Days Of Future Past

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the future - a future in which people have flying cars and flying houses; where diners were run by sentient bots embedded in the walls; where there are colonies in other planets.

You see, I read Clifford Simak when I was very young, and that was the future I'd thought we have.  I understand there are many reasons - many of them having to do with regulation more than with anything else - why we don't.  (For instance, I suspect that the main reason we don't have space colonies is the treaty that says no one can own a piece of space.  It's unnatural, unrealistic, and it stops exploration - but not a subject for this post.)  I also understand in some instances that future might have been impractical.  Flying cars seem a particularly quixotic idea.  But that world had a dreamy, rosy glow about it, being invested with the dreams of childhood.

I'm not displeased with the world we do have, mind you.  For one, our computers are better than theirs.  But I am forever enthralled of the idea that there is some other universe where this future of gadgets and regular moon flights is true.

This story below, Wait Until The War Is Over is based on the idea that the real world is that future, and that some people can perceive it/cross over.  It was published in Gateways (a DAW anthology.)

Needless to say, this is in its unproofed state.  The one published was properly copyedited, but not this one.

 


 Wait Until The War Is Over

 

 Sarah A. Hoyt

"And then the aliens came," My father said.

He stood in his blue-and-white pajamas by the potted plant in the living room, watering can in hand, and he looked at me with his earnest, intent dark blue eyes.

I rushed forward and grabbed the watering can and sniffed it.  As I'd thought, he'd filled it from the coffee maker in the kitchen.  The plastic  felt hot to the touch.

As I pulled it from his unresisting hands, he whispered softly, "Our lives were never the same again."

I set the watering can down.  Coffee wouldn't probably have been any worse for the rubber tree than the chocolate milk in the cat's dish had been for the cat's digestion last week - leading to a couple of messes to clean up but perfectly survivable - but I wasn't about to find out.

I took dad by the arm and led him up the stairs.

"The battle for Marstown," he said.  "You should have been there.  You were in the Academy still, of course.   All those low flying warblers coming in at low-altitude, flaring their deep bombs and scaring the greenies..."

It sounded like gibberish.  It probably was gibberish.  The doctors to whom I'd started taking dad about six months ago said that he had some form of dementia.  I wasn't so sure.  It was more like he'd sulked permanently away from reality and into a more exciting world of his own creation - an amalgam of all the pulp science fiction tales he'd read in youth.

I led dad slowly up the stairs to the second floor of his house, his feet shuffling on the steps with hesitant, slow, small movements, as if the control of his legs were completely divorced from his brain and carried on with no more intent than an automatic process.  I'd take a step up the stairs and wait, until he sort of shuffled up, then take another.

And all the while, his voice went on, with all the liveliness missing from his brown-suede-slippered feet.  "I thought it was going to be a total massacre.  Particularly if they hit the underground habitat and it-"

I coaxed him up the final step and he followed, onto the long narrow hallway of the Victorian he and Mother had bought half a century ago.  It had been old then.  Now it was organic, a house that was part of people, and whose meandering rooms filled with the nicknacks and remnants of their life together resembled a living organism more than anything else.

 Then down the hallway, shuffling step by shuffling step, while he shouted and commanded and instructed about greenies, warblers, glimmerers, zoomers and who knew what else.  He was describing some sort of battle set, as far as I could tell, on Mars, and he seemed to be under the impression that he was some great hero, some commander, someone that future generations would care about.

"Historians will say that my decision to mine the deep-under habitat caused the loss of invaluable hydroponic cultures that could have prevented  the near-famine of ninety nine," he said, in a reasonable tone.  "But you'll find that without it, we'd have lost humans and humans must always be the measure of the universe."

While his voice carried on in this way, his body shuffled along in the hesitant steps a toddler might take along the hallway to the door to his room - next to my own childhood room.  Which was good because that meant I could hear him when he decided to get up and do chores in the middle of the night, or - even worse - to go walking through the darkened streets while his unmoored mind flitted around some other universe.

