by Danielle L. Parker
There is a red-haired child pulling the ears of a kitten at my table. I am angry that it is there, that red-headed child, with the mewing, squalling kitten pinched in its chubby arms, because I am lifting a glass to my lady Jocasta, and the night breeze blows through the curtains, and she is there, my adulterous love, as ethereal as moonlight, and as poignant as the red, red rose she is shredding in her fingers.
“Do you think he’ll be all right?” she says (she said it then), as she shreds the red, red rose, and drops its petals on the white cloth between us.
“My love,” I say, “it is no more than he has done a dozen times before. Rally the troops, show the royal presence, and so on. Why do you worry so this time?”
“I do not know,” she whispers and bows her head, as a fall of her pale, pale hair hides her face.
I lift it up and kiss her cold mouth. “Drink, love,” I say.
The red-haired child is choking the kitten now, and beside it, wavering like smoke, a small boy kicks a whining dog. “Drink, and think no more of it. This is our night.”
But she is distracted (as she was then), for there is a low cold voice that whispers on the night air, and I turn and shout at it and its explanations. Go away! I cry, but it does not.
The red petals are stripped now, and her fingers red too, pricked by the thorns. “We’ve killed him,” she says, and weeps, as a crying woman strains and gives forth a flood of blood and a pallid homunculus, a small thing no longer than my finger.
I turn then, as she weeps over her bloodied hands, and I see them dimly through the dissolving wall of our rose arbor: twelve small children with a sad-eyed woman as their guide, and a red-haired girl hiding her face in her hands among them.
I see them, and I stretch out my own hands to them, and I beg them. “These are my ghosts,” I cry. “These are my ghosts. Leave me to my beloved ghosts!”
* * *
From Dvorak’s Star Encyclopedia: The telepathic aboriginal inhabitants of the prison planet Nexus IV have the unusual ability to manifest visibly the inner traumas of other species. This defense mechanism has proved so effective that Nexus IV has only one permanent inmate: the infamous Arhan, surnamed the Betrayer, brother of King Allyn II.
Arhan betrayed his royal sibling to his death in 691 F.E. and was subsequently condemned to life imprisonment. Queen Jocasta committed suicide upon learning of the death of her husband.
Tours may be arranged by special permission, but extreme caution is advised in view of the risk of the hallucinogenic effects of the native inhabitants.
Copyright © 2010 by Danielle L. Parker