Friday, August 16, 2019

This Is NOT a Romantic Comedy



In the genre of romantic comedy there is a trope called the meet-cute. Merriam Webster defines meet-cute as "a cute, charming, or amusing first encounter between romantic partners" and somehow bumping into each other in the rain would certainly qualify.

So if this story was a romantic-comedy, or rom-com, when Yuki, Hayato, and their respective umbrellas approach each other in a downpour, something would happen to force an interaction. Perhaps Hayato's umbrella would spontaneously break, leading Yuki to offer him the shelter of her adorably pink cat-eared umbrella. Or maybe something would fall from the pocket of Yuki's hoodie and Hayato would pick it up, calling to her, "Hey, you dropped this!" Maybe they'd flirt, but it's also possible they'd bicker. Either way, they'd be together by the end of the story.

This is not a rom-com, so you need not worry about reading onward if you’re one of those people who hates such sweetness.

If this were a cyber-thriller, there would be a hand-off as the pair pass close to one another. Hayato would slip Yuki a thumb drive containing all the passwords used by some nation's government or perhaps a small harddrive hosting a virus that would siphon money from all online transactions would trade hands.

This is not a cyber-thriller, which is good because I don’t understand computer systems sufficiently to go into details about high level hacking operations.

If it were a more violent type of tale, perhaps one destined to appear as a film directed by someone like Quentin Tarantino, Yuki would reveal that her umbrella handle doubles as a sword as she slices through Hayato.

This is not a violent story, either, so I'll be saved the discomfort of having to describe the way Hayato's entrails would trail out into the puddle of rain at his feet.

No, this is a science fiction story.

Yuki is a teenaged girl from a perfectly normal suburb of Tokyo. She ascribes to kuwaii aesthetics, does well in chemistry class although she struggles with physics, and is thinking of nothing more important than what form of snack she will eat when she gets home as she approaches and then passes by Hayato. She notices him, but nothing about him seems out of place or even particularly interesting to her, so unless something else happens, she will have forgotten about him before she reaches the end of the block.

Hayato pays more attention to Yuki. He's intrigued by the cat ears on her umbrella and the adorable animal her sweatshirt. He wonders what sort of animal it is, but hasn't been on Earth long enough to have a good guess or to even know what a panda is if we were to identify the creature for him. His fledgling understanding of humanity tells him, accurately, that Yuki is a kindred-spirit to his sister back on Ilon. Hayato has never understood his sister, so clearly he has no chance at understanding Yuki. His job on Earth isn't learning to understand the humans though; he's here to… Honestly, he's not certain. He's here because he received orders telling him to be here and he is very much into following orders at all times without asking silly questions like, "But why?"

It's really too bad this isn't a romantic comedy, because I feel poor uptight Hayato could learn a lot from forming a romantic bond with someone who doesn't take everything quite so seriously. But, alas, he passed by Yuki without any form of interaction occurring. They're heading in opposite directions and probably won't be seeing each other again.

Hayato continues around a corner, now unable to see Yuki even if he turned around to look for her, which he has no reason to do. At least not until the explosion.

He spins as the sound blasts down the street. Putting various details of the sound together tells him that what he's hearing is a blaster popular with a race of aliens known as the Han-el. The Han-el don't get along very well with Hayato's species and there are elaborate treaties in place that are supposed to keep the two peoples from every being on the same planet. Earth is well within the boundary of planets assigned to the Iloni, so what are the Han-el doing here? He wonders if maybe that's why his superiors sent him to Earth. Maybe they know the dratted Han-el are up to something.

This is not, in actual fact, the reason that Hayato has been sent to Earth. He was actually sent here because the daughter of his commanding officer has a crush on him and the commanding officer wants him to be far, far away from the daughter's sight in the hope this will also take him out of her mind.

Hayato, knowing nothing about his commanding officer's daughter's crush, rushes forward, bent on defending Iloni interests and explaining to the Han-el, forcibly if necessary, that Earth is in Iloni territory.

Meanwhile, Yuki has already forgotten about Hayato, but also noticed the not-so-subtle explosion behind her. She also turned, recognizing that an alien weapon was just used and that she needs to go explain, forcibly if necessary, that Earth is sovereign territory and aliens can't just go around blowing up parts of it. She’s already had to do this three times this month and is getting a little tired of it.

Yuki's fingers reach for the golden cat necklace she wears around her neck and she whispers magic words known only to her and her fellow chosen catgirls. Within three heartbeats, she transforms into a human-sized tabby cat and lets out a magic-laden hiss.

