Sunday, February 3, 2019


Valdezi Sun'khar

Even before, I remember red,
weeping red, like the lone rose
against Jita station chrome.
 Too costly, I passed it by.

Though at the time it seemed perfect,
I remember now how stubborn aphids
had chewed away at its goodness,
tiny tears in the red petals
and the cluster of thorns on the stem.

You loved the red
of a heart eaten raw
lifted to your smiling mouth
your teeth stained
your red rictus
twin lines framing your chin
swiftly drying to a crust.

A man more wise
might have known to step around
a cooling pool of blood,
two damp trails leading off
and the grim white reflection.

Instead, my toes disturb the almost-dry surface
brush aside the browning skin
to reveal slick and sticky red
coating the tips indelibly.

It was nothing. Consumed
by a single gout of red flame,
crumbled to ash.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Variations on a Theme by Ravede EnDama

Red sands slither over rock. You were once
by the sea, and wet winds blew in faces
staring up among the mesas. The sun
is pale and distant to you now.

of a disintegrated us, shattered
like tiny glass spiders, we are brittle,
a thousand sand smiles, blankly scattered
like slivers in the dust, indifferent crystal.

Each new love is like this: Under the pull
of the moons, to sway, circled by warm arms.
And you know as you laugh that he is cruel,
the warrior, remote to your vile charms.

Each night I call out your name among stone.
The volcano answers, unmoved, alone.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Things Are, Deep Down, Made of Tears


They came at night.

It was wet season, warm, and a breeze shambled liquidly from an open window. My bedsheet was coarse black fabric, and I always wrapped it tightly around me. A sandpaper caress, as if a timid mouse had its hole lined with snakeskin.

I heard at first the sound of breaking glass and heavy footsteps.

What Being Khanid Means

“We Khanid are chosen by God. First of all, God ordains us to be righteous. That is what being Khanid means. This is a beautiful thing.” When my Father taught, he always stood. Even at the dinner table.

If he intended to instruct, or to rant as my brother always said, he would put his cutlery down, push his chair back and stand. He would get a faraway look in his eye, as if he were addressing an invisible audience. His voice, always deep, would grow sonorous and he would pause for effect after making particularly stern pronouncements.

“And what is it to be righteous? To hold the will of God close to one’s heart. To understand, that with every fibre of one’s being, that one is God’s instrument.”


A dull echo on the faux-wood floor.

There is a recess, behind the hanging rail for my clothes. My brother used to hide his lascivious Gallentean zines here. I scuttle into it. One of my dresses, high necked and white, hangs in front of me. A small box of love letters, secreted here, pokes into my thigh.

My mother screams from another part of the house.

I try to slow my breathing from a ragged pant.

A muffled conversation bleeds through the polymer wall, warm against my ear. I can’t make out the words.

There are two thuds, and the second I can feel through my damp palms, pressed against the ground.

I bite my tongue, fighting the urge to cry out, and my mouth fills with the taste of blood, like warm oozing rust.

Dreams of Athra

I am straddling some unfamiliar quadruped on a green field. In my hand, shaft resting against my thigh, is a long lance, tipped jaggedly with burnished steel.

Others start to form behind me. I don’t look around, but I feel them there, shadows at the edge of my vision.

Someone starts to yell, to scream. It is a wordless cry, defiant, hurled across the field like a vicious barbed challenge. I realise that I am calling out also, or maybe it was me in the beginning. I’m never sure.

As a single organism, a wave, a gout of fire, we start to move across the fields, the creatures beneath us cascading a demented rhythmic counterpoint to our cries with the percussion of their movement.

We lower our lances dipped at the chests of distant enemies.

The point of impact is where I always wake up, sweating, bedsheets kicked to the floor and with a mouth like the desert.

Uncomfortable Dinner

“We’re ready to release our manifesto.” My father emphasised his point by gesturing wildly with his knife.

My mother looked at him and chewed.

“This will be historic.” A neglected morsel was still perched on his fork.

She took a deep breath.

