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All short stories have been copywritten by Melanie Leach
2004 - 2006




     I sat in the park on that Thursday morning, and contemplated all the possible solutions. I watched the kids race toy cars models on the pathway by the pond.

     A philosophy professor, Michelle Leach, once said, 'The first major black female superhero will have very unique powers. She won't need a disguise, because in America she'll already be invisible. But, when people need a villain to fear, she'll be as clear as day.' You see, she'll only be visible as a villain. All her superhero deeds will go unnoticed. 

     Cherryworth looked at me. "We're robbing ADC Federal next week. We need a driver."

     At first, I looked at him as if he'd lost all sense of reality. Then, I realized he was completely serious. I shook my head.

     "You're out of your mind. I'm not going to jail for armed robbery."

     I stood up to leave, but Cherryworth gently grabbed my arm, and pulled me back down.

     "You don't have to do anything. All you have to do is drive."

      We have moments in our lifetimes when any sense of reason seems to escape us. We resolve to jump off bridges with a rope tied around our ankle, and hope that we'll be catapulted back into the air by a bouncy spring in the string. I always saw that as the furthest I would ever have to go. But, on that night, I resolved to dive out of an airplane without a chute, and hope that I hit the ground and bounced. I fell in and out of sleep with worry. Finally, I decided to see this as an opportunity. I began to drift into sleep with a sigh of relief.

    Looking back now, I realize that was the moment when the superhero touched a man on the shoulder, and begged him to tell the truth. But, the call went unanswered.

      To this day, I'm still not sure what took place inside the bank. I waited, watching the clock. I watched and waited, holding on to the resolve that the only thing I would ever have to do that made me hate myself was this. This moment in time would be a moment of pain in exchange for a whole new life.

     If everything went right. Everything seldom goes right.

      My adrenaline was pumping at the thought of all that had just happened. I thought about the money Cherryworth was getting away with as he doublecrossed rest of us. I thought of my own stupidity. One more sin which, in the way of benefit, had produced a bare crop.

      I chased him down. I saw his car cross my path. I heard the bomb of metal exploding against metal, and my world went black.

     I was charged with vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Today, the woman who wanted to become invisible must present herself after six years to a room full of people who will decide whether or not she should be let out of this cage. It will be just as it was that night. I was the sun in the center of a solar system. I could not hide. I could no longer be the invisible woman. I just kept turning in circles, trying to understand how I got from where I was 20 minutes before to where I stood then. Blood covered my shirt and hands. My blood and Cherryworth's blood was spilled along the sidewalk. Cherryworth, with eyes wide open, had a frozen grimace on his face. His trunk was open, with 100 dollar bills flying into the air, sprinkling the pavement, and the police officers were standing there, screaming something I can no longer remember. All I can recall is the sickening feeling of watching rain carry blood to the sewer drain in the street, as a wink of light flashed me, then disappeared mockingly into the clouds and storm. All I could do was stare at the crowd, with all eyes on me. All eyes on the villain.

