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[This is set in the universe of "The Queen's Courtesan" but in a different place and time, perhaps on another planet. It's a fragment.]

Bad Girls )
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So I got up at my usual 5am after getting to sleep at about 1am. But I slept about an hour earlier in the evening yesterday. So I should get through the day all right.

Nothing quite like getting all your bills paid at 1 in the morning!

The new job is going better than I first thought it would, and the work day generally goes pretty quickly. They let you wear headphones on the job, which is nice, and it allows me to study my Arabic and Farsi while working.

Going to finally, really and truly, finish writing that new chapter to The Queen's Courtesan today. I'm taking my writing pad on my coffee breaks.
http://asher813.typepad.com/fiction/

I've been getting traffic on the Stephanie tribute site, which is immensely gratifying.
http://asher813.typepad.com/stephanie/

Finished editing and tagging all my old entries.
http://asher63.livejournal.com/tag/

[livejournal.com profile] stilken's comment got me to thinking about the intersections between my LJ life and the rest of my-life-in-the-world. More later .....
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But she felt so safe.  Nestled in the warm fur of his belly, listening to him purr himself to sleep.  The deep, distant thunder of his purr, and below the fur, the lightning bolt of a scar that crossed his body.  Sometimes she'd wake in the night, thinking the earth was trembling, or that the humans were driving their big machines down the road - but it was only his muscles twitching, and she would watch his paws jerking unsteadily, as if he were running in quicksand.  He never woke from such dreams, only drifting deeper into sleep - as if, she thought, he could land on all fours, even in the world of dreams.

The other mice would have nothing to do with her.  At first, she had tried to keep it from her mother and her sisters and brothers.  But you cannot hide the smell of a cat, certainly not from a widowed mouse.  And you cannot hide the aura of love:  it crawls inside you and compels its ways upon you.  You do not merely surrender to its sickly ecstasy, no, you throw yourself upon it.  And so you have no choice at all, no choice but to spend every idle moment brushing your eyelashes with your paws, preening your whiskers and sitting in the most dangerous alleys, trying to look coy and innocent, trying to pretend you don't know any better.

Finally it was too much.  Unable to bear her mother's look of bewildered disgust, her brothers' muttered curses, and her sisters' stone silence, she looked up over the bread crust, begging for understanding.  "He's different," she pleaded once, helplessly.  And her mother had simply gazed back and said, "You were one too many.  I should have eaten you."
continue )
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At the beginning of creation, the Merciful One created all human souls and placed them in the remotest reaches of the Mystery, in the sacred chamber that is the abode of the Spirit Throne. When a baby is conceived, Lilith, the Angel of Night, plucks its soul from its resting place in the recesses of the chamber, and brings it before the Spirit Throne to learn its destiny. The Spirit Throne is shaped like a cube with thirty-two sides, six feet wide on the outside and six billion light-years wide on the inside, and its radiance cascades down from the most recondite reaches of Mystery into the worlds below. Lilith cradles the infant soul in her arms; she nurtures it with the Rose of Paradise, holding the blossom under its chin so that the essence of the Rose flows into the soul, while the emanation of the Spirit Throne fills it with all of the wisdom it will learn in life.

Then the Angel of Souls appears, ready to accept the soul from Lilith. This is always a difficult moment for both angels, no matter how many children are born: the Angel of Souls trembles as she takes the new soul into her arms, and Lilith looks down intently, avoiding her eyes. The Angel of Souls holds the soul over her head, that it may shine in the glory of the Spirit Throne before all the other souls, with whom it will one day be reunited. Now, while the other angel holds the little soul in its last moments in heaven, Lilith reaches down to her side. She draws forth from its sheath the fiery blade of the Sword That Does Not Slay. Ever so gently, she touches the soul with the tip of the sword. At its touch, the soul flees the realm of heaven and the abode of the Spirit Throne, and awakens, crying and frightened, in a baby’s body. All of its wisdom is forgotten, and all that remains is the imprint of the burning sword in the cleft of its upper lip. The child will begin to grow and to live, and will spend the rest of its days learning all its lost wisdom.

