Hurricane Music

By Lea Ann Douglas




“See you tomorrow, Georgie.”


“Okay, Max. Take it easy. Careful driving home. The wind’s picking up.”


“I’m walking. Hopefully I’ll make it before the rain starts.” Max, his sun-burnt face a web of lines from sixty years of drinking and hard work outdoors, lurched his way out of The Green Gator Bar and let the screen door slam behind him. Georgina Perez gathered the empty glasses in front of Max’s regular stool and began stacking them in a plastic tub.


Georgina finished with the cups and snatched a sweating glass of water from behind the bar. She took a long drink, the icy water running down her throat and spreading coolness through her chest. With her other hand, she grabbed a bar rag and mopped it across her wet forehead. Georgie had lived in Key West for six years and still hadn’t gotten used to the oppressive humidity. Baha was hot in the summer, but nothing like this. The Pacific breezes blowing through her hometown lifted the moisture from your skin as fast as the heat could pull it out of you.


“Closing time, Freddy,” she said brightly to the dark-skinned man with the silver hair whose face rested on the sticky bar. One eye opened lazily, like a cat not quite sure if she was worth interrupting a nap.


“Come on, Freddy, time to go home. Before the storm hits,” said Georgie. She wiped off the only four-top in the bar and picked up the two dollars left there. “Have a good night,” she waved to the departing tourists and, under her breath: “Cheapskates.”


A hot blast of wind rattled the windows and finally succeeded in rousing Freddy.


“Guess I’d better get on home,” he said thickly. “Hope the boy taped up the windows.”


“I’m sure your son took care of everything, Freddy. Go on, or you’ll get wet. It’s gonna start pouring in a minute,” said Georgie as she helped him off the stool. She had a moment of doubt as she led him out the door and onto the deserted downtown street. She considered calling him a cab, but that would be ridiculous, since he only lived two blocks away. Besides, she doubted if any cabbie would venture out tonight, with the hurricane expected to hit soon after midnight. She watched him amble up the street and was reassured.


“At least he’s going in the right direction,” she said aloud. Georgie went back inside and corralled the last patrons out. Another group of tourists—college kids from up north—resisted.


“We’re having a hurricane party, baby!” they cheered when Georgie tried to make them pay the check.


“Well, we’re closing, so you’ll have to take it someplace else,” she said tersely. It took another ten minutes of dirty looks, not-so-subtle hints, and finally a direct order to get the designer-clad kids out of her bar.


“Do you have a generator? You’d better tape up those windows. Is your cell phone charged up?” Bess and Tim, a friendly local couple and two of Georgie’s best regulars were worried about her closing up the bar alone.


“Do you want us to stay and give you hand, hon?” said Bess.


“No, that’s okay,” Georgie replied. “I did most of it this morning before I opened. I’m all set.”


“We’d better stick around and give you a ride home, though,” Tim insisted.


“Really, it’s okay. You go on. I’ve got my truck, and it’s only a half-mile drive. It’s not supposed to really get going for another couple of hours,” said Georgie determinedly. She didn’t add that their kind offers to help were holding her up.


After reassuring Bess and Tim several more times that she would be careful and that the bar was safety battened down, she hugged Bess and sent them on their way. Bobby Mac asked for one for the road, so Georgie poured a beer into a plastic cup and shoved him out front where his irritated wife sat in the car honking the horn. Sherie sat picking at a label stuck to the bar top and smoking a cigarette.


Gotta close early, Sherie Sorry,” Georgie said.


“Aw, girl, that’s okay,” Sherie said as she stubbed her half-smoked cigarette out in a yellow tin ashtray. “I’m not getting any work tonight. Everybody’s staying home. Those college boys was my only prospects, and you went and chased them off.”


“Sorry, but the storm’s coming,” Georgie said. For the first time since hearing the weather report last night, she was glad of the predictions calling for the hurricane to hit Key West head on. She like Sherie personally, but didn’t like the idea of her picking up johns in the Green Gator.