The pair close in on the Han-el, who looks a little sick over the fact that he's being closed in on. He had merely meant to flex his muscles, so to speak, for a merchant who was giving him a hard time, and hadn't expected any blow back from it.

The merchant comes out of her shop holding a baseball bat. The old woman glares at the Han-el, accusing him of blowing a hole through her wall and demanding to know how he is going to pay for repairs.

The Han-el looks at the old woman, who seems much more fierce than she did when he decided to mess with her. He doesn't look long though, because a blast of Yuki's magic slams into him while he's gawking and knocks him to the ground.

The Han-el struggles to get up, but realizes he has nowhere to run. He can smell that Hayato is an Iloni but decides that's probably the safest direction to go. He's wrong about that. The safest way to go is into the shop, because once he's dodged the unexpectedly badass shopkeeper it's a straight line for the rear exit of the place. But he doesn't know about the backdoor, so he makes the mistake of sprinting towards Hayato.

I haven't mentioned it before because it wasn't relevant until now, but Hayato has received extensive training on capturing fugitives, so he has the Han-el disarmed and on the ground in… well, not a heartbeat. But not much longer than a heartbeat.

Yuki comes up behind him, still in feline form, and delivers a lecture to the fallen Han-el about how he, and all other aliens, need to get off of Earth. At some point, the Han-el protests that's she's singling him out and informs her that Hayato is also an alien. So then she lectures them both.

Hayato protests, naturally. Earth is in his planet's region of influence and he is under orders to be here. While Yuki is yelling at him about how Earth doesn't concede to Iloni authority, the Han-el sneaks off.

The argument ends when Yuki's phone makes a noise and she realizes that her mother has been texting her to bring dinner home for the last five minutes. Instantly, she returns to her human form to type back, contorting her body to keep the driving rain off of her phone screen, that she is on her way to the store now. Yuki tells Hayato that he must leave the planet immediately, but does nothing to enforce this before rushing away to purchase enough sushi for her family of five. This will require quite a bit of sushi as even though the twins are only six, they eat massive amounts of food.

Hayato shakes his head at the retreating catgirl. He picks up his umbrella and holds it over his head as he moves on, even though he's been without its protection for a rather long while and is consequently soaked to the bone already.

If this were a romantic comedy, Hayato might think of the girl he just met as he makes his way back to his new apartment and ponder why it was that he found her dripping hair somehow… attractive? In a cute sort of way... He might regret that he is going to upset her by staying on Earth, but he won't feel he has any choice in the matter. Then the pair will meet again in a week or so. Yuki will act like she's angry he's still on the planet, but will be secretly charmed by him.

But it's not a romantic comedy. Right? So that’s probably not going to happen.


Above image is "Miss" by Wang Ling, who posts on Deviant Art as wlop.


The image was offered as a prompt on my writing prompt project Wording Wednesday, more information about which may be found at https://wordingwednesday.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 8, 2019

On the Edge of the Sea



Overhead, the sky regards me with the same dispassionate grey as my lover’s eyes as the breeze blowing off the sea ruffles my hair despite the shawl I have over my head. “It’s the perfect time,” Eethea tells me. “I don’t understand why you want to wait.”

My teeth dig into my lip as I try to think of the words to explain with. See, the thing is, I don’t want to wait. Because I don’t ever want to down another ship, whether it be this storm or five storms from now. Back home, everyone warned that if I moved to land, I’d eventually start to feel this way. I didn’t believe them, though it seems I should have. The smell of salt rolling off the sea still fills me with comfort, but I’ve become too acclimated to shore.

“You skipped the last feast,” Eethea reminds me, as though I could have forgotten either the massive argument we had about it or intense pain I felt as my covenmates gorged themselves on the sailor’s life forces while I stayed hungry. “People are already assuming I’m your daughter. If you keep aging like this, they’ll be thinking you’re my grandmother soon.”

“Would that be so bad?” I ask, my eyes moving over the rolling waves before us. Their peaks are growing taller and white caps have appeared across the bay to which we were exiled decades ago. “At least then people wouldn’t think we’re sinful for loving each other.”

Her arms fold over her worn human-style dress. “And why do you care if they think we’re sinful? Sure, in Kesh they might stone us for it, but in Ahland they’re all pacifists, so they just shake their heads and move on. How does them shaking their heads harm you?”

I let out a long breath. “That’s part of the problem,” I tell her. “You’re asking me to kill someone who isn’t willing to kill me.”