He'd been like this since Mother died six months ago.  Though, to be honest, it might have happened before and Mother might simply never have said anything about it.  In fact, she might not have noticed.  She'd always considered Dad as somewhat of a child and a danger to himself, so taking sharp objects away from him and making sure he didn't leave the house alone might have crept into their routine so gradually that she'd never noticed.

But when I'd come for my mother's funeral, I'd found Dad like this.  And I hadn't been able to leave since.

I led him to his bed, turned back the roiled covers and coaxed him into lying down, then covered him up.  I closed the curtain he had opened.  Outside, the snow fell, ever faster and thicker over the neighborhood of tall, narrow gingerbreads in which I'd grown up.

Looking out, I almost understood my dad, too.  Where were our flying cars, our rolling sidewalks, our spaceships, our moon colonies?  Here we were in the twenty first century and it looked dismally like the nineteenth.

"Euridyce?" Dad said, from the bed.

He sounded so much like his old self, like the man who held my hand and explained it all to me while the moon rockets flew in our black-and-white tv, that I turned around.  "Yes?"

"Shouldn't you be going back to Colorado?" He said.  "Don't you have a job to return to?  You know you can't take this long off just to nurse me."

Surprised by his sanity, I blinked.  My job in Colorado,  the accounting job that my boss said he'd hold for me, might very well vanish in another month.  I thought of how much I loved the mountains, the sense of self-sufficiency and freedom of the west.  And I thought of Glen and my heart seized.

Glen was a redheaded giant computer programmer, the companion of my hikes through the wild country.  We'd been going out together for a year, slowly ambling towards feelings that surpassed friendship. 

I'd thought we were coming to an understanding, but he hadn't called for the last month and could I blame him?  I had disappeared into Rocktown in the wilds of Connecticut and never returned.   I answered his calls but never called first.

He couldn't know that days spent chasing after Dad and keeping him away from sharp objects and from watering plants with rubbing alcohol or giving his life savings to the UPS delivery man left me too exhausted to think of anything else.

But now, for the first time in six months, my dad was speaking softly and it wasn't about some space war.  "I know you're worried about me, honey," he said.  "But you have a ... duty, you know?"

I got near the bed, and put my hand on his hand which rested on the covers.  His hand was still as large and bluntly square-fingered as it had been in my childhood, but it felt papery and brittle like parchment against my own skin.  The suggestion of strength had been replaced with something else - a dryness, as if he were fading from the inside out and becoming a shadow of himself. 

"It's okay," I said.  Perhaps he'd only gone distracted over Mom's death.  They'd never been what you'd call a classically happy couple, but you could never judge these things from the outside.  Perhaps he'd gone a little crazy and would be all right now.  "Now that you're getting better I'll just stay a little longer.  It won't hurt anything."

But he shook his head, a flurry of anxiety against the pillow, white hair flying this way and that.  "It can hurt a lot Euridyce.  Think about it.  If you're not there and I'm not there and they attack the moon colonies, they could have a complete victory.  And find the Earth defenseless. The troops won't know what to do without a Mayhem in command. "

"What-"

He pulled his hand out from under mine and patted my hand reassuringly.  "Get you to Colorado and take the jumper to Tycho as soon as possible.  Don't you worry about me.  I've been laser-burned in battle before, and it will all come out all right.  The Space Command will take good care of me."

I pulled my hand away, turned off his light and closed the door softly.

"Goodnight dad," I said, just as the phone started ringing down in the living room.
 #

The only phone in the house was in the living room and sturdily wired to the wall.  For reasons known only to her, mother disapproved of wireless phones, cable tv and microwaves.  And I'd thought I'd only stay on a little while after her death.  I hadn't bothered bringing the conveniences of life with me.  Nor had I had much time for shopping.

However, running and slipping along the wooden living room floor, trying to reach the phone before the person on the other side gave up, I promised myself I was going to buy a wireless phone if it was the last thing I did.  Or remember to charge my cell phone, no matter how many times my dad watered the cat or fed kibble to the rubber plant tomorrow.

I grabbed the phone mid plaintive ring, and panted "Hello," into the receiver.