Though Lilith’s blade has struck wisdom from memory, yet it has left desire. Desire will spread from that point, and desire will guide the child to suckle, and desire will guide the youth to kiss. Desire will guide the sage to speak, and desire guides our hand when, unthinking and lost in thought, we stroke the mark of Lilith’s sword, as even now we seek the wisdom and the light that we once knew.
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In retrospect, it should have been obvious. By a landslide victory, the great minds of LiveJournal gave the nod to "Space Lesbians!" as the favored title for this story. It's short, catchy, descriptive, and to-the-point. And most important, it's fun! Space ... what's not to like? Lesbians ... what's not to like? Well, there you are then.

The runner-up comes from a poem by Langston Hughes:
Sea charm
The sea's own children
Do not understand.
They know
But that the sea is strong
Like God's hand.
They know
But that sea wind is sweet
Like God's breath,
And that the sea holds
A wide, deep death.


Thanks to all who participated.
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The alphabet, in its more-or-less-close-to-final form.

Some example letters. These are the letters A, S, K, E, R, N, and M. The image appears compressed on my LJ homepage, click on the image for full-size in correct proportions. The rectangular guidelines are to facilitate drawing the letters in the right proportions, 3-5-8 or the Golden Ratio.
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For those of you just joining us, my sister's poetry is viewable online here:
Wilderness Vision

My previous fiction is here:
The Rose of Paradise
The Zero Ring
The Death Wish

And the current project:
The Queen's Courtesan
The Gilkesh Chronicles - Background notes on the Gilkesh civilization.
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(The Queen's Courtesan: our story so far.)

***


She's not sure when she became separated from the group. All the hallways feel familiar ... but the hallways all look the same. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she thinks she ought to be panicking by now, but for some reason she's calm. Tranquil.

She's not sure what level she's on, whether it's higher or lower than the school area. Did she get on the elevator with the rest of the class? She can't remember.

The girl appears just around the bend in the hallway. She is older than Urkni, not a grownup but mature, confident, and reassuring. She is elegant and beautiful, and she makes Urkni feel tingly in a way she can't quite describe. There's a radiance that seems to come from her eyes, and a sense of peace.

She looks at Urkni for a long moment, silent and smiling gently, as if waiting for Urkni to initiate conversation.

"Can you help me? I'm lost," Urkni manages at last.

The stranger steps forward and touches Urkni's arm. "Oh, no you're not," she says reassuringly. "You're found. Come with me. I want to show you something fun. I know you'll like it! You'll see ... it's a lot more exciting than muscial chairs."

***

The abandoned laboratory is utterly prosaic. Many years ago, the colony on Planet 138 was the site of some very important scientific research for one of the Kathrite clans. Nowadays, no one is sure what it was, exactly, that was being studied; all that is certain is that Planet 138 hasn't been part of the big picture for a long time. The colony's population has remained roughly stable, or perhaps declined a little, and the lecture halls and workshops in the sector have been gradually converted to warehouses or meeting-halls, or simply left vacant. In the old days, the sector was strictly off-limits to the general public. Now, it's not: nobody has a reason to go there, but then, nobody has a reason not to go there, so it's a perfect place to go without attracting attention.

Urkni doesn't know any of this, but by the time she gets there, she knows she'll never ever be able to find her way back to Miss Orizhend's class on her own. The part of her mind that was worried an hour ago has now cried itself hoarse and is has given up on trying to change the course of events; it has resigned itself to looking for comfort wherever comfort can be found.

The stranger - who still hasn't given her name - rests her hand reassuringly on Urkni's shoulder. "Don't be afraid. We're all friends here." The mention of the word "afraid" makes Urkni realize that, come to think of it, she has been feeling something very much like fear; but she's glad to be able to let go of it now.

