by Dario Ciriello
Dario Ciriello is a professional author and freelance editor, as well as the founder of Panverse Publishing. Dario has also edited and copyedited over a dozen novels, as well as three critically-acclaimed SF novella anthologies (Panverse One, Two, and Three). His first novel, Sutherland’s Rules, a crime caper/thriller with a shimmer of the fantastic, was published in 2013. His new novel, a supernatural suspense thriller titled Black Easter, will be released on December 5, 2015. He lives with his wife in the Los Angeles Area.
Elvis Presley climbed out of the swingbunk and stood unsteadily in the middle of the tiny cabin. He glanced in the mirror, ran a hand through his hair, and opened the cabin seal. Lurching into the main tubeway, he put out a hand for balance and continued on, still a little dizzy from the passage through c-space. Big deal. He remembered a thousand mornings a lot nastier. Besides, this’d get better rather than worse as the day wore on.
Day? The heck it was! No days up here, not even any danged up up here, just night and stars and a godawful long way from anywhere. Okay, so maybe it was better than being dead and rotted through, which was what he’d left behind on Earth, how long ago? Almost twenty-five Earth years last time he’d checked, though it sure didn’t seem that long — wasn’t, at least not for him, because of that time-dilation thing that happened to everyone shipboard. They’d explained it to him more than once, but he still didn’t get it.
He rounded a curve and almost ran right into Attafjittararrt’turru, all eight translucent, bluish feet of him. Elvis grinned up at the big guy. “Hey, A.T., how ya doin’?”
“Thank you.” A.T., who rippled at the best of times, was swaying around like a tornado trying to get anchored. “Less than perfect, but I endure.” His spindly arms made a round gesture with a little jag in it. “The c-space passage was somewhat unsettling.”
Elvis was always fascinated by the pretty way A.T.’s throat fluttered as he spoke, except he wasn’t really speaking; A.T. kind of whistled and tooted his speech, but Elvis understood it all the same. Those little problems of translation and making the ship’s air breathable for all of them were somehow taken care of by physio modifications when they’d all gotten resurrected in the first place.
“Yeah, I feel a little rough myself. Hey, uh…” Elvis pointed down the passage with his thumb. “Seen Ula? She okay?”
“Thank you,” said A.T., oozing over against the wall to let him pass. “In her quarters. I believe she is well.”
“How ‘bout Deputy Dawg?”
“The captain is well also.”
“I mean, is he… it — “ Elvis always had a problem when he thought about the captain. The shaggy, variably-sexed creature was the only person — being — other than his Daddy that Elvis had ever been scared of in his whole life, though he could never figure out why. Sure, it was ugly, but it never had hurt him.
Did bring him here, though.
“It is at the controls. Occupied.” A.T. flattened himself even further, taking on the exact curve of the wall.
Elvis grinned and winked. He squeezed the big blue guy’s arm and eased past him in the narrow passage.
“Thank you,” said A.T.
Elvis looked into the lounge as he passed, but it was empty. Since he’d gotten used to his new life he spent a lot of his free time there, hanging with whoever was available, hearing about the others’ past lives and the homeworlds they’d never see again. A couple of times he’d sung a little gospel and told them about the Bible. In return, some of the others had talked about their beliefs, which were mostly really weird. They probably thought the same about his.
Ship life wasn’t so bad, really. In some ways it was better than being on tour back on Earth, where he’d hardly even gotten beyond his hotel room. He had the freedom of the ship, including the really cool, multiple-environment landscape park; and he got to go outdoors whenever they docked at a new planet. He’d never imagined how different planets and folks — aliens, anyway — could be from each other.
But he missed girls. Like, really missed them.
He missed human folk in general, but much less than he’d have thought. Maybe that wasn’t so strange, since half his life had been spent in the company of a very small group of folks, and a lot of that time he’d been pretty messed up.
But there’d always been plenty of girls, and this darn body was still a virgin.
On the other hand, if he ever somehow did get back to Earth, he’d just be an ordinary guy. Girls wouldn’t line up to share his bed they way they used to. But, heck, he’d probably had more tomcatting in his life than any ten ordinary guys, enough that he’d trade the partying for just one steady sweetheart.
Dream on, pal.
Ula’s lock slid open, frictionless components spiraling perfectly, and he stepped into the steamy-sweet atmosphere. He heard the seal whisper shut behind him and felt the pressure balance while his eyes were still adjusting to the rose-gray twilight of her quarters.