The halls of the Amber-New Queensland were worn blue-gray, smudged with the yellow and black of too many dingy yellow jumpsuits moving back and forth in a far too narrow space. Nicole noted the patterns of smudging as she made her way toward Secure-7. Heavy wear all around the public telecomms and viewing windows. The walls around the chapel door were bad too. And the main chow hall walls had so much yellow, they almost looked green beneath the heavy fluorescents of the room. Nicole sat and stared at her meal. For just a split second, she felt sick at the thought of eating. But, with a little effort, she made herself take in the food.
     It had been this way for some time now. After first returning to earth from Willows-Gale, she had seemed fine. It was only months later, when the depression had begun to set in. Working on the Amber seemed to help for awhile, but now it only seemed to make things worse. The tenants there were becoming increasingly violent. Living in a maze of tight spaces can stretch the strongest psyche. Overwork was becoming a factor. People were beginning to fall apart.
     Nicole had visited Cole Martin, her old captain, just eight weeks before. She thought seeing him again, and seeing the way he'd rebuilt his life would help her regain some sense of being alive. But, it only had the opposite effect. In the day, they sat by his closest lake and fished. It was a peaceful spot of earth he'd found, although cut off from most the world. Nicole wondered if he'd ever connect again the way he should.
     At night, Cole seemed unsettled. He was restless. He kept the porch light on, and always slept outside. He liked to see the trees, he said. He liked to see the light off in the distance; planes in the air. Satellites in the sky. Cabins across the lake. And Nicole could tell what he really feared was, once again, being alone. Being abandoned. The idea of waking up in the dark. Of walking to his front door and opening it to find an icy wasteland. Lifeless as far as the eye could see. She'd had those dreams too. But, for Cole it was different. The cold was close to him. She could see a shiver come across his shoulder now and then, like the person so ill with disease, no amount of sunlight can keep them warm.
     Somehow, in all the months that had passed, Nicole had found those rare few nights when the memory of Willows-Gale faded into a broken portrait. It no longer held the substance of a true memory, but rather became the memory you think you know, but are left unsure of. It always found its way back, but in those nights when life seemed to regain its warmth and color, she had found rest. She ate. She slept. She lived. And it was real to her. She felt it.
     But for Cole, each act was an act that had to be done. He ate because he knew he had to. Each night, Nicole would find him asleep on the porch in his chair. He talked during the day, but never about the crash, or the prison, or the deaths. Only about those things which we count to be necessity; the groceries he needed to pick up. The wood he needed to chop before winter fully showed its wings. He was the restless man who offers nothing but the senseless and only slightly stimulating small talk of the day, never wishing to delve deeper into his thoughts or your own.
     This was the way their first visit together was after their rescue from the ice moon. After the crash of the Bethany-Ross. And Stillwell accepted it. She had learned, after her own experiences on the Amber-New Queensland, that it was never the best path to push. She respected Cole's silent bid for escape from the memory of the past, and rejected her need to ask what seemed like the millions of questioned that left her own soul haunted as well as his.
     Still, before she left for the Billsburn station, she could not help but venture to plant a seed. "I wish we'd talked more," she said quietly. "We're not O.K, you know."
     For a moment, she felt as though the look in Cole's eyes offered an answer. She could feel a response hanging in the air. But, in the end, he only patted her cheek and sighed, kissing her forehead, and turned to walk away. "Call me when you land," he yelled back without looking at her. He left her seed unnourished, and she knew that its final resting place would be a burial under untilled soil.
     Stillwell watched him as he left. He was fading, she thought. The sun was beginning to set, and he went from a living human being to a shadow of the figure, hazy and gray with nightfall, no longer illuminated by the sun.
     After the death of dozens on the Amber-New Queensland, the levels had become silent, with a pilgrimage to the promised land of earth. Home. What was once thought to be a new beginning for those who couldn't find their footing on solid soil, a refuge for the unwanted, was now becoming the cemetery of space. Suicides ran rampant, and the timeless silent question which even those of the brightest faith are prone to ask themselves within their hearts surfaced on the tongues of those who remained and wandered the worn and yellow hallways; Where was God?
     Where was the God who they had defended for so long? Wasn't it enough that the New Queensland had been such a symbol of hope, and now, inexplicably, it only symbolized pain? Futility of humanity? Hopelessness was the scent that fell from room to room, magnified by the reality outside the too-thin walls; icy cold. Vacuum. Nothing.
     Stillwell felt as if she'd been the beginning of the end. She'd brought her own demons with her. Only a few years before, her entire crew had died after a crash on one of the outer moons, except or her best friend and captain, Cole Martin. They'd died one by one. The last one hung herself. Didn't she? By now, the days and hours and minutes were like scribbles on paper, and paper on water. Nothing would stay together. Nothing would remain clear, and survive the walls which either time or conscience had been sure to construct around the truth. She wandered the halls as a minor celebrity; the bad luck everyone knew about. Part of the vacuum of space.
     But what she had always fought to not accept was now creeping closer to her heart. Could they be right? Why did her memories of what happened seem to weave in and out of one another every time she tried to remember? Were they real, or were they the memories that she and Cole had created in order to move on without the nightmares of the truth? At night, when she closed her eyes, she saw the blue on Sarah's lips. She could feel the rope tightening around her neck. And, when she awoke each morning, she felt cold, as if no amount of warmth could cure what ailed her.
     What was causing the deaths? Stillwell had chosen to try to ignore the wave of those suffocating themselves. Breaking out the glass. Slitting their throats. But the hanging of Lucia Amauryo was too much for even the stoutest heart. Some who'd taken their lives seemed as if they'd had good reason. But, the 19 year old girl who'd hanged herself by the neck in the chow hall on level 3 made no sense to her or anyone else. Again, the noose was tightening. And Stillwell awoke and ran to the toilet to vomit up whatever poison was slowly, mysteriously seeping into her veins. Was it conscience? The memories once thought lost? She washed the taste from her lips, and crawled back into her bunk, neither sleeping nor staying awake, but falling into a type of trance, where the deep gray room around her melted into an icy white once more.
     It wasn't just her imagination. The question was haunting Cole too. The man who once swore he'd never go back into space was now a guest, once again, in Stillwell's quarters. He had come silently, as he always did, to see her. He rarely said anything of substance, but always stayed with her, even though he could afford guest quarters of his own. And Stillwell understood the fear. He feared being alone. He was alone on earth, although he had family there. He was alone as an oddity. A symbol of the bad luck that permeated the air. He would fall asleep on the extra cot, and Stillwell would watch him shiver in his dreams. He was running in his sleep. From what, she could only guess.
     He stayed throughout the final month, as the last true hold outs packed their things and hung their heads at the thought of returning to the home that had all but rejected them. Kilarme was one of the last. He still spoke to those leaving as they crossed his path to hurry down the halls.
     "There's no use running," he'd say. "No use running from what we are, or what we aren't."
     Stillwell had heard him say it a thousand times, but this night it sat heavy on her mind. No use running. Running from what we are. She went to see him.

