Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Post-Funeral Mission (to Mars)

This fantasy prose poem (or vignette) was first published in the Autumn 2014 issue of Tales of the Talisman, and is semiautobiographical.

Post-Funeral Mission (to Mars)

As the airplane enters the towering clouds, Billy spies wispy ghosts and shifting white valleys. What is turbulence to everyone else, to Billy is scratching fog-fingers and the bites of monstrous jaws.

His grandma snores beside him. Others resign to airport novels, electronics, and the anticipation of the cart. Humming engines and whooshing air vents backdrop the cries of a baby, of two teenage girls absorbed in gossip.

Billy peers out the cold, turbid window, sees Harryhausen beasts run amok through the floating landscape: dinosaurs gnawing on cars and bridges, a distant Cyclops ripping a train off its tracks.

A break in the clouds reveals a stretch of suburbia, baseball fields where an interest in sports fell short of home plate. All around, long thin roads blink with ant-cars: “More people die in car crashes than in planes, you know,” his parents once said, not long before the accident.

The edge of an approaching cirrus cloud swirls over the wings: here comes Conan through the smoke of battle, sword dripping with ruddy sunlight. He charges an army of angry skeletons—bones and skulls sailing through the fog.

Suburbia slides back into view, its rooftops the color of cigarette ash, a string of retention ponds like chicory weeds in a cracked parking lot. His father’s voice: “Earth to Billy, Earth to Billy—grab me another beer!”

A return to clouds, where Charles Knight mammoths [ding] struggle in [ding] tar pits [ding].

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Please fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronics. We’ll be landing shortly. Thank you, and good luck.”

Someone kicks the back of Billy’s seat. The baby shrieks. Others shut books, fumble with personal items. Grandma adds a wheeze to her snores.

Suddenly a woman’s voice blasts through the intercom static; the voice is distant, yet familiar: “Mars to Billy . . . —ars to Billy . . . —der alien attack! . . . You are des—rately needed . . . Please—ome at once!”

A space suit drops from an overhead compartment. The plane becomes a silver rocket. Billy squeezes past his grandma to the aisle, climbs into the suit, snaps on the helmet. The passengers dissolve as he heads for the cockpit. Outside, the clouds turn red.

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