They are standing at the doorway to a room about the size of her old schoolroom, but it feels a lot different. There are voices - friendly voices, talking, chattering, perhaps telling stories. She can't make out any of the words, but it feels comforting. It feels like home. The older girl walks through the doorway, not looking back, and Urkni follows.

The lamps are off. Instead of artificial light, a single candle in the middle of the floor provides illumination. About two dozen people, young and old, are seated on the floor in a circle around the candle. When Urkni enters the room, conversation hushes and all eyes turn to her. "Welcome, sister," several voices say.

The light of the candle throws dramatic shadows against the walls. From a dark corner of the room, a silver-haired woman steps forward. "Welcome, sister," the woman says, looking at Urkni. Her manner is solemn but reassuring. In the woman's gaze, Urkni has a feling of being taken seriously. It is a good feeling.

Following the older girl's lead, Urkni takes a spot on the floor at the edge of the circle. The woman, who is obviously the leader of the group, stands silent for a long moment.

***

"Once, long ago, people knew the way. But the way was lost. And people became lost. Look at us now - look around. Where is the happiness? Where is the peace? Where is the hope? Where is the love?

"We've all heard the legend of how Eve was driven out of the Garden by the angel Lilith. So, too, has the spirit of life been driven out of the Universe. We are wracked by conflict and burdened by suffering in our daily lives - and each day, it seems, we sacrifice another little piece of our souls. And for what? We work, we strive, we suffer, we grieve - but our lives are empty.

"Friends, sisters, our generation has lost sight of the great Unity. Like the debris of a dying star, we are drifting farther and farther away from one another, losing energy, losing light. Dying, slowly dying.

"Only one thing can bring us back, and that is the realization of the great truth: the truth that we must live for something greater, for this universe is not our real home. These rocks we live on, these bodies we inhabit - they are prisons. They do not belong to us, nor we to them.

"Our destiny is to return to the Source. This Universe was created from nothing, and it will grow, and then it will turn inward and return to the great Void from which it came. So too with us: like the Universe, our calling is to return to the great Void. Then we will be one with the Cosmos for all eternity.

"One time soon, all created beings will understand this wisdom. But most are not ready for it yet. For now, the secret must remain with a trusted few - those enlightened souls that can grasp the greatness of this sacred calling. We are few, but we are many. We are here, and we are everywhere. We are Gilkesh, and we are among all the sentient races. We are the messengers of rebirth and redemption. We are Singularity."

***

The leader stands silent, her eyes closed, perhaps in a trance. Then a low murmur rises from the group, and resolves itself into a hum, and then into a slow, rippling chant. Urkni can't understand most of the words - they seem to be in another language, yet there's a familiar sounding phrase here and there, and she feels the meaning of the chant hangs just beyond her grasp. She starts humming along with the tune, then repeating the sounds she hears, she's afraid she's getting the words wrong but she wants to sing so badly she doesn't mind if she makes mistakes.

Now she doesn't care if she ever goes back home again, or if she ever sees the silly schoolroom again or not. Now she realizes it doesn't matter if she ever sees her stupid friends again, and anyway, they were never really her friends. This is where she belongs.

Someone blows out the candle, but the song continues. Now, nothing else matters: only the song, and the promise, and the endless night ahead.
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OUR STORY SO FAR:
http://shoshanna813.blogspot.com/2006/02/gone-into-night.html


[This dialog is a draft for a section of my story. I'm posting it here but I'm not sure where it will go in the story, so it's pretty much out of sequence. Dess and Joli are talking about hyperspace travel. Joli is a social-sciences person and not much into the "what's under the hood of my spaceship" questions. Dess is the physics geek.]

"Okay, I know I'm not too bright about this kinda stuff," Joli is saying. "Explain this hyperspace thing one more time?"

"Well, there are other universes parallel to this one - maybe infinite numbers of them - and some are almost identical to the one we're in right now. When you make a hyperjump, you leave one universe and enter another. Jumping allows you to pick the point in spacetime where you enter."

"But if I'm going into another universe like this one ... why don't I run into another one of me?"

