Thursday, September 12, 2013


Fenris Ulf has heard the stories, of course. The songs and prayers and speeches, yes, those too. Ulf hid behind a ridge or crept low in the underbrush or sat still as a shadow just above the traitors and listened. He noted the scents of those enraptured below, the decadent creatures who would have Narnia again occupied by their great king of cats. Tyrant Aslan, the colonizing lion from beyond the sea who they would have curled up on the true queen’s throne. Low forest creatures called out the name and hoped the aristocratic centaurs and unicorns would be impressed. The captain of her majesty’s secret police scoffed in the dark before giving the order to move in every time, wondering how many of these traitors were even old enough to remember the failed, false reign of Aslan.

Ulf remembers. He was barely more than a pup in the twilight of Aslan’s occupation, but he remembers. Narnia sits at a juncture point in the multiverse where at least four pagan dimensions worth of mythic creatures crash into one another. Some of these creatures can traverse the whole world simply by imagining themselves in the place they want to be. Nymphs are forever deconstructing and reconstructing some of the kingdom’s most crucial architecture. Throughout Narnia, there are countless points where the membrane of reality is dangerously thin, where creatures from yet more worlds can come wandering in. The pretender’s sycophants call Aslan’s reign a golden age because they’ve only lived it in the stories of the privileged. When Ulf remembers Aslan’s reign, Ulf remembers chaos.

Aslan plays at the throne but prefers the pageant of the monarchy to any of its responsibility. Even the most obsequious of the traitors admit how prone Aslan is to wandering away from Cair Paravel. What good is a ruler that won’t rule? What right had Aslan to power when the lion would not wield it and impose order? Narnia of old was a failed state where not even the very shape of the countryside could be relied upon from day to day. And Aslan’s reasoning for this neglect? A prophecy that claims Narnia’s four thrones await four children of Adam and Eve; that Aslan is only to be steward until humans return to seize power.

Ulf knows what humans do to wolves.

This prophecy – this conspiracy – will be nothing but a traitor’s fantasy so long as Fenris Ulf lives. Before Great Queen Jadis brought the Winter’s Peace to Narnia, half the creatures who now curse her would have lived as vassals to the half that now bid them to praise the lion. Their ingratitude to the true queen and their toadying to Aslan the occupier, Aslan the pretender, make Ulf sicker than anything he can think of. They gather for these pitiful meetings, low creatures letting high creatures spin them pretty stories about a careless lion who would cede their realm to humans. They dream of a golden age that none of them saw, all the while disdaining the hundred years of peace their true queen has won for them!

Ulf has confessed to this only once, and only to Queen Jadis herself, but breaking up these meetings is one of his truest pleasures in this world. Usually the strength of the traitors is so pathetic that he need not even be on hand when her majesty’s secret police capture the conspirators. At such times, Ulf won’t give the order to strike until he’s circled round downwind of the meeting. He loves to sit where the scent of the traitors’ hope is thickest, where he can hear their heartbeats rising in exultation to the pretender. There is nothing so sweet in all of Narnia as the sound of that joyful drumbeat collapsing into panic when the queen’s police spring from the treeline. There is nothing Ulf savors so thoroughly as the scent of their hope flaring over with terror. On a night like that, Ulf won’t walk down to review the prisoners until well after the wind has changed.

Their excuses for trying to break the Winter’s Peace are all tedious variants of the same flimsy story. To be truthful, Ulf scarcely makes note of their reasons for defying the queen beyond their admissions of having done so. As voices quaver, as their lying eyes search his face for pity, Ulf wonders to himself where this next conspirator will go in her majesty’s statue garden once she has carried out their sentence and turned them into stone. He has helped her to populate and arrange it for years now and is developing quite an eye.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Morning bootup. My roommate with his hood over his head, grabbing his Pepsi bottle by the neck from the fridge door. Me in track pants, fumbling with the coffee pot. I pour coffee into the only mug I use, this monstrosity with the New York City subway on it that can take half the pot in one go. He heads outside to light a cigarette and that’s our morning dosages sorted. The planetary rotation that, according to our calendar, is called the second day of September in two thousand and thirteen, year of our lord (‘common era’ if you’re nasty) has been underway for eight hours.