Sherie collected her things, laid a ten on the bar and waved good-bye. Georgie was fishing glasses out of the washing tub next to the kegs and drying them off, so she didn’t notice the small boy who skipped through the door as Sherie left. Another gust blew across the roof and shook the fragile shack that housed the Gator. Georgie’s head snapped back and she contemplated the ceiling. Despite her confident words to Tim and Bess, she worried about the ability of the roof to withstand a repeated onslaught of hurricane-strength winds.


“Well, too late to do anything about it now,” she said. When she directed her focus back to the room, she saw the boy sitting at the bar. He must have been about seven or eight and appeared a bit short for his age even then. His head had that too-big-for-his-body look that small children have, and it wobbled a little on his skinny neck as though he had not yet learned to control its movements. He was extremely thin and had long, gangly arms and legs, the latter kicking the bar under his stool rhythmically. A white Marlins cap partially concealed his blondish hair and his huge blue eyes stared at Georgie without blinking.


“We’re closed, niño,” Georgie said to him. He didn’t say anything. In fact, he seemed not to have heard her at all.


“Are you lost? I’m sorry, but we’re closing,” she said a little louder. He didn’t make a sound or move his body at all expect for his swinging feet.


“Little boy, you can’t stay in here,” she said, putting down the glass and rag. “There’s a hurricane coming. Where are your parents?” He still didn’t speak, but now a small squeak burst from his lips. The sound wasn’t indicative of any emotion in particular, but under the circumstances, Georgie decided to interpret it as fear.


“Okay, okay,” she said gently. “Let me just finish closing up here and we’ll see if we can find your parents.” The boy chirped again.


Georgie grabbed her purse from behind the bar and rooted around until she found her cell phone. She punched in the number of the local police while she moved around the room, wiping down tables.


“Are you from here? From Key West?” she prompted while waiting for the call to connect. “Are you on vacation? Do you know which hotel you are in?” The boy observed her go from table to table, but didn’t say a word. Except for his watchful eyes, not a muscle in his face moved. His expression was benign but emotionless and reminded Georgie of a department store mannequin.


“Damn!” she hissed. “I’m not getting reception. Hang on.”


Picking up the receiver of the phone behind the bar, she dialed the police station number again.


“Hello? Yeah, this is Georgie Perez over at the Green Gator. I’ve got a lost kid here and—”A flash of light illuminated the dim bar for an instant. The boy jumped off his stool and began running around the room, circling the tables and emitting a string of chirps and hums. Two seconds later, an ear-splitting crack made Georgie’s heart jump.


“It’s just thunder, niño,” she shouted to the excited boy over the tinny drumming racket that the rain suddenly played on the roof. “Hello? Hello? Shit! The phone’s dead.”


She slammed the receiver down and ran tense fingers through her dark hair.


“Okay, okay, let me just think a second,” she muttered. The boy had stopped circling the room and was sitting quietly again at the four-top. He shuddered violently each time the thunder shook the air, but other than that, he seemed calm. Georgie was trying to remember if the fire station or the police station was a shorter run from the Gator when the wind slammed the screen door open.


“Shit!” she ran to the door and pushed it closed against the wind. She pulled the heavy wooden front door away from the wall and was about to shut it when a face appeared on the other side of the screen. Georgie screamed.


“Oh God! Sorry. You startled me,” she hurried to say when the stranger lurched backwards. The streetlamps must have been knocked out already because behind him the quaint little Key West street was dark and threatening. In the yellow-brown light coming from inside the bar, Georgie could make out little about the man, except that he was very tall.


“Sorry, sorry, come in,” she said, pulling back the screen door. She let the tall man in and shut the wooden door against the wind. Now she could discern that he was even taller than she had thought—almost a foot over her own five foot-four inch frame. His dark hair was shaved close on his head, like a marine, except for a long braided stand that hung down nearly to his waist. He wore a tight-fitting black shirt made of material that caught the light and made him seem to shimmer as he moved. His loose pants were of the same material and Georgie couldn’t help but notice the way the fabric flattered his muscular form. He looked young—maybe mid-twenties—but something about the way he stood gracefully still in the middle of the room made him seem older. A pack complete with what she assumed was an umbrella case was slung on his back. She blinked for a second when she noticed that he was barefoot. Then she gazed up into his face, expecting dark eyes to go with his hair and golden brown complexion, but instead succumbing to glistening violet irises framed by long black lashes.


