Today she sleeps,
A riddle to the sun,
For in the night she wakes.
Today she sleeps,
Today she sleeps,
A riddle to the sun,
For in the night she wakes.
My phone is silent. Still. And I continue to watch it, waiting for it to disappear. My music is blaring, and I am singing along with it a bit louder than usual. I think about turning the volume down, but decide I don’t have to. When you call, the screen will light up, and light travels faster than sound.
An hour passed by me.
Did it pass by you, too? I think it did, but you just weren’t paying attention.
I suddenly doodle clusters of hearts on the back of my hand. You inspire my heart doodles, but when you ask why, I never tell you. I like watching you try to figure out my riddles, because you’re beautiful when you think.
You smile when you think.
I chew on my half-cooked spaghetti noodles as if they were locks of hair. I chew, but I don’t swallow. My mind is not set on swallowing, but on watching. Waiting. Sitting. Hoping.
With my finger, I trace hearts on the cover of my phone. You said you’d call. Did you forget? No, you didn’t forget. But you haven’t called. Maybe you’re busy. Yea… busy.
I tap my pencil on my notebook.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
You wouldn’t happen to be working on your homework, too, would you? If you are, you should call me. We could work on it together. Do you know the answer to number one? I need help on number one. Something seems to keep distracting me, and I can’t get anything done. Is something distracting you, too? Is that why you don’t call? No? I guess it’s just me.
I wash off my makeup, and my phone is on the counter right beside me like a small, square shadow.
And if you call, I’ll be the second to know. Not first though, because you knew before me.
I scrub my nose, and it tingles, just like it does when you brush my hair off of my smile. I wipe off my lip gloss, but I stop and wonder if you wanted a taste. I smile at the thought, my cheeks bright in the mirror.
The clock strikes eight, and my favorite show is on. Just a rerun. Just another no call. Just another lonely night with you stuck in my head. My phone is on the table, right by my mini popcorn and un-carbonated glass of water. You would laugh if I said that. Why is it so funny? You know that I don’t like carbonated drinks. The fizz, it makes my mouth feel like it’s on fire. But you’re always there to put out the flames.
It’s an hour past eight, and you’re subconsciously driving me crazy. The rerun’s over, and I laughed at the sad parts because I knew what came next. They were just friends. They were in love. They broke the silence. Cracked it, like cool glacier ice.
Will we be like my rerun? I hope so.
It’s a few quarters past ten, and I’m about ready to sleep. Still you haven’t called, still I trace hearts on the back of my phone. Still I sit, wait, and watch. But still isn’t enough, and I lack the energy to stay awake.
I lie down in my soft bed, but still you keep me awake. You poke my thoughts with your fingers, annoying but beautiful. I turn my head to the side, staring at the phone’s shadowy outline on my bedside table. I sniffle a little, wishing you’d called this time, last time, first time.
I wash out all thoughts of you, creating a white wall in my mind. But it’s hard to not think about you, because when I tell myself to not think about you, I end up thinking about not thinking about you, making me think of you even more. Did that make sense? I don’t think it did. I hope it did. But I don’t think it did.
I close my eyes, and I try not to concentrate on the dog barking in the neighbor’s yard. It never shuts up. It’s loud. Echoing in the night. I turn over on my side. The blankets rustle.
But then my eyes are wide open. The phone hums, just like you on your church pew. I bolt up and grab my phone, but gently, as if I were grabbing you. It’s a gentle object, you know, I take very good care of it. You or the phone? Both. Just you.
The screen glows.
The message is from you. I read the three words that slow my heart, that plunge me in ice, push me into deep water that cracks around me, pulls me under. Suffocates me with your ties.
I smile at your perfect grammar.
I look up, and the light
I look down, and the darkness
I look midway, and the balance
with special regards to E. & H. Klein
Now hearken Lads to hail Hugh Mungus,
A Warrior staunch, a God among us!
A Man of humble Pride who played
with Jokes of Dad; not Hate, not Rage!
But the Hour came, when Blight had struck-
The great Hugh Mungus – out of Luck!
A foaming Beast approached to know
Our Hero’s Name – a stealth’d Blow!
A Man of Guile and harmless Wit,
Could not have known when he’d admit:
“My first name Hugh, and Mungus sire.”
That all he’d do was stoke the Fire!
The She-beast cawed and clawed and retched,
A greater Flame could not be fetched,
The beastly Maw could not be shut:
“Hugh Mungus, oh? Hugh Mungus WHAT?!”
Shaking, triggered, the Beast perceiv’d
That he attacked her sexually!
“Assault! Assault!” Was all she cried!
Which Mungus, Hugh, justly denied!
But the Hour dawned, and Chub was tuck’d,
The She-beast cried more than she cuck’d,
“Hugh Mungus whot!” She cried again!
And our Hero held his plastered Grin!
(Needs not be said to those among us)
He thence replied, “I am Hugh Mungus!”
The Beast was lost, and stood transfix’d,
A sailing Soul on River Styx.
She could not bear to face the Hour
When a Joke of Dad surpassed her Power!
With nothing left for her to say,
The Guardsmen ordered her away.
Dear Hugh escaped this passing Worry,
And Papa blessed his fairest Journey,
To spread his Love across the Land,
To teach both Woman and both Man,
So Boys and Girls would sing his Fame:
How Great Hugh Mungus surpassed his Name!