“So, what? You want to wait for a boatload of Keshmen who happen to be here when a storm hits? Or do you want to drown them without the cover of a storm?”

“Well, that is a law I’m surprised we’re still abiding by,” I say, mainly as a way to deflect the conversation. I don’t think I really want to drown people from Kesh either.

Eethea rolls her eyes. “First off, it’s a good rule because we don’t want to risk a survivor having seen us and that’s less likely if we strike during a storm. And secondly, they may not be willing to kill you for being intimate with another woman, but they most certainly would if they knew you were yiishka.”

Yiishka… What the humans call merfolk. I’ve been on land long enough that hearing words from my first language seems strange.

Placing her hand over mine, Eethea goes on. “I understand that they’re intelligent animals with a complex social structure and deep felt emotions, but they eat whales, who are not only all of those things but also more friendly. And who don’t eat them back. Really, humans are terrible.”

“I know…” I turn my palm over so that I can grasp Eethea’s fingers. “I just… Maybe if it were a one-on-one trade, I’d feel better about it. I’d find someone truly horrible and steal their life to fuel mine. But I need to kill at least a dozen people to make much of a difference, and more would be better.”

“Only because you’ve waited so long.”

“Yes, well, I’ve already done that.”

With a gentle tug, my lover pulls me closer to her side and I lower my head to her shoulder. She tilts her head until her cheek rests against my hair. “I know it’s hard, baby. But there’s only so long you can go without eating before you’ll die. Don’t do that to me.”

Of course Eethea found a way to make it about her. “And what about the people who love the sailors? It’s okay to doom them to widowhood?”

“They’ll only live another few decades at most, then they’ll escape from their pain. I could live another thousand years with a hole in my heart where you’re supposed to be.”

“If you keep murdering people,” I mutter.

Eethea stiffens and straightens her head so that it’s no longer touching me. “Since when has it been wrong to survive? We’ve tried taking the life energy from other creatures you deemed less deserving of life and it didn’t work. You remember that, right?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“So what choice do we have?”

That’s obvious. “We could grow old and die.”

“Right. Which isn’t really a choice. I don’t know why the Great Mother designed us this way, beloved, but she did. And she wants us to live.”

“Now you get religious on me?” I ask as I sit up. “Most of the time, you think the gods aren’t real.”

She shrugs. “Fine, then. We evolved this way and evolution wants us to live.”

“No, it just wants us to procreate. And neither of us are doing that. We accepted exile to avoid doing that.” Sometimes I can’t remember why. The Queen didn’t want us to break up or anything, she just wanted us to get pregnant and help grow a new generation below the sea. Would it really have been so bad to spawn some brats and raise them with Eethea back home? Sex with a male doesn’t seem like it would be pleasant, but it’s not like it would take terribly long to get it over with either. “If anyone wants us to live, it’s Queen Eilka. She’s the one so upset about the declining population that she’s willing to toss her own daughter out of the sea.”

“Yeah, well, screw my mother.”

I nod. “Dying would do that.”

Eethea scowls. “I may have Mommy Issues, but not enough of them to kill myself to spite her. And I’m certainly not going to let you die just to flip her off.”

“Is it really killing ourselves, though? To let nature take its course?” My eyes go back to the ocean. The tide is coming in and we should move soon, either going back to the city or out into the water. Sitting on the shore wet isn’t an option as saltwater will turn us back into our aquatic forms.

“Skiya, if a human stops eating and dies, do people say it was an accident or do they say he starved himself to death?”

I study the water as I think about that. She has a point. “But…”

“Humans don’t usually eat humans,” she says calmly. “But sometimes they do. If they’re somewhere with no other food and it’s the only way to survive, they absolutely will eat either other.”

“I’m not sure that really happens. It might be a myth.”

“Well, I am sure. Because I’ve met humans, and while they’re sentimental, they’ll do whatever it takes to live. So maybe a few of them wouldn’t eat a party member, but I honestly believe most of them would if their survival were at stake.” She twists in order to take my chin in her hand and turn my face toward her. “This is no different. Even if you say now that you’re willing to deny yourself the energy you need to live, do you really have the willpower to slowly starve to death?”

I hate the fact that the answer to that question is probably no.

“Come on.” Eetha stands up and holds her hand out to help me to my feet. “Let’s get in the water and then decide.”

Once in the water, my thought process will change. In the water, I’ll no long see myself as anything akin to the humans. In the water, the sailors will seem like food and not people. But I let myself walk to the surf anyway.