"It's like musical chairs. At the same time that you're making your hyperjump, the 'other you' is making a jump into still another universe."

"Hmm. I think I see. But in musical chairs, you're always short one chair."

"That's true! And when you hyperjump, there's always a small chance that the 'other you' is making a different decision. So theoretically, there's always the possibility that you might meet her. Hypertravel is never completely predictable."

"Dess, we've both hyperjumped lots of times ... it seems weird to think that you're not the same person I saw before my last jump."

"Well, think of it this way: I'm not the same person you saw yesternight, either. Or an hour ago. I've changed - and so have you. The universe is always changing, and we change with it."

"Can you change the past and future with hypertravel?" Joli asks.

"You don't need hypertravel to change the future. You do that at every moment, with every choice you make in life. But I think I know what you're asking. Suppose you traveled to the future - say tomorrow - and then you threw a pair of dice. You might see an eight on your dice, but if I stayed where I was, and waited until you arrived, I might see you roll a three or an eleven. Why? Because you - the 'you' that I saw leave - are now in a different timeline.

"Now," Dess goes on, "suppose you traveled to the past. Let's say you went back in time, and ... " She's about to say, " - and killed your mother" because that's the example people usually use; but she stops herself, because she doesn't want to bring up painful memories for Joli. So instead she says, " - and, uh, did something to change the future, maybe you visited your mother when she was young and convinced her not to have babies. That wouldn't make you stop existing, because nothing you could do in the new timeline would affect anything in your own past."

There's a long pause. Dess has a moment of dread, because she's afraid Joli is goiing to ask her whether her mother is alive in another universe. And Dess doesn't know how she's going to answer that one. But that's not what Joli asks.

"Are there people from our future out there? And why haven't we seen them?"

The question catches Dess off-guard.

"Hmmmmm. Well, remember, they wouldn't be our future, exactly ... "

Dess is stalling, and Joli knows it. "But they'd be from a future like ours, right?"

"Yeah," Dess says quietly.

"So where are they? Has anybody seen a Gilkesh spacecraft from, say, 500 years in the future?"

The answer, as far as Dess or anybody else knows, is no.

"Well," Dess says awkwardly, stalling again, "there are limits on how far you can travel in hyperspace. Even our best ships can't travel five hundred years into the future."

"But in the future they'd have better technology, right? So why haven't they ever come to us?"

"Maybe they're just not that interested. We're their past. Maybe they're not all that interested in where they came from."

"But isn't everybody?"

This time, the silence is total. In a way that neither one can articulate, Joli's question has revealed a fundamental difference in their natures.

With no answer from Dess, Joli breaks the silence.

"Well, maybe they can't. Maybe they're stuck inside some kind of space-time bubble or something."

Dess thinks about this. "Yeah," she says at last. "Or maybe we are."
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So, I'm thinking of changing the title again, but, whatever. [EDIT: So far this story has had at least four titles.] Anyway, I'm going to spend some time tonight and tomorrow writing down scenes that are currently in my head but not on the page. Then comes the matter of arranging them and filling in the gaps ... and moving forward. Currently missing is some backstory for the main characters, a few critical scientific/technical details that are needed to make the mechanics of the plot hang together in a credible way, and ... well, there's probably a lot more missing, but those are the gaps I've identified right now. As you know, I am writing this "on the fly" in serial format, which is something I've never attempted before - and if I have any sense, never will again. There's always the danger that I will "paint myself into a corner" plot-wise. But I've come this far already, so, what the hell.

Anyway, we've met all the main protagonists - and the villain! - and gotten a feel for the setting and the plot scenario. So I'm going to go ahead with this. Oh, and that new title. I'm going to do it. (It's a line from Langston Hughes.)

I opened a TypePad account yesterday, so in the future I will probably keep the full text posted in one place on TypePad and you can just scroll down for the latest installments. Meanwhile, here's the story so far just in case you haven't seen it all yet.

STORY - COMPLETE TO DATE )

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