KILARME LOVES TO PLAY WITH MINDS was scribbled on the wall inside his quarters.

     "One of the sons of a patient who wanted me to cure her husband's cheating scribbled it on the wall while I was reading her herbs," Kilarme said. "I've left it there these past years to remind me."

     "Remind you of what?"

     "Remind me not to play with minds. Otherwise, how can I be sure that I don't?" He paused, as he straightened the branches of an unfamiliar tree, facing the wall. "You're wondering about the burns," he said, sensing Stillwell's eyes surveying the battered terrain along his back beneath the thin gray t-shirt.

     Stillwell didn't reply. She sat down at the table in the middle of the room. "I'd like to get a reading," she whispered.

     "So late in the night? You should be sleeping? With your boyfriend?"

     "You're awake. And you won't be getting much more business. Everyone's abandoning this place. Two months from now, it'll be empty. You should get what you can while you can. Earth doesn't believe in things like this much. Not anymore."

     Kilarme sat in the chair without looking at her. He tapped his fingers on the table, staring at the pattern of grain against the wood. "Your boyfriend? Will he wait until you leave and leave with you?"

     "He's not a boyfriend. Just an old friend."

     "Ha!" Kilarme laughed a little, then became solemn again. "The captain? The famous captain."

     "Yes," said Stillwell, sighing. "The captain."

     "Do you remember much about what happened? How did they die? The rest of them?"

     Stillwell sighed. "The first two drowned. The ship caught fire. They were in the fire, then they drowned." She felt herself becoming nauseous once again with the stench of burning flesh. "I don't remember that much," she whispered as she thought about Kilarme's back. "They died very quickly."

     "Fire is never quick," he said as he spun his finger along the wood lines. "Water either. Fire and water. Life is fire and water. I jumped into the water to stop the fire too. But, it kept burning. They pulled me out, and I begged them to let me go. When flesh burns, it's the smell of death. Have you ever smelled it?"

     Stillwell shifted uneasily in her chair, nodding reluctantly. "Yes. Once. What happened to you? Who did this to you?"