The sun has reached Olympia, meaning the entire continent has been under photon bombardment all morning. Eight light minutes from the vapor of our atmosphere, there’s this terrifying mass of hydrogen and helium, its heart made of billions of atom bombs going off on top of each other every second, its skin made of cooling solar supercontinents that drift, collide, crack and crush down into the core to explode outward again. We call it the sun. It has done lethal violence or regarded with fatal neglect every other planet in its orbit. Our planet has the staggering good fortune to spin at the exact right distance that most of the planet stays the right kind of melted. The core is molten rock and metal which spins fast enough to generate a magnetic field, repelling the worst of the cosmic death rays space throws at us. We live on the cool outer crust of smoldering slag that careens through the cosmos and call it Earth. Water has been available here in the full gas-liquid-solid sampler pack in such abundance for so long that we went ahead and made most of our bodies out of it.

Right now, I’m using water to deliver caffeine molecules to my stomach and intestines. I’m vague on what happens next but the net result is a boost in heart rate and mental clarity that I did not earn. Situps or yoga could have brought me to roughly the same place and I wouldn’t have the soft core existential crisis of a coffee crash to deal with later. A more responsible and honest means of getting my eyes to open for sure but sometimes it’s nice to sit and sip a liquid that will handle things. Long ago, my great great grandcells began to divide and duplicate, building up complexity, eventually splashing onto dry land once there was dry land to splash up on. They took their show on the road and became mammals, primates, humans - us. Human coats and claws and tusks are nothing to speak of at all and we’re the most dangerous animal on the planet because we figured out how to build or steal all the coats and claws and tusks we needed. Our senses are dull and dim but our tools can see in the dark. We’ve built eyes that can look deep into the dark beyond the magnetic field and layer of orbital water vapor that keeps the dark from killing us all. My guts and this coffee are compatible. The liquid can do the waking up for me.

Our tools peel back the dark, it’s true, but we still do most of our scurrying around when the sun is out and we can see what we’re doing. When the dark comes back, we’re going to need somewhere safe and clean to go with a bit of light and a bit of food waiting for us. We need food and safe places to survive, which is probably why we’re in such mortal terror of losing them or even sharing them. Thousands of years fine tuning the hive and it still doesn’t have a good place to put all the humans it produces, that’s the story. There are eighteen million, six hundred thousand unoccupied homes in the United States and three and a half million humans without a home to occupy. One million, five hundred and seventy-one thousand and thirteen humans are in our prisons. That’s roughly five million, two hundred thousand human beings that generally make nice people who drink coffee in the morning feel nervous and guilty.

There are four humans in this house and together, we generate enough money to occupy it legally. Would we resent it if the 5.2 million humans the hive can’t seem to sort in were simply given a safe, clean place to be? We work to maintain ours but we also know those other 5.2 million people also need one. There would still be 13.4 million vacant houses left over. Would that be enough? In late republican Rome, debt could get so brutal that a plebeian could lose possession of his body and become a slave. Sometimes, such an end was designed right into the terms of their loans. Other plebeians, in general, didn’t look at such slaves as the victims of a rigged and exploitative economic ideology. They said “what losers” and scrambled to avoid joining them.

I slept somewhere safe and clean last night and I get to drink a cup of coffee in my track pants before dealing with today. It’s obscene that I should be so much luckier than five million and two hundred thousand other human beings in my own country, and that’s without even really looking at the chart. That’s without considering the situation of the billions of other humans surviving elsewhere under the same thin layer of vapor and electromagnetic energy. I’m just some fucking guy: I could have been born anywhere, into any other life. My bag of coffee grounds is from the co-op and there’s a picture of a smiling grower on it but what do I know about how this stuff got to me? I just put it in the machine and poured in the water.

There are days I spend at work; to be sure I’ll have another month in the safe, clean place that contains my possessions. Other days I spend on projects and obsessions because my soul goes sour if I don't. The sun only passes over this hemisphere for so much time; there are only so many scurrying hours in a day and only so many for sleeping at night. I get to do that sleeping under a roof of more-or-less my choosing because I’m extraordinarily lucky. I’m alive to experience a roof or a bed at all because I’m fantastically, cosmically lucky. There's a life I'm trying to build and I'm getting damned close to having all the pieces.

But right now I’m trying to make excuses for my sloth and ignorance because I know that every hour spent goofing off is one I could have spent helping out or at least reading up. I’ve forgotten what I was trying to say with this but that I’ll try to have the decency not to complain about anything I get to experience today. There will never be another second day of September in two thousand and thirteen and there are things that will not be done if I don’t do them.

I drank all the coffee and now it’s time to go.