“Um…sorry,” she mumbled again lamely. Something nagged at her, something she ought to be doing, but for a few seconds she couldn’t remember what it was and she didn’t really care. Another bone-shaking crack of thunder brought her back to herself.  “Oh, thank goodness,” she sighed. “You must be…your son? He’s here. I’m closing. I’m trying to get home before the storm.”


“I am afraid you are too late,” he said in a melodic tenor. “This street floods even as we speak.”


“What? Shit! I can’t believe this. They said the storm wasn’t supposed to hit until after midnight.”


“Predicting the future is an uncertain operation,” he said. “Do you have wine?”


“Huh?” Georgie thought this question brazenly off topic.


“Wine? El vino?”


Si. I mean, yes, we do, but—“


“Then the night will pass quickly,” he said with a jovial laugh.


“Anyway, your son, he came in…” Georgie scanned the bar, but the boy had vanished. “Well, he was here a second ago. Maybe he went to the restroom.” She was on her way to confirm this theory when the man’s words brought her up short.


“I have no son,” he said evenly.


“You…you don’t? Damn. Damn, where is that kid?”



Behind the shrill chirping of the cicadas, underneath the low electric hum from the bait and tackle shop nearby, Finntan could hear the clouds rolling in from the east. He lifted his head and sniffed the air. The storm was moving closer, faster than he had expected. Tiny hairs on his arms stood on end from the charge in the atmosphere. A hollow sensation accompanied by a slight throbbing pain in his sinuses told him that the barometric pressure was dropping fast. Getting back to the island tonight would be impossible. The rest of his company would already have made the crossing by now.


Finntan opened his hands and stretched his thoughts forward. Instantly, the wet, fetid landscape around him changed. Warm light from the vast fireplace surrounded him. The rotting sulfur smell of the swampland vanished and was replaced by an odor of baking bread and salted fish roasting on a spit over the fire.


-an bhil , Kyri?” came the lilting voice of his superior officer. His mind-vision could not see her form, but her words projected clearly into his mind as though she stood right next to him.


“Two kilos outside Key West proper,” Finn said, slipping into the English he had been using all day during his reconnaissance mission. “I shall not be able to make the crossing to Fàsà Oilean before the storm.”


The mission had been straight forward enough; Finn had been on many such missions with the Elfrida. You walked around the outskirts of the town, patrolling for Tinnar—outcasts from the Tribe who survived by preying on unwary humans. Finntan had always considered these missions a waste of time. If the humans were stupid enough to let themselves get robbed or killed, what concern should the Cailech Sidhe have for this? Humans were a nuisance anyway. No true Sidhe would shed a tear over the misfortune of these pests.


But the missions were part of the training for any hoping to enter the Fianna, the Royal Guard of the Sidhe. So, Finn went, racking up the hours in the field he would need before he even got close to the Fianna try-out fields.


Fanas ansin ag maidin,” was all his commander said before her voice and the safety of the barracks melted away into the misty realm between spaces that made such communication possible.


“Wait here until morning?” Finn muttered to the thick forest night that closed in around him. He snorted and spit into the bushes to the right of his hiding place. Why had he moved off from his company? He had known that small vibrational variance he sensed was only a mad raccoon and not a Tinnar on the prowl, as he had told the warriors in his charge. After finishing off the poor inflicted animal with a single thrust of his broadsword, he chastised himself for his own bravado. Who was he posturing for? Did he hope his company would speak tales of glory around the fire this night, boasting of their squad commander’s bravery loud enough for the base commander to hear?


Misoka,” he scolded himself. It was an old Sinti swear, a truly offensive insult taken from a story about a Sidhe so blinded by passion he stuck his staff into a hole in the ground and lost it to an angry badger.


Finn knew that his carelessness would earn him a reprimand when he arrived back on the hidden island that was the Elfrida’s home base in these waters. Spending a night wet, cold, and tossed about by the winds only to have one’s ears chewed off in the morning was not a pleasant prospect. A responsible warrior would wait out the night in the wild, taking the opportunity to test his survival skills and turn a stupid mistake into a training exercise. That was what Vortiga, his commander, would have done.


