sky.
Weena would show them her islands in the sky.
Surrounding her were the cities of her fathers.
Around her were the people of her mothers.
Their cities were full of false light.
There was no night in the cities of her fathers.
There was no sky for the people of her mothers.
She would bring back the night in the cities.
The island-born would return the sky to the people.
Weena would break their lights.
I really enjoy reading the Inana’s desent to the underworld, an ancient Sumerian text thousands of years old. The versions that I have come across are very rythmic and chant like. In the above text I tried to replicate that in a short poem that I had on my mind today on the way into work. I would have to say that it comes from a few different peices of source material, an article on light pollution in cities from the Planetary Socitey’s newsletter, Kim Stanley Robinson’s book 2312, and of course the Sumerian texts on Inana. Just wanted to make some art today. It was fun getting to play with structure and ideas, and it really got my brain going this morning.
It’s a good thing I got my brain going early, the rest of the day sure did it’s best to blast away any motivation and drive. Today I almost exclusively worked on my M16/M4 online course. I had to bash my head against memorizing all the parts of, and how to clean a weapon I haven’t touched in over 4 years, and never took apart. Even the Air force guys were surprised when I told them that on board ship all the weapons used for watch standing were maintained and cleaned exclusively by the Gunners Mates. I checked a gun out, stood around for four hours then unloaded and handed it back. Sure I fired it at regular training, but I never disassembled it. The first time I cleaned a gun was a .38 for Arizona department of safety licence. I made it through though, with a score of 91.2% after taking extensive notes. I’m just not a gun nut, or an engineer, but in my defense the diagrams on the screen were pretty shitty.
So I took a break and looked for something else to spend my afternoon drill on. Medical sent me over to the hospital to get vaccinated. Anthrax, Meningitis, and Typhoid. The lady with the needles seemed to think this was not enough so she also gave me a Tetanus booster and Hep B. Thanks. oh and a flu spray up the nose. I appreciate it. oh and they drew blood to find out if I need a Chicken pox booster. I am done with needles this week, I swear.