For a moment there was no answer and I thought I'd got it too late, then Glen's voice said, "Dicey?"

"Yes."  It was probably a revolting nickname, but it was okay because he called me that.   "Yes."

He hesitated and cleared his throat and my heart thumped so loud and fast I thought I wouldn't be able to hear anything, anyway.  He was going to tell me he was seeing someone else.  He was going to tell me I'd stayed away too long-

"Er," he said.  "Dicey..."

"Yes," I said again.  I thought I heard a door close upstairs, but though I strained to hear anything else, nothing came.  I was just imagining my dad was leaving his room.  I was hoping my dad would stage one of his aimless escapes so that I didn't have to stand here and hear the bad news.

"I've been thinking," he said.

"Yes?" Was that a step on the stairs?

"Will you... I mean... I know you're looking after your father and, but maybe if we can put him in a home near us.  I mean, there's some good-"

Near us?  What did he mean?

"Dicey, what I want to ask is, would you consider coming back and marrying me?"

"I..." I said and thought that I couldn't.  I couldn't leave dad alone for long enough to even arrange a wedding.  And a home... what if we put dad in a home and it turned out to be one of those nightmare places where they abused old people?  I could never live with myself.

The truth was I'd be worrying about dad all the time.  My marriage would wilt before it even began.

Still.... being married to Glen.  Just the thought of being with him all the time, of being loved and cherished, of not being alone with my fears for my dad and an insane load of work was tempting.

I wanted to accept.  But it was impossible.  We should wait until father was a little more stable.  We should...

The metal on metal noise of the back-door latch being opened, then the sound of the screen door slamming echoed in the silent house.  A rush of cold, cold air streamed from the door between the kitchen and the living room.

"Oh, Lord," I said.

"Dicey?"

"Dad has gone out," I said.  "I have to go."  Slamming the phone down, I ran through the kitchen, past the dinner dishes stacked on the counter.  I opened the screen door and ran out, hearing it swing closed behind me.

Outside, the snow was coming down fast and blinding and the cold stung through my flannel shirt and my jeans.  The indoor moccasins on my feet were, fortunately, fur lined.

I listened for the sound of Dad's shuffling steps, but all I could hear was the dead silence of a snow storm - the snow absorbing all sounds and giving back only the loudest.

"Dad?" I called, half hoping he would answer me.  Not sure why, because he never had before.  When he was on one of his walks around the neighborhood he was more lost than ever in the world of the mind.  "Dad?"

Nothing.  From a few streets away came the muffled sound of a car horn.

I looked down and thought I saw, on the glimmering fresh snow, the faint track of shuffling feet fast being erased by the piling on of new flakes.  I started following it, hesitantly.

The cold stung on my ears.  I folded my arms on my chest and tucked my vulnerable hands under my arms.  My nose dripped with cold.  "Dad?"

Nothing.  The traces on the snow were very faint indeed and they could easily be the track of some animal that had passed through here hours ago.

I strained to hear, but there was nothing.  The snow clung to my long chestnut-brown hair, soaking through it to wet my scalp.

The door.  I'd left the door open and only the screen door on.  The neighborhood was safe, but still...  The cold would stress the heating system.  I might end up with frozen pipes.

I should go back.  I should go back and call nine one one and let someone else find Dad in this white, blinding maze.

But if I did, the traces of his shuffling - if they were that - would surely be gone.  And then what?  Dad could freeze to death out here, alone, in the cold, and no one would know.

He hadn't been the best of fathers.  Too restless to hold any real job after he'd left the Air Force, too much of a dreamer for any of his investment schemes to pay off.  And I often thought he and Mother had been too involved with each other to even notice I existed.

But Dad had been the one who read books to me, and talked to me about the bright future of flying cars and moving sidewalks and interstellar colonies that waited my generation.

He'd taught me to believe in a better future and even if his dreams hadn't come to pass, I couldn't quite forget them.

"Dad?"  A shuffling sound, just ahead.  "Dad?"  I stretched my hand.