     "Parents. Those who gave me life," Kilarme giggled softly. "How funny it is. My father tried to take me from my mother, and when he failed, he decided it would be better if I didn't live at all."

     "I'm so sorry."

     Kilarme laughed. "Don't be. I used to walk along this street at night; Bracka. I used to ask myself as I stared up into the sky, what kind of a man would do such a thing to a child. Yes?"

     Stillwell nodded.

     "Years later, I found him in a shelter. Not a real one. A shelter built out of an abandoned bunker. The homeless built it there for each other. There was this tiny, little kitchen in the back. And an old television, like the squares; the old ones. But they could get new transmissions. It was good for them. They had built themselves a home. I watched him sitting there, in the flickering light of the shelter. I watched him as he fell asleep, warm.

     "My father asked me for something to eat earlier that night. I had been waiting. Waiting quietly for my chance. He didn't know it was me. He would tell me, though, how my eyes reminded him of his dead son. His dead son. I almost laughed in his face when he would say it. I waited, and that night, when he asked me for something to eat, I gave him some meal, mixed with my plants. The leaves of that tree you see over there," he pointed to the plant by the wall. "My baby. It still reminds me of him. Smooth skin on the outside. But toxic blood. Toxic to everything with life within its veins. Tell me, Officer Stillwell, what kind of a man would do such a thing to his father? The same kind that would do such a thing to his son."

     Stillwell stood from the chair, almost stumbled. "You killed him," she whispered.

     Kilarme smiled thinly. "But you didn't come to hear about me, did you. You came to hear about your own sins. Didn't you?"

     Stillwell stared past the man now, at the cracks and smudges along the gray walls. They held no pattern. Some were deep and dark, almost wet, as if blood had been spilled from the plants that surrounded the room. Others were light and small, as if someone had scrubbed at the stains, and lifted the deeper shadow, but they had left behind the substance of what made the stain come alive.

     "Sometimes," she whispered, "I feel as if someone may have--killed one of my crew mates. It's so much of a blur now." Stillwell glared into the stains, as if searching for a way to make the memory clearer. "We found her. Sarah. She had hung herself from a shed wall outside the main building. And we found her there that morning. She hung there for days. Cole wouldn't--he wouldn't help me cut her down, and at first, I wondered--"

     "You wondered if he'd done it, didn't you? Do you still wonder?"

     "No." She thought about the question. "No, I hadn't. Not for a long time, but-- that girl. That nineteen year old girl two weeks ago. When I saw her body in the chow hall, I--I remembered. And, now, I want to remember. I need to remember." She paused, and looked Kilarme in the eye for the first time. "You know I didn't come here to learn my future. I want to know what's happening. What's happening to everyone on this station. Why all the suicides? What's happening here?"

     "The doctor's have said delirium. Too many. Too close. Too far away from solid ground."

     "That doesn't explain my nightmares. That doesn't explain why Cole would come to see me now, of all times. That doesn't explain why I feel like you know something more."

     Kilarme smiled. "A doctor would say you are so obviously haunted by the unpleasant memories of the past, and that you are unable to separate the present--"

     "What would you say?" Stillwell walked up to the man, and looked deep into his eyes. Her voice was barely a whisper. "Stop playing with my mind. Remember? What do you say it is?"

     Kilarme smiled his thin smile, but there was a seriousness behind it. A coldness that Stillwell thought she felt fill his room.

     "There is an African tribe who believe the last great civilization of life," he said, "evolved to their higher plane. They were pure. Saviors. They were goodness. So, they evolved. Past this," he gently brushed his arm, tracing the scars with his thumb. "They left what they were behind. They left life as we know it. They traveled to another world; a star so blue and warm. Fire and water.
     "Punctuated equilibrium. Not the slow and kind evolution of a species, but the flash," he snapped his fingers, "of truth. Of change. Just as those spirits changed into their true form, maybe we are changing too. Only we are not so benevolent, are we? Our true nature could never be the blue, could it? No. It will always be the fire. Those people who have killed themselves are not truly dying. Don't you see? This is our time. Our flash of truth. We are going to our higher plane. The evolution of man into what he truly is. Evil. Where there is water, there is also fire," Kilarme smiled darkly. "I know you understand that, as I do. We both know them intimately, yes?"