Shredded, frondy vegetation fluttered in humid breezes generated by hidden climatizers; a lazy, hollow clicking echoed quietly as if from a long ways away. The sounds here were different each time. Once there’d been a braying jumble of cracks and booms and eerie wailing noises, which’d made him real edgy. These were the sounds of Ula’s world. She’d told him once that of all the senses, sound carried the most meaning for her.
If the spacecraft had been an ocean liner, Ula’s quarters would have been the most luxurious stateroom on board. Of all Deputy Dawg’s bizarre menagerie, Ula had the wildest and most spectacular talents by far. A couple of the others who came from spacefaring cultures and had traveled over a good stretch of the galaxy all agreed they’d never seen anything like her. She was the star of this road show of resurrected heroes and celebrities from a score of worlds, a universal wonder wherever they docked. For this reason she rated the biggest quarters on the ship, and a full simulation of her homeworld environment.
Ula herself was lying on a flat, mossy rock, one golden foreleg dangling in the mirror pool. He felt that light caress against his heart which always came before she spoke.
—Welcome, said the voice in his mind. It is sooner than I expected.
—Been kind of homesick, Ula. Heading into a system again, you know? Does it to me every time.
—Come, sit by me,” she said.
On the thick, silky moss at Ula’s side, he gazed open-mouthed into the cloudy opals of her veiled eyes.
Ula — or the original from which this Ula had been sampled — was a Hara on her home planet, a kind of natural leader somehow able to link the minds of her ancient and scattered people and help direct their progress. Each generation threw up just one Hara, and there was something like a priesthood whose only purpose was to find each new Hara and care for her.
In answer to her mental prompt, he took off his loafers and dangled his feet in the glassy waters. Her dappled tail flicked, curling around behind him so that the end of it came to rest over his left thigh. The first time she did that he’d felt as though his skin were trying to crawl away from the rest of him. Now, he kind of welcomed it. The gal had soul.
She reared up, glistening, the spiky ruffle along her chest inflating quickly as the opal membranes over her emerald eyes began to retract. Before they’d even cleared he felt a jolt as though he’d been brushed with a cattle prod, and he knew he’d be gone the instant he met her stare directly.
He did it anyway.
His surroundings unmade themselves from the edges inward, until he was sucked into the green sea of her eyes. Suns and worlds and scads of time brushed against him, offering his flapping mind a dizzying choice of probabilities, and snatching them away in an eyeblink.
God! she was so strong this time, he thought, as the black wind swept him away.
On these trips, his mind and Ula’s became downright fused — had to be, he guessed, since it was her mental abilities that let him revisit Earth across the awful black emptiness of interstellar space in what he thought of as real time. He just had to think of where he wanted to go next, and she took him there with only a quick, wrenching snap! in his ghost-mind to let him know anything at all had happened.
He’d been thinking of Graceland.
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You can view the Table of Contents and read excerpts from these stories here.
- Fiction: “The Attic of Memories” by Sunil Patel — A bucket list with a life of its own.
- Fiction: “I Miss Flowers” by Alexandra Grunberg— When living forever isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
- Fiction: “Elvis has Left the Building” by Dario Ciriello— The King was only the opening act.
- Fiction: “Cartographer’s Ink” by Beth Cato — Conquering a map, literally.
- Fiction: “Ro-Sham-Bot” by Effie Seiberg — What do you do with an old, obsolete robot’s heart?
- Reviews: “The Fan: Virgin Ghosts, Virgin Priestesses, and Virgin Vampires” by Carole McDonnell — In this month’s column, Carole McDonnell reviews the American film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the Korean series Oh My Ghostess!, the 2012 film Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker, and Abengoni, Charles Saunders African-inspired sword and sorcery novel.
- Reviews: “The Magic Lantern: Erasing the Origins” by Adam-Troy Castro— Adam-Troy Castro uses the Western as a model for what should and shouldn’t be done to cope with the modern comic book movie epidemic. Err. Renaissance! Full disclosure: A-T C writes comics, as well as other things, and his opinions are fascinating.
- Reviews: “Area 51 1/2 September-October 2015” by Steven Sawicki — In this issue our resident Alien reviews novels by John Scalzi, Adam Christopher, John C. Wright, short fiction by Kelly Link, and the animated short THE OCEANMAKER, written and directed by Lucas Martell.
- Reviews: “New & Noteworthy Short Genre Fiction: September-October 2015” by Gillian Daniels— Gillian reviews stories by C.S.E. Cooney, Jei D. Marcade, Arie Coleman, Sofia Samatar, and Charlie Jane Anders.