“There is no way that this will fail to get their attention.”

“Is that desirable?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Of course. How else will things change? We’re a conservative people. We need to be slapped in the face to be woken up.”

My mother sighed. “Just be careful how hard you slap.” Despite the fact that she had finished eating, she swallowed. She was looking at her plate and drumming her fingers on the table.

The Sea

And when I heard my father’s voice rumbling from far off, through the house, it was as if my head had been thrust underwater, and my brother was yelling at me from above. But I could only make out the pitch and timbre of his voice, obscured as it was by the sound of rolling pebbles and the distant echo of waves crashing on the shore. Then I would open my eyes in the sea and realise it was night, and they would not sting, not for a second.

It was just like that, hearing my father scream in pain.


“Slavery benefits only the powerful.” My father loomed over the breakfast table. His dark eyes fixed on each of us in turn. My brother’s eyes flicked up from the Commentaries of St. Tetrimon for a moment to look at my father, then back down.

“When considering a moral question, one must ask, Cui bono?” He pointed at me. “Translate.”

“Um.... as benefit to whom?”

“I would have accepted: Who benefits?” my father nodded. “But yes. And who benefits from slavery?”

He looked at both of us. I looked at my brother. My brother looked at his book.

I sighed. “Well, the rich holders benefit, I guess....”

“Why?” my father interrupted.

“It keeps them economically powerful, because they have a pool of very cheap labour to call upon.”

My father made an impatient gesture with his hand. “Go on.”

“And the more money they have, the more influence they have. Look at the Tash-Murkons over in the Empire.”

“Good. Who else benefits?”

And so on.


The wind had shifted, now thick with the promise of rain from the south. It rattled the louvred doors, and for a moment, the other sounds were drowned out.

Then, I could hear muffled sobbing which was muted by a chorus of booted feet, fading away.

Tear-streaks turned cool on my cheeks, as the breeze converged.

Dance, zephyr, shift and change, gust and wane, and scatter feathers like forgotten sorrows, laughing dominoes, onward towards evening.


I crawled out.

Dawn was fingering the edges of my window-sill, and I could hear gulls cry and plead in the distance as they picked at dead fish on the shore.

My parents’ room was on the other side of the house. In the corridor outside, a vase belonging to my mother was shattered, purple flowers from her garden trampled on the ground. Water was pooling.

Inside, blood made a second pool, and it was across the wall in a neat pattern of tiny flecks.

Each of my hands white-knuckled the other. Each of my hands trembled. Each of my hands twisted like angry churches.

My parents were gone, their bedsheets scattered.

Their abductors were gone, their boots scuffing the polish of the floor.

They came at night.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Iconocracy: Yasur

In the southern hemisphere of Intaki Prime, the looming volcano, Yasur, casts its sweaty glare over an open salty bay. This was one of the places the Gallente first landed.

The people who lived here were simple, then. Their brown toes crumbled the settled ash into a fine grey powder, dusting their feet pale. When the Gallente came, they showed off cargo from their ships, glittering things, things of which the people who live below Yasur had never dreamed.

In the shadows of overhanging palms, they spoke with the newcomers, who told them wondrous things – that beyond the white sands that were the only borders they had known was more than they could imagine; that each of the bright spots in the fundament was a star, just like their bright hot one, and that each of those stars had worlds.

They stood and watched the ships take off, then grow distant, then disappear altogether, leaving behind a dream of mysterious and esoteric cargo. And that night, Yasur flared, glowing red tendrils streaking out into the cosmos.

Despite their belief in the Ida, Yasur loomed large in the people’s consciousness, a great and terrible thing, able at a whim to destroy, but the source of fertility for all the soil in the region. They spoke to the grim mountain, and believed it spoke to them.

Great globs of molten stone drizzled the ground around, and soft flows trickled from the lip of the rock. Yasur cried that night, cried that it was losing its children.

Then, it was morning, and a fresh blanket of ash had drifted along the cane huts the people had cowered in overnight. The people went out and spoke to Yasur, to reassure the mountain that they would not leave it, but it was silent.