There was a flare ahead, a multicolored flare - bright red and green light fading away to tones of violet and glaring yellow.  A hand grabbed my hand.  Not Dad's hand.  A strong, young hand with supple skin.

It enveloped mine, and another hand reached for my arm, and then it pulled me, and I fell to the soft snow with a heavy, warm male body on top of me.

"Keep down, keep down, keep down," he shouted and, all the while, his body covered mine.  "They're warbling Rocktown.  The command shields are flaring, but zoomers still might get through."

The voice was familiar - Glen's voice? - and the hands were strong, and around us lights were changing color and there was a soft, never ending pop pop pop pop, and things - like little pebbles - zoomed by my face, leaving a trail of incandescent heat.

Then it all stopped, and it was just white snow falling, and silence all around, and I was being hauled to my feet like an ill-stuffed potato sack, and Glen's voice was saying, "Lady, don't you know a hush-down alert when you hear one?  What did you think the white-out was for?  What are you doing out of the shelter?"

And then he looked at me - in the insufficient light at the heart of the snow storm - and his green eyes widened further, and his mouth opened a little and he said, "Dicey!  I thought you were in Tycho."

My heart was beating near my mouth, the proximity of him, the scent of him - sweat and soap and cologne - felt like coming home after the six months apart.  I'd never thought we'd meet again and I'd thought-

I reached for him and touched his sleeve, which felt odd and oddly warm, as if his bright blue cling-on shirt were made of living tissue.  And then I realized he was wearing very odd clothes indeed - a bright blue shirt and bright blue pants, all of it clinging to his body and molding every muscle from his broad shoulders to his narrow hips, and the long legs beneath.  A sort of collar around his neck held what could only be described as a military insignia - if military insignias were little rockets topped with a row of stars.

Still, he looked exactly like himself with that ruddy tan that pale people acquire when they're outdoors a lot, and the square chin and the too-open-to-be-handsome bright green eyes.

He looked like the Colorado boy he'd been in his childhood; like the mountain town man he'd grown up into.

All of it at odds with the science fiction-movie getup.

I opened my mouth to ask about the costume and why he hadn't told me, on the phone, that he was in the neighborhood, but he grabbed me and enveloped me, totally, in his muscular arms.  "Dicey, damn it Dicey, I thought you were in Tycho.  I thought you were dead."

"Tycho?" I asked, blinking puzzledly at him, and thinking that Dad had said something about Tycho.

"Tycho under.  It was warbled by the greenies.  An hour ago?  Don't you know?  Weren't you plugged in?"

He looked at me and ran his hands over my head, as if expecting to feel something.  "Where's your halo?" he asked.  "And why are you out of uniform?  Were you on injured leave?  Why didn't you tell me?"

I shook my head.  Something was wrong with me.  I had started sharing Dad's illusions.  "I..." I said.  "I was looking after Dad.  I was-"

Glen nodded.  "Commander Absalom Mayhem.  None of this would have happened if he'd been at Tycho."  He nodded.  "If we'd had a Mayhem in command..."

His voice trailed.  He shook his head.  "No matter.  You couldn't have known.  At least you came out at the hush-down call."  He grinned, his mischievous grin.  "Even if without your uniform or halo.  Still, I'm glad you're ready to resume duty.  Let's galoomph."

I looked blankly up at him.  He stared down at me and nodded, as if understanding my expression.  "No galoomph boots?  No prob.  I've got the belt."

And before I knew what he was doing, he put the belt around my waist and attached it to his and then started ... jumping.  Only jumping seemed like a strange word to describe taking block-long leaps and falling gently onto the snow.  But now, it couldn't be snow, could it?

I had stopped feeling cold after Glen showed up.  And the stuff falling around us had a dry, papery texture, like shredded Styrofoam.  It crunched underfoot like crushed walnuts each time we landed.  And during the jump itself, there was a Gaaaaa-loooooom-phhhhh sound.

"I hate galoomphing in white-out," Glen said.  Fortunately I have the halo guide on."

I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and wished he'd go back to greenies.  At least I could understand that.

