TUMBLE OF WORLDS: I had a lot of fun writing this novel. The gods transport three humans to a distant planet for no clear reason. As the trio struggle to survive their new environment, trying to figure out what the gods are up to, they’re forced to weather the local population, who seem more intent on eating them than engaging in conversation.
I have a gift, you see, the ability to see the memories of those who would step into my line of sight. Not a pleasant gift, this one. It is a painful awareness, a rush of unwanted information, often meaningless or gruesome. So I avoid people. Except for Randolph, whose brain is so empty he has no memories. Not troubling ones, anyway. Maybe that’s why I call him my best friend. He was a professor of literature once, long ago, but something pushed him over the edge. I never did figure out what it was. He is a kind man, intelligent as hell, and crazy as a doorknob. Existence is funny that way. You have to just play along.
Simon-as and the Key
“Hello, Simon-as,” he said.
“It’s good to see you, Key.”
“Haven’t we all?”
“But I’m not that bad-looking, am I?”
I looked him over.
The Key wasn’t all that attractive. The fat torso, thick legs (which were far too short to fit the rest of his body), arms and hands that hung to the floor, and the absurdly large head resting on his shoulders – he wasn’t a pleasant sight, not really.
His face was fat and pink and purple and white, his eyes wrinkled but painted in bright colors, and the rest of him was covered with design and jewelry – immaculate clothes, a multilayered headdress (a bold thing that jingled as he walked), and dozens of scarves (checkered, striped, and polka-dotted). He had lots of buttons, tassels, pendants, bangles, rings, and necklaces, plus a furry bag he always kept at his side. His outfit poofed out an already portly figure; he presented as somewhat horizontal. Almost enjoyable to behold.
And in his hand he held a dozen golden keys.
“You look great,” I said finally.
Dying of Thirst
And ahead, the sound of rushing water. A dead man’s mirage, no doubt.
But I wasn’t dead, not yet.
How is it that seconds last forever? All of man’s history, his heartache and majesty, our tiny blip in the universe – I took those steps, and they were horrible ones. I collapsed to the ground and pulled myself along, one arm-length at a time, needing to move, survive… Would I live? Would these final movements have worth? Why move at all?
Every smell and sound and shadow wove its way into my brain as I pulled myself through the mist. Hoping.
Up ahead, water.
Alex Natalian is a penname for psychiatrist KRR.