The alien race attacked swiftly and methodically. Zorbits, as they came to be called, focused rounds on highly specific targets within American society. One armada, recognized by a hexograph banner of flowers and clouds, repeatedly formed out from thin air, and dropped unexpectedly down upon American universities. Attacks were lethal. The Zorbit armada bombed upon the campuses a layer of gendered paraphernalia: pink toys, scented with strawberries and lilies, perfect bust-to-hip ratio dolls, all labeled “for girls”; blue toy trucks, embellished with grime, grease, and dirt, along with footballs and hard hats labeled “for boys”. Glowing signs virtually* popped up along university pathways, and startled innocent powerwalkers and loiterers. Male and female sex symbols – respectively glowing blue and pink – were borne on these signs. Zorbit pamphlets that advertised a “straight-straight” alliance rained down from the heavens. The alien ships had mounted speakers which blasted profane words of gender, which I – for the sake of decency – shall not so eagerly mutter here.
Numerous accounts describe a tumbleweed of printed academic reports that attributed the wage gap to the feminine bias towards taking jobs of liberal arts, secretarial work, elementary and secondary education, and gender studies. This, however, incited riots not against the Zorbits, but further stoked the anger of rabid Amazonian Warriors who focused assault against their own man-kind.
Our numbers at universities nation-wide were crippled, though some entities remained largely unscathed. Junior colleges of the Deep South entertained bolstered student activities and leadership as the attacks commenced. These students were reportedly driven by a heightened sense of reality, and actively protested against the arming of mankind against the Zorbits. These chronically aggressive minorities of the population of man founded a renaissance of peace – later to be known as the Zorbital Rights Movement of the Newly Risen South.
Secular churches were also largely unaffected by the attacks, and even produced great warriors. These men (for they were mostly men) emerged in the name of God, to beat down the unholy abominations threatening the human race. For the Zorbits (and judging only by the expressly educated observations of the nation’s most elite scientists) were all of one gender, and thus reproduced accordingly. These poor Zorbits, unaware that their a-gendered nature was of any cause to the uprising of the religious warriors of mankind, were softly driven back by the passive-aggressive denouncements of their digressions towards God, though quickly returned as they found that the attacks bore no actual harm.
pass and turn into memories
of looking at the stars
in life that
tell one to
find destiny in the
screens of modernity
where fathers hold
daughters like ornaments
and dangle them hopelessly
to the highestmost tiers
and pretend they make light
like the illuminated stars.
Days pass and she finds that
her starlight is plugged from
a hidden cord
at the base of the tree
and the father pretends
and lies all along
that the star makes its own
just like the sun
but she is the moon,
and breaks down the tree,
it crashes and
the ornaments reflect
the mirror, the light of the stars
they flicker and break
while she turns away
and shows her face
as the other side
of the moon
and teaches her father
the truth about stars.
The Runners were long creatures with pulled, beetle-blue limbs that stretched down until they met bulbous joints, which then allowed their appendages the same degree of movement as the arm in the socket of a man’s shoulder. Streaks of red ran down their twig-like limbs – the crimson juice of succulent bauble berries (which was also the main source of food on the Runner’s tiny planet). Males – identified by their lithe and limber stature, along with reproductive genitalia present on their buttocks – were typically painted from the groin upwards, with the red concentrated into thick patterns on the torso. The females – identified by their slothlike attitude and large, unattractive bodies – were painted primarily on the lower limbs, crawling halfway up to the groin (or as far as the children were willing to touch each unique and individual specimen with their juice-covered fingers).
Initial contact with the Runners proved uneventful. John Smith #1 breached sanction by approaching a lone, injured male. Though upon arrival, the male reacted by openly attempting to communicate with JS1 in a delusional haste. Frightened, our operative quickly left the field, though managed to escape unscathed due to the male Runner’s weakened state. After debriefing, JS1 recalled that the male had, “Sufficient wounds upon his legs and upper thighs, to suggest that he had escaped mid-meal after being deemed some other beast’s snack. Though this should hardly be the case, as the only other creatures present on the Runner’s planet are nothing more than small, aquatic lifeforms…”
Second contact did not assume the accords. JS2, confident of positive contact, approached a pair of reclining females to attempt a peaceful exchange. However, as the females caught sight of him, they sprang with unexpected agility, smothered him with their rippling folds, and proceeded to consume him raw.
Subsequent observations noticed an altercation between the aforementioned reclining females and the remainder of that tribe’s female population. The remainder of the females verbally attacked the first two specimens, crying at them with corpulent, woesome notes, though did not physically attack or otherwise engage through violent means. However, the two female specimens were denied food at the ritualistic sunset meal.
It is said that, before Exodus 1 removed all funding for the Runner Initiative, that a rogue observer recorded a lone tribe of males – and only males – fending for themselves as a nomadic group, surviving far from any females of their species. These males operated in the same capacity as escaped, human prisoners, and exhibited psychological phenomena suggesting a persecution complex that thoroughly invaded the entirety of the all-male tribe. These males, however, heartily welcomed any strange Runner who wished to join their tribe, and ventured deep into the alien woods (and close to existing male/female colonies) to join with their newest member(s). The observer also noted a curious expanse of culture within this nomadic tribe – as the males exercised a previously unobserved aptitude for sculpting natural likenesses of their biome from the moldable, edible mud of their planet:
“A sculpture,” the observation wrote, “of artistic proportions depicting a female of the Runner species. However, she was created wholly in the nude, given the slender likeness of a male Runner, and was devoid of all female, reproductive genitalia, save only for the symmetric breasts…”
Regardless, these lithe males would be unable to sustain a colony on their own, and would eventually return to their corpulent breeders so as to sustain the Runner population (had the tribe grown too large). Analysts believe these males to be an insubordinate fraction of the species, and perhaps had been democratically exiled from a larger community. Others are of the opinion that these males left of their own free will.
Moreover: man, analyzing no substance of profit or importance upon the lonely planet, ceased all contact and future observations of the Runners species entirely. All human operations on the Runner Planet have been effectively ceased, save for any additional operations that had been established illegally under the court of International Man and Space Law. Dated March 19, 2076.