But Vortiga was a Melleki, an Order known for producing Elfrida warriors by the bucketful. Finn was Davadish, the most ancient and royal Order of the Sidhe, and cousin to the Queen herself, no less. He could spend a night without shelter if he had to, but it was not an experience he would relish. A nice, dry pub with warm wine, good music, and maybe even a pretty human woman or two would be a more sensible way to spend the night away from home. So long as he reached the rally point by sunrise, who would ever know or ask how he had passed the dark hours?


Finn stood and shook the wet from his clothes and hair and then began to run gracefully toward the city. As he approached, the noise filled his head and he adjusted his senses to block out the constant hum of the electric grid, the non-stop chatter of human thoughts and the dim, slow, pulsing light of their souls that always accompanied human cities. Running through the town, his sensitive eyes were assaulted by the electric light. On the lowest end of the light spectrum accessible to his eyes, Finn could see the trails of heat left by passing cars and bodies. He chose a path that followed these trails, hoping to find an open tavern amongst the cold, empty buildings downtown.


The wind blew hard, sending shivers along the length of Finn’s body. Several times he was forced to stop, kneel down, and curl his body into a ball when lightning slammed across the black sky. The charged particles in the air told him that the lightning grew closer. If he didn’t find some shelter soon, the lightning would surely find him, attracted by the highly polarized cells of his own body. Few things in the world were really dangerous to a well-trained, armed adult Sidhe warrior. Lightning was one of them.


Another crack—this one almost on top of the lightning—brought rain pouring down on Finn’s head. He spat again and decided he didn’t have time to be picky about his lodgings. A bright reddish-brown glow up ahead told his infrared senses that the building was occupied. Lightning and thunder ripped the sky simultaneously, and the streetlamps snapped off. Finn ran to the warm building just as a gust blew its brittle screen door ajar. From somewhere behind the building, he heard the click and trill of a generator powering on. He peered into the tiny shack through the screen and saw the face of a human woman looking back at him. The volume of her scream was remarkable for a human and Finn lurched backward into the street.


“Oh God! Sorry. You startled me,” the woman stammered. Finn scanned her quickly with his trained senses. She had about thirty years of life behind her; she would have been a mere child among the Sidhe, but Finn knew her age made her an adult to humans. She had the reddish-brown complexion of the Mayani Order, which Finn guessed made her what humans called Hispanic. Unlike some of his fellow Elfrida, Finn had never made a habit of seducing humans, but he had seen enough of them to recognize this female as attractive.


“Sorry, sorry, come in,” she said, pulling back the screen door and allowing him to enter. She regarded him curiously for a few moments and Finn feared she might mistake him for a thief and put him out. He ought to have rehearsed a cover story for his presence and appearance, but in his hurry to get out of the storm, it slipped his mind.


“Um…sorry,” she mumbled again lamely, looking up into his eyes. Finn stared into hers, willing her to accept him, sending her waves of well-being and trust. Another bone-shaking crack of thunder sounded and the woman broke off her gaze.


“Oh, thank goodness,” she sighed. “You must be…your son? He’s here. I’m closing. I’m trying to get home before the storm.” Finn recalled the water filling the streams with storm surge he had seen on his way into town and the deep puddles forming on the corner of the low street he had just come from. He caught a flash from her mind—this woman getting into a vehicle parked behind the tavern and driving through the rain to her small trailer on the edge of town.


“I am afraid you are too late,” he said. “This street floods even as we speak.”


“What? Shit! I can’t believe this. They said the storm wasn’t supposed to hit until after midnight.” The rolling waves of disappointment and fear coming from her washed over Finn and he sought his English vocabulary for something comforting to say. 


“Predicting the future is an uncertain operation,” was all he managed. He decided to concentrate on comforting himself: “Do you have wine?”




“Wine? El vino?” Perhaps her native language would sooth her.


Si. I mean, yes, we do, but—“


“Then the night will pass quickly,” he laughed with relief. But she was agitated again.