     Stillwell thought about the fire aboard the Bethany-Ross as it sank into the cold blue of an ice covered moon, but didn't answer.

     "And where there were angels guiding those ancient spirits home to the blue, there are others guiding us where we belong too, aren't there?"

     "No," Stillwell turned slowly, headed for the door. "No. Man is not evil. This is not an evolution into hell. Some paranormal force. It's an epidemic, and if you can't give any real information, then this is a waste of time. You don't know any more than anybody else here does."

     "Explain to me what you've seen in the nature of man since the day you were born!" Kilarme stood, pounding the table.

     She shook her head. "You've lost your mind. Because of what you're father did to you. What you did to him."

     At this, Kilarme smiled calmly, broadly. "But, don't you see? You've just proven my point. I did kill him. And I would probably kill him again. Can you really say you would have done something different?"

     Stillwell looked at Kilarme's scars, and searched for an answer, but found none.

     "And I am crazy," Kilarme continued. "I'm evil. I'll be joining the others soon, when the time is right, because I can accept the truth, while you hide in a corner, afraid. That's why you can't remember. That's why you chose to forget." He sighed. "Then again, I could be making every word of this up. My father could still be alive. I could've gotten these burns by shuttle hopping, trying to steal a ride in the belly compartment of a hot crate that caught on fire during landing." He turned away from her, returning to his favorite tree. "Maybe I've just been playing with your mind. But that would prove my point too, wouldn't it?"

     Stillwell stood for a moment, watching the man carefully pick his leaves from the plant, setting them in a small brass bowl. Then, silently, she left the room.




     I had a happy marriage, and a healthy obsession. A healthy addiction. So much better than cigarettes, liquor, or even chocolate cream coffee, although that’s sinfully good too. I would watch the neighbors’ wives through my window, while my wife was out or sleeping. They could never be anything compared to my wife, but that wasn't why I watched. They were untouchable. And the action was so unsuspected that I often drooled at the thought of it. They thought I was the ‘goody goody,’ on the block. I could have gotten away with murder. I watched them. I watched them bathe, be with their husbands, and be without their husbands. That was the best time.

Then, Tia moved onto the block. Her husband was our gardener. After a few weeks, I didn't watch anyone else. The rest, even my wife, even the calendar girls., even Tanya Demerit down the block, seemed to exist in a black and white T.V. show, like those dull, grey women who vacuumed in pearls. They put me to sleep. Tia made me stand up. It was the perfect arrangement, I thought. Then, she caught me looking one day, and smiled.

I’d sneak out, and slap my dog to keep him quiet. We found secret places in each other. It was like poetry. Ice cream. Whatever cliché you please. I put everything into her. All money and time. For what is money, they say, without love? I decided to cross out of my black and white life, and see the world in living color. My wife was very calm. She didn’t even seem surprised. She let me go.

And, without wasting any time, Tia faded into grey. Just like the others, she had to shave her legs, and floss her teeth. In a week, my perfect doll was loosing her wax sheen; with cellulite thighs, and snores at night. She kicked in her sleep too. We fought. I told her that she had let herself go to crap in a month, and in ten years, she’d be a smelly cow. My wife would be expecting me back, and that was why she let me go in the first place. The grass is always greener. Tia’s yard was full of dead, brown patches. I was going back to my well kept lawn.

But the locks were changed, and Tia’s husband peaked out our anniversary curtains and smiled. He’d been putting his hoe to my grass, it seemed. My favorite chair was outside in the street. My own dog barked at me as I picked up some shirts left out in the gutter. Loyalty is hard to come by.

Tia wouldn’t take me back. But I still have my windows. On East Cambridge and 35th street, if I put my chair right behind the blue dumpster, I can just see into 26D at the Crossway Apartments, and get a glimpse of their cable. I’d try to move in closer, but the sign says, “Keep Off Grass.”

All short stories have been copywritten by Melanie Leach
2004 - 2006