Even now, people travel to Yasur from all over the Federation, Intaki descended from that humble tribe, begging the mountain to speak again.

But Yasur slumbers on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Living Spaces: The Villiage

A wide, muddy stretch of the River Ganga cuts through the town, and from each side, docks extend like wooden fingers into the soupy water. A simple, roped punt is hunched on the shore and a man is asleep on its beams in the warm sun.

On this side, a bar oozes drunken fishermen out onto the street along with strains of raucous music. Many of them slump over to long, elegant boats tied off and floating on the brown tide.

On the other side, seekers in a red stone monastery wade into the water to soak in the wisdom that flows down from sacred springs in the distant mountains.

The future came to this place with the Gallente, years ago, but this town clings to the old ways, just as the warm wet air clings to the flesh of the people who live here.

Then comes the rains, sweeping down from the looming Himavant, and the town is shrouded. The rain lasts for three months of the year and soaks the palms of the plantation, pooling on the already sodden ground. Dark, moaning winds lash the houses, tearing aside the roofs of dried palm leaves. Each house, built of wooden beams strung together with mosquito netting and surrounded by a great wall of sharpened stakes, becomes a frightful place, smelling of rain and rot, of sickness and sweat. The locals argue often, confined to their tiny houses, and their yells are punctuated by the cries of the ill.

In the monastery, the circling winds create a sonorous effect, like a constant mantra echoing in open, stony spaces, and those within huddle in their wide halls to consider the infinite.

The rains ease to a light drizzle for several days before the downpour resumes, and during this time everyone returns to work, tending the damaged plants in the fields and repairing the houses, like a pack of busy ants.

This is the time of the predator, especially the vicious Rkshas, the brown coat, the destroyer, who comes after the rains, having hungrily waited in dim silence for the rains to end. Many is the farmer, having emerged to repair the broken stockade around their swampy home, who has found themselves to be that long-awaited meal.

Monday, July 26, 2010



by Mammal Tafren

Under the glare of the lights the hull of the ship felt warm, as if it were an organic thing. He rested his hand on one of the wingtips, fingers just poised on the surface, flexing against the vibrations which rose up from within like echoes.

In his other hand, he twisted a small beaded bracelet over his fingers with his thumb in a smooth motion. Every so often he would raise that hand to his face and inhale. The corners of his mouth would crease with memory as he let the hand fall.

“We’re ready.” The docking manager looked over.

Taking his hand from the warm metal, the man nodded.

“How did it take all this fire in the first place?” The docking manager turned away to key in a sequence in his display. He glanced over his shoulder at the gaunt capsuleer, who was watching his ship. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

The capsuleer turned, flicking a strand of black hair away from his face. He absently smelled at his beads again. “I don’t mind. I was taking it out to Intaki to take a look at the planet my parents came from. I’d never seen it, you see.”

“Dangerous area, Intaki.” Grunted the docking manager.

“Quite.” The capsuleer raised the beads to his nose again. “Some local pirates camped the gate into the region. One of them got off a volley before I managed to get her out of there. You know what a Taranis is like, though. Good lines. Fast. They gave chase, but she was too quick. She got me in and out without much trouble.”

He sighed and his eyes flicked back to the frigate which was disappearing, hauled by mechanical forces into another part of the station. “The did scratch her though.” The capsuleer shook his head.

The docking manager leaned back against the console and looked at the capsuleer. “The people who fly out in those lawless parts of space are no good. Scum, all of them. You’d do well to stay away.”

The capsuleer raised an eyebrow. “I’m moving there.”

The docking manager raised his hands. His eyes widened. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“No offence taken.” A smile crossed the capsuleer’s pale face. “You’re largely right. It reminds me of some things I’ve learned. You’re familiar with Gallentean philosopher Francois-Marie Anouet, yes?”

“Um.” The docking manager said.