As it was, I could do no more than allow myself to go along, limply, as he - ah - galoomphed for what seemed like half a mile.

It was a dream.  It had to be a dream.  But my dreams had never been this vivid.  I could smell Glen and feel his muscles against mine, as the belt pulled us together.

He was here.  Or I was here.  I'd swear to it.

Real.

And then we emerged from the white out.  The fake snow receded.  And there was...

My mouth dropped open and I swallowed, convulsively.  That was it.  Dad's hallucinations were definitely catching and I'd caught them.

Ahead of me was the future.  At least the future as it was going to be circa nineteen thirty - brightly colored, domes and towers erected cheek to jowl and seemingly with no pattern.  Around them wound even brighter colored... they looked like plastic car tracks, of the sort that bent into improbable configurations.  Along the tracks, people slid.  Or rather people stood on the tracks and seemed to slide along.  The people closer to us, those I could see well enough, wore clothing that looked much like Glen's but which ran to stranger colors, like bright purple and glaring pink.  And there was a shine around their heads and, as I looked at Glen, I saw the same shine around his.  Was that the halo he'd talked about?  And what did it do?

"We'll get you into Command," he said.  "And get you haloed in.  That white-out there was the first attack on earth in fifty years.  I think the shields held.  At least the halo says so.  But you know the next hit will be harder.  I'm just glad both you and your father are here."

He undid the belt around my middle.  We were standing at a door - round door - to a building.  It irised open as we walked forward.  There were a lot of people dressed like Glen, though some wore red uniforms and some had silver emblems on their collars.

Inside the building, it looked like the walls had been poured of glass -- all gleaming fluid curves in colors as vivid as the clothes -- pink, purple, yellow, lime green and electric blue.

They saluted each other according to some protocol I couldn't fathom.  And they all saluted me.  We floated up a central open space that Glen called an anti-grav well, up to a third floor railing, where he reached and hauled himself into a platform.  I followed.

We were in some sort of command center, and Dad stood there - in a red uniform with a collar bearing a spaceship and ten stars -  on a little platform, talking to people.  Haranguing them.

I understood very little of what he was saying.  Something about Tycho Under being gone and no defenses remaining between the greenies and earth.  How it was up to us to keep the home of humanity safe.  How it was time to show the greenies they couldn't wipe humanity out.  We weren't ready to go.  We'd never be ready to go.

It had the sound of a brave speech and a desperate speech.  But the thing is, Dad sounded as he would have at his most persuasive.  He was the commander and with him in command, things just might be all right.

Father had found the vocation that had eluded him in the life I remembered.  He was respected and obeyed.

He paused in his speech and looked at me, "Ah, Euridyce.  Glad you joined us.  And Captain Glen Braxladen, of course.  The greenies will return.  They'll be better armed, ready to penetrate our shields.  This time people must defend the world.  I'm glad we have our best fighters here.  We need all of them."

I wanted to say I had no idea what they were talking about, but somehow I couldn't.  The room was packed with uniformed men and women and they were all looking at Dad and then at me, as if they believed him some sort of Messiah and had almost equal faith in my abilities.

Glen led me to a room where the door irised open and he said, "Get suited up and haloed in.  I don't think we have much time and I'd like to...   Remember what I asked last time I haloed you in Tycho?  I'd like to do it now, if you don't mind.   I'll mention it to your father.  Just get suited up and let's see if we have time before we take off."

I wanted to ask enough time for what, but his eyes had gone all serious.  He leaned in and kissed me.  "Just in case, you know..." he said.

His lips were warm against mine, his mouth hungry, his tongue probing.

I nodded, dazed by his kiss and not sure what he meant.  Inside the room which was small and oval, the white walls gave the impression of having been poured out of some glassy material, there was a red suit hanging. 

I put it on.  It fit perfectly.  On the hook, where the suit had been, there was what looked like a very fine, metallic circle.  Something that might have been made of piano wire.  The halo.  Obviously.

I set it on my head, wondering if there was something else I should be doing.

There was warmth.  I could tell it was glowing.