The above image is Looking Out to Sea by Winslow Homer.

The image was offered as a prompt on my writing prompt project Wording Wednesday, more information about which may be found at https://wordingwednesday.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Embracing Destiny



My grandmother says that the one good thing about humanity trashing the planet to the point that we encapsulated our cities under domes is that now you can see the stars at night. Apparently when she was a child, you could see the moon and maybe two or three stars from a city the size of ours. Of course, between the chemical pollution, the light pollution, and the dome itself, we should really be seeing even less rather than the vast array we’re treated to every night. And who’s to say which is better, really? At least my grandmother’s two or three stars were real and not projections.

Azealia knows the stars are fake, but she loves them anyway. To her, I think their lack of authenticity actually makes them more beautiful, because now they speak of the human need to create beauty and thus provide her with evidence that our species really isn’t as bad as it seems.

One of the things I love about Azealia is her faith in the basic goodness of humans. And it’s that faith that allows her to love me even though I don’t share it.

It was the stars that brought us together the night we met. I was walking across Founders Park after getting off my shift at the pizza joint that was my first place of employment when I came across a dusky-skinned girl with a bright blue pixie cut and golden eyes who was doing the strangest thing. She had an easel set up and was painting a skyscape, a realistic portrayal of the multitude of astral features decorating the dome.

I longed to ask why she was doing this in the middle of the night in the center of a park when the projection was public domain and could have been covering her ceiling at home, but actually asking seemed intrusive. Even stopping to watch her seemed like I was overstepping, but I couldn’t help it. I told my feet to walk on, but they refused to obey me.

After a bit, she looked over and me, smiled, and answered the question I hadn’t asked. “The stars aren’t meant to be seen from your living room.”

“Yet you’re painting them,” I pointed out before I could think through it enough to convince myself not to.

Azealia nodded serenely. She does most things serenely, her soul as infused with calm as mine is permeated with tension. “Yes, but the painting isn’t supposed to be a real sky. It’s supposed to be my perception of the sky.”

My eyebrows pulled together as I thought about that.

“Look closer.” She stepped to the side in invitation and I accepted by drawing near.

Up close, the painting was less realistic than I’d first taken it to be. It was clearly based on the actual sky, but the stars were in different places and the swirling nebulas were less subtle. I’d never studied art, but this seemed like art.

“It’s wonderful,” I told her. Then I walked on, like a complete fool. I beat myself up over that all the following week. I should have stayed and talked more, tried to figure out if maybe she was into girls, although I wanted to be friends even if she wasn’t. I should have asked her to do something with me, or asked her if her artwork was for sale anywhere, or at least gotten her name.

When she walked into the pizzeria two weeks after we first met, she was on a date with a gorgeous woman with ebony skin and a laugh that reminded me of Christmas. So she was clearly interested in women, at least some of the time. And she remembered me, which I told myself must have meant something even though she seemed clearly in love with her companion.

Azealia became a regular. So did the woman with the ebony skin, but that was alright because Clarice was amazing too. She was tall and toned, but also incredibly smart and outrageously funny. She was lead singer in a band I’d never heard of before but soon came to adore. They were called Under the Starlight, a name Azealia had come up with.

It was Clarice who asked me out first. For a second, I was confused. I’d never seen either woman with anyone else, so it hadn’t occurred to me that they were polyamorous. But they were. I never had been before, but as I thought about Clarice’s invitation to a traveling musical, I realized I was already in love with both of them.

Years passed. I finished college and started managing an art gallery with Azealia. Clarice’s band grew popular enough to support touring, but she never drifted away from us. Azealia does all Under the Starlight’s artwork and I run their online merchandise store. We’re happy, the three of us. Sometimes it makes me nervous, being so content, as though it’s tempting the universe to assault us.

I look down at the shirt I’m packaging to ship. It features the poster for Under the Starlight’s Embrace Your Destiny tour. A young woman in white stands on a platform with her arms open to the sky. Her build and her long dark hair are mine, symbolizing how all three of us are a part of our story, how we’re each other’s destinies.

Destiny isn’t a concept I ever thought I’d believe in. Yet, somehow, when I go home and fall into the duel embraces of my beloveds, I do.


The above image is "Kissed by Starlight" by Lisa Falzon. Ms Falzon's works can be found at https://lisa-falzon.com/

The image was offered as a prompt on my writing prompt project Wording Wednesday, more information about which may be found at https://wordingwednesday.blogspot.com/