“Anyway, your son, he came in…well, he was here a second ago. Maybe he went to the restroom.” Finn surmised that she thought him a tourist after a lost child and this lost boy was the source of her unease. He could think of nothing to say to this except to tell the plain truth.


“I have no son,” he said evenly. This was apparently the wrong thing to say, since she grew even more upset.


“You…you don’t? Damn. Damn, where is that kid?”


The woman began to pace about the room, peering under tables and shaking her head.


“Doubtless the child will emerge,” Finn said, though he didn’t see how this simple fact could not be apparent to her. Humans couldn’t move through space-time as the Sidhe could; the boy must be in the bar somewhere, though Finn couldn’t feel his heat.  Anyway, he would certainly have felt the disruption if the child had been running through the cold rain outside.


“While we await the inevitable, I shall open a bottle,” he said, striding confidently toward the bar.


“Wait!” the woman cried as she practically tackled him. “I have to serve you. It’s the law.”


“How odd,” said Finn. “As you please.” He took a seat and stretched his long legs out, propping his feet on the table. The woman shoved his feet to the floor abruptly.


“Health codes,” she snapped and went to fetch the wine. “Red or white?”


“As you please,” he said again in what he hoped would be interpreted as a friendly tone. These human languages were so ambiguous.


She reached above her head and retrieved two bottles from a cupboard. Finn watched as she rooted in another overhead cabinet for an opener and then slapped his hands to his ears when she emitted another piecing scream. A little creature about the size of a human child fell from the cabinet and hit the floor with a metallic thump.


“How the hell did you get up there?” she said with a mix of anger and relief.


Finn leapt to his feet and drew his sword from the scabbard strapped to his back.


“Move away from her,” he order the woman. The woman turned to see Finn brandishing the gleaming sword and screamed again, though this scream held more annoyance than shock.


“What the hell are you doing?” she spat at him. No wonder he hadn’t felt the child’s warmth anywhere in the tavern. He should have guessed.


“Move away from her,” he said again, more sternly this time.


“He’s not doing anything. What’s your problem?” the woman said.


“Not him. Her. You must move away from her now, miss. Come to me. You will be safe with me between you,” Finn said, never taking his eyes from the short creature the woman had mistaken for a human boy.



Inside the eye of the hurricane, millions of strings of zeros and ones circle and whirl around a vacuum center. The digits resolve into patterns of sine waves with multiple vectors shooting away from almost every possible nodal point. Brightest of the vectors are the ones indicating a strengthening storm rapidly curling eastward. Blips of light chirping on-off in varying sequences like Morse Code dance on the wind closer to the surface and support the data from inside the storm. Conclusion: vortices of wind strong enough to blow over a bipedal creature are imminent at this location. Action required: find shelter inside the first available dwelling.


Inside the constant stream of data that represents Mit-na’s mind, the Objective file is closed and stored for recovery and the Survival file boots up. Her mirror-like black eyes absorb the few waves of light in the visible spectrum that still flow across the grid of Key West. Directing her orbs upward, she notes an increasing absence of visual light accompanied by a spike in magna-electric activity. Amended action required: find shelter NOW.


Groups of Monkey-children move past Mit-na, and she scans their electro-magnetic codes, adding their unique patterns to her catalogue. Each Monkey-child has its own code. When enough data has been gathered, a pattern must emerge. It simply must. Nothing truly unique exist in the universe. There are always two snowflakes alike if one analyzes them all.


The scattered lines representing the Monkey-children’s movements are translated and a common origin point is found. Mit-na turns left. A high-volume, mid-frequency wave bursts across her field of vision followed by a non-critical impact to the right femur.


“Watch it, kid!” comes the noise from the Monkey-child’s head, followed by another high-volume blast emanating from the craft in which it moves. The craft—bright red in Mit-na’s infrarred sensors—veers away from its intended vector to avoid her and passes away into the darkness.