And then... Oh, it wasn't that I remembered.  I mean, this world still didn't make any sense to me.  I still didn't know how I'd got here and thought it all too likely that Dad had some sort of contagious madness.

But with the halo on, I found facts being fed to my puzzlement, my questions being answered before they were asked.

It was all still madness.  I was sure I was still hallucinating.  But this hallucination had footnotes.

Greenies were insect-like aliens.  They'd come just after we'd got to the moon.  At first, they'd almost exterminated us.  But we'd got their technology and reverse-engineered it.

We had moon colonies, and rolling sidewalks and ships and...

And dad's heart murmur, which had precluded his ever joining the space program in the world I remembered all too clearly had been fixed here.  The aliens had brought in bio-technology which helped the regeneration of defective organs.

The price of all that advancement had been a war of extermination waged on us.

Dad had been one of the first astronauts.  He'd become the chief commander of the troops when the aliens had attacked Marstown, our first Martian colony.  He had achieved a resounding victory against superior numbers and become a legend in his own time.

I walked out of the dressing room, in a daze.  A beautiful redheaded woman smiled at me, didn't salute.  She too wore a red uniform.

The halo told me she was commander Hazel Stein.  She'd been my roommate in the Space Academy where I'd learned to pilot flitters and command flitter detachments.

Her husband was...  Robert?  I could not remember.  I remembered they had twin sons, though, and I smiled at her, in as friendly a way as I could manage, considering I had no real memory of our friendship.

"Don't worry," she said.  "My wedding was a five month nightmare of preparation followed by a hellish three day whirlwind.  This will be quick and easy.  You'll survive."  Her face clouded momentarily.  "At least, I hope you will.  The greenies are returning in force, they say.  We don't have much time for personal business before they get here."

The halo informed me that the greeny battle squadrons had encircled Earth, that they'd destroyed the other solar system colonies, that the grimmest phase of the war was about to begin.

Meanwhile, Hazel escorted me into a small room which had...  Dad, standing at the front and on either side, forming an isle down the center, a group of people - men and women - in uniforms that my halo identified as friends, acquaintances and my subordinates.

Glen was up front, looking nervous.  He turned as I came in, with Hazel by my side and gave me a wan smile.

This looked like a wedding.  Were we-?

As I got up front, Glen took my hands.  "Thank you for agreeing to do this.  I know we'd agreed to wait until the war was over, but what if it never is?"

The ceremony was brief and utilitarian.  Halfway through it, my halo started screaming "Greeny ships flying towards Peace City.  White Out called in New York.  White Out Denver Outbound Spaceport.  White Out Cape Canaveral.  White-out in Rio.  White-out Milano.  White-out Pris.  White-out Venice.  White out-"

Through it, I heard Dad's words, "Take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and honor and-"

When he stopped talking I said "I do."

Glen took me in his arms.  The halo was going crazy its voice-thought overrunning my own thoughts.

And over it all Dad said, "To those who say it is foolhardy of them to marry just before the great battles, I say we all get married before  great battles.  If humanity waited until the war was over there would be no humanity.  Go forth and multiply and-" his voice subsided for a moment under the halo's mind screams that New York was being warbled and came back again, full force, "Wipe the bastards from the galaxy."

And then we were running, Glen and I side by side, and the halo let me know which ship to take, and I jumped in.

Suddenly there were memories.  Or at least, not memories, but the ship felt familiar.  The vaguely ozony smell inside it, the fit of the seat, like a living thing wrapping around me.   The ship felt like something I'd known and loved a long time.

It was a one-person ship, shaped roughly like a kidney bean and bright yellow.

It closed around me.  The seat... hugged me in a tight, cushiony embrace.

Before I could even look for a button or lever, it took off.  Very fast.  Other ships zoomed around me.  My stomach flew to my mouth.

I swallowed.

My eyes closed in an involuntary flinch.

When they opened again, I was in space or at least somewhere dark and deep like rich black velvet pin-pointed with flickering fireflies.

Around me, here and there, like colored marbles scattered on a black pavement, other ships ranged.  I wished I knew which one was Father's, which was Glen's.