“Yes, well, he said that we need consequences to remind us to act morally. That, without consequences, we tend to act in our immediate self interests, to take what we want. The problem with all capsuleers is they have had a fairly major deterrent, death, taken away from them. Once you aren’t afraid to die anymore, you take risks and undertake activities that others would not.”

“Ah.” The docking manager produced a hip flask from his pocket and took a swig. He offered it to the capsuleer, who shook his head.

“And, worse than that,” the capsuleer continued. “The people who fly out beyond the reach of Concord have lost a second level of consequences. They are no longer pursued by the law for killing people and taking their goods. It is small wonder then, that the morally weak among them choose to do this. Once the consequences are removed, we often decide to take the things we’ve always wanted but couldn’t have.”

The docking manager looked at the time readout on his display.

The capsuleer looked up. The ship had disappeared from view. “Reminds me of a story. I knew a man who grew up where my family comes from, in the Southern Hemisphere of Intaki. In the valley of a river called Ganga. It’s a highly spiritual place. I went there to see it. Anyway, this man, his name was Maninder, was something of an explorer, and one day, in space, he found an abandoned module. He had no idea what it was, or where it had come from, but he took it and examined it. It turned out to be some kind of cloaking module. Probably Jovian. The point was, that it allowed one’s ship to fire while cloaked.”

“Impossible.” The docking manager coughed.

“Indeeed, as far as we know, but Maninder always claimed to have found it nonetheless. He could have used it for all sorts of things, but he immediately used it to get the things he had always wanted. He put in in a ship just like my one.” The capsuleer gestured vaguely upwards. “A Taranis. And he flew and blew up everyone who had ever crossed him in space. He looted what he could and made the isk and set up his family in a nice house by the Ganga. But it wasn’t enough and he kept stealing stuff.”

“So what happened?”

“Eventually he got sloppy. Went to sleep in a room in a station near here. The FIO had been tracking the incidents and they grabbed him. Took the ship, seized his family’s property and put him in prison. He’s still there and his family are poor as ever.”

The docking manager took another drink from his flask. “So, are you saying the FIO has a Taranis that can fire while cloaked?”

“Who knows? Maninder probably made it all up. He lies like that. But he is in prison. I saw him there.”

Silence. The capsuleer fiddled with his beads. “So, What docking berth is my ship in?”

The docking manager glanced at his display. “Five.”

“Five.” Said the capsuleer. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

This is my entry to the Inspired By Images Of Eve Competition 2. More details and links to all entrants can be found at Starfleet Comms


Here is an earlier story I wrote for an Silver Night's Eve Fiction Competition


The alley was lit by flickering neon, filtering down from above. A figure, several of his features swathed in a blue glow, stepped from the shadows. The figure seemed to peer down the alleyway, then behind him, and then down the alleyway again. His hands were hidden from view inside the pockets of a grey coat. In the distance, there was the crash of broken glass, and the steady rumble of traffic.

Then, he took another step forward, and crouched behind a cluster of boxes. His eyes flicked up to the Quafe billboard, only partly visible, and seemed to stare for a moment. Blue-grey smoke or mist drifted past, covering the sign, and he looked away, taking in the door several metres away. Standing, he moved to the door, taking his hands from his pockets, in one of them, a gun.

He bent to the door, pressing the side of his head to it. Straightening, he took a step back and rapped on the door. He levelled his pistol at the door.

“Who is it?”

The man’s knuckles were white on the gun. “De Zwart.”

There was a fumbling sound behind the door. A latch was drawn. The door swung open.

A crack filled the alleyway as the gun fired. The man strode into the open doorway, stepping over the ruined head and lifeless body which had slumped to the ground.

The room was suffused with yellow light of a cheap live news feed screen. Several glass containers bubbled away on a counter. A slender man, green snake tattoo on the nape of his neck, was searching a drawer with his back exposed.

“Don’t.” De Zwart pointed his gun. “That snake makes a convenient target.”

There was a wordless cry of frustration.

“Sit down.” The gun gestured towards an old armchair. Some of the yellow stuffing was exposed.

