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
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.