The halo started to transmit something about Glen's ship, but suddenly the enemy showed up.

Their ships were grey, circular and flat, like coins or saw blades.

They didn't so much look evil as inhuman.  Something about them proclaimed that no ape-hands had fashioned it, no humanoid-brain had designed it.

This was why the greenies wanted us gone.  We were just as alien to them -- as filled with murderous otherness.  As evil.

One of the ships made straight for me and flared.  I saw a ray of light fly towards me.

 I couldn't find any controls and the halo started saying it was all mentally controlled, through the halo which was connected to a series of computers which controlled all of-

I wished myself sideways.  The ship flipped.

Light flew by.

Another enemy ship approached, flaring at me.

And another.

I thought up, down, sideways, tilt and jump.

My ship danced and skipped like a skittish gymnast.

Around me, vaguely glimpsed other ships flared and fired laser beams.  Our ships or theirs.  I couldn't tell.

I hoped Glen was all right and heard his voice in my head, "Fire at them, Dicey.  You can't just wait till they're all around you.  Fire now.  Don't try to be a hero."

I wasn't trying to be a hero.  I didn't know how to fire.

But if I didn't they'd mass around me.  And if they massed around me, they'd go past to bomb Rocktown.

If they bombed Rocktown, they'd get the Space Command.

Earth's defenses would be headless.

Saw-blade ships surrounded me on all sides, and I skipped and jumped and--

I had to kill.  Now, now, now.

I heard a hiss, and then a brightly-burning laser shot out from the front of my ship.  It exploded in all directions, sliding the grey disks in two.

And then they exploded, in a dazzle of blue.

And I felt cold.
 #

"Losing her-" a stranger's voice.

"Quick graft, quick-"

"The bio regen-"

"Why didn't she shield?" Glen's voice, with a hint of desperation.  His hand in mine.  "So many ships.  She had to know that the radiation--"

"She didn't have time to think," Dad's voice said.  "In the excitement of battle it is possible-"

The sounds were fading, fading, going away.

And I was cold.
 #

I was in the middle of the snow, and there was a shuffling of feet ahead, and Dad's voice saying, "We stopped the greenies.  They didn't even warble New York.  Euridyce is a hero.  She'll survive.  She'll be all right."

My dream?  His dream?  Or some reality beyond dreams?

"Dad," I yelled and ran to him and put my arms around him, tightly.  He was cold, but warmer than the snow.

I grabbed his arm and started leading him back, while he told me about the successful battle and in my mind there was a feeling of being elsewhere, of being at the same time in the other world, with the warblers and the zoomers, the sliding sidewalks and the attacking greenies.

If the price for the future was a vicious enemy trying to exterminate mankind, perhaps it was best we'd stopped going to the moon.  Perhaps it was best living in this twenty first century that looked like the nineteenth.

But part of me didn't really believe it.  Part of me thought it was more likely this world was an illusion and the world out there, with the greenies, was the real one.  Perhaps the greenies were spinning these lies into our brain.

Or perhaps both worlds were real and father's mind had become unmoored and perceived the wrong one at the wrong time.

I got Dad into the house, anyway.  I took him up to his room, covered him up.

In both worlds, father and I were fighting a war.  Even the bright, glimmering future that had been the past's dream had its price and the price might be the end of mankind.

In this world...

I needed to go back to the living room and I needed to call Glen back and accept his proposal before he thought better of it.  Yes, Dad still needed my care.  We'd need to put Dad in a home.  Money would be tight.  I'd worry.

But if humanity waited till the war was over, there would be no humanity.

On the bed, Dad was speaking to himself.  He was issuing orders for a counter attack.

I paused at the door to his room.  "Give them hell, Dad," I said.

For a brief moment, he looked at me, and his face was the face of the man in my - dream?  Hallucination?

He smiled.  "Oh, I will."

I turned off the light.

 

 

*crossposted at According To Hoyt*

posted by Sarah on 01.16.11 at 11:07 AM










Comments

Love it.

Darius   ·  January 16, 2011 8:46 PM

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