Snake-Tattoo turned. His head was shaved and his eyes were hollow and dark-rimmed. Keeping his eyes on the gun, he edged to the chair and sat.

De Zwart slouched against a bench, fished in his pocket and produced a hand-rolled cigarette, which he lit. He took a short drag and exhaled almost immediately. The pistol remained half-trained on the armchair and its occupant.

“You ever see a snake?” He spoke around the cigarette, blowing a puff of smoke and gesturing with the pistol.

“Sure.” Snake-Tattoo scratched his neck. “In the Zoo in Lautremont.”

“I heard about those.” De Zwart took the cigarette out of mouth, holding it loosely. “What were they like?”

“Did you come here to ask me about snakes?”

The gun twitched. “Answer the question.”

Snake-Tattoo’s eyes dropped to the pool of blood now forming on the plastic floor. “Yeah, they were great, all right?”

“They must have been better than great,” said De Zwart, his eyes intent on Snake-Tattoo. “They must have been amazing. I mean, for you to have one tattooed on you.”

“Sure.” Snake-Tattoo coughed and rubbed his face.

De Zwart looked at the live feed on the far wall. Galactic news scrolled across the screen in yellow letters. “Is there no sound?”

“Um.” Snake-Tattoo looked at the screen. “It’s on mute.”

“Federation recaptures Intaki,” read De Zwart. “Isn’t that grand?”

Snake-Tattoo shrugged. De Zwart looked back at him. “You don’t think so?”

“What difference does it make to us, down here? Intaki could disappear forever and it wouldn’t make a difference. You’d still have a gun in my face.”

De Zwart took a drag from his cigarette. “True,” he pointed his gun at the news screen. “But surely you’re a Gallente patriot, yes?”

Another shrug.

The cigarette was dropped. A booted foot crushed it into the floor. “You know why I’m here?”

Snake-Tattoo nodded.

De Zwart moved to the chemical apparatus. He wafted some of it over to his nose and immediately coughed. “Nasty stuff. How much you get for that?”

“How much for how much?”

De Zwart made an impatient sound. “I dunno. Per pill or whatever. How much?”

“Depends on demand. Up to 30, 40 isk.”

A low whistle. “Good money, if you can get it.”

There were a few moments of silence. De Zwart looked at the glass bottles and tubes. There was a brown smear on the bench. A stain, or a burn. De Zwart ran a hand along it. Snake-Tattoo shifted in the armchair. “Are you going to kill me?”

“Depends.” De Zwart picked up an empty glass tube, coiled like a snake. He hefted it. “Don’t need this one?”

“It’s broken.” Snake-Tattoo was terse. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his face, catching the dim yellow light. “What does it depend on?”

“On you, of course,” De Zwart replaced the coiled glass tube. “See, I’m not interested in you, not really. I want the next ones, right up the chain. The people you work for. The head of the snake, as it were.”

The other man shook his head. “The heads are off-world. You can’t get to them.”

“No doubt, but I’m sure you have someone you report to, someone you give a cut to. Someone local.”

Snake-Tattoo looked at the gun. “Um.”

De Zwart chuckled. “Of course you do. You’re small time. No offence, of course. You still manage to do plenty of damage.”

“I’m sorry, man.”

There was a sharp intake of breath. “Don’t bother. Don’t.”


“I said...” De Zwart surged forward, gun pointed. “Don’t. Just give me the name.”

Snake-Tattoo raised his hands in front of him. “The remote,” he said, pointing.

De Zwart tossed him a grey plastic remote. The name and address came up on the feed screen seconds later.

Pocketing his book, De Zwart stood. “You know what the worst thing about being a snake?”

The man shook his head, gripping the remote.

“You have too much poison for your size, so people fear you. They destroy you on sight, if they can. Stomp on your head. You are too dangerous to live.”

Snake-Tattoo half-started up from the arm-chair. “You said you wouldn’t kill me.”

De Zwart firmed his grip on the gun, shaking his head. “This is Dodixie. Do you really expect people to keep their word here?”

He squeezed the trigger.