The electric particles gather on Mit-na’s skin, sending fine hairs arching toward the sky. A pushing sensation builds in her body as the pressure inside tops the pressure outside. The thermostatic program kicks on automatically, slowing down metabolic function and reducing heat to equalize pressure. Mit-na crosses the street and stops in front of a green door over which hangs a two-dimensional representation of an indigenous reptile. A Monkey-child emerges from the door and Mit-na records her coding before slipping inside the shelter.


Low-spectrum visible light fills the cubic space and strange smells assault Mit-na’s olfactory apparatus. Searching the olfactory catalogue and cross-referencing the cultural and language centers, she sees the words “stale beer” and “cigarettes” blink in front of her eyes. A female Monkey-child gyrates erratically behind a pine barrier. Clear solid cylinders made of ground sand crystals are repeatedly dipped in a mixture of bonded hydrogen and oxygen, sodium lauryl sulfate, and various microscopic organic life-forms.


Mit-na approaches the pine barrier and assumes the position understood as “sitting.” Her leg muscles pulse in time with the hum of the electricity moving through the building.


“Well, too late to do anything about it now,” the female Monkey-child intones. Mit-na processes the female’s expression as surprise and annoyance.


“We’re closed, niño,” she says. Mit-na records her coding, takes an instant to match it against the stored codes in her data base and finds no exact match.


“Are you lost? I’m sorry, but we’re closing,” the female speaks.


“Little boy, you can’t stay in here,” she says, releasing her grip on the ground sand object. “There’s a hurricane coming. Where are your parents?”


The tone holds the inflection indicating that a response is expected. Mit-na chirps the pitch that is request for asylum.


“Okay, okay. Let me just finish closing up here and we’ll see if we can find your parents.” The tone is acquiescence and Mit-na chirps the note of acceptance.


The female continues her sporadic dancing around the cubic space and makes the tone of anxiousness.


“Are you from here? From Key West? Are you on vacation? Do you know which hotel you are in? Damn! I’m not getting reception. Hang on.” 


Mit-na analyzes the pattern of her movements, translates the vectors and waves into sound functions, and sings herself a comforting song composed of the female’s dance.


“Hello? Yeah, this is Georgie Perez over at the Green Gator. I’ve got a lost kid here and—”


Electricity discharges from the stratosphere to the surface and the particles clinging to Mit-na’s flesh leap away to join their fellows now souring through the air. The abrupt loss of charge tickles her and she skips about the space, collecting the charged particles she has lost.


“It’s just thunder, niño. Hello? Hello? Shit! The phone’s dead.”


Mit-na succeeds in restoring the proper charge to her skin and resumes the position known as sitting. 


“Okay, okay, let me just think a second.” Repeated discharges of electric energy send the particles flying and Mit-na instructs her muscles to tremble, creating a chemical charge to restore the fleeing electric particles. A curving line of wind pushes aside the barrier leading out of the space and the female runs right into it. Mit-na records this strange behavior.


“Shit!” The female thrusts her frame against the barrier and emits a high-pitched, sustained noise. Over and under the vibrating wave of light-sound, Mit-na’s sensors scramble. The rich wash of information and bouncing, twirling stream of zeros and ones alerts Mit-na to her danger. No Monkey-child produces such a code. Only one of Them expels such exquisite musical patterns. The female moves a half-meter to her east and Mit-na sees clearly through the dark and the metal mesh screen. It is one of the Fathers!


“Oh God! Sorry. You startled me.” The female speaks her words to the Father, but Mit-na scans the space. The Father cannot smell her or see the negligible amount of heat her body generates. She propels her form toward the pine barrier, knowing They cannot project their light vision through solid structures. With a delicate leap, she ascends into the air and reaches the top of the pine barrier. Smaller cubic structures hang above and another leap places Mit-na securely inside one of these. Waves of sound with many tones move across her as the Father speaks to the female. Mit-na focuses on the waves created by the water dropping on the roof and sings herself another soothing song.


Lost in her song, Mit-na does not process the female’s approach. The door of the cubicle is opened and Mit-na moves toward the surface, accelerating at nine meters per second squared. Diagnostics scan her body for damage and find none. Mit-na takes the position known as standing.


“How the hell did you get up there?” the female speaks. The Father rises and hefts the silver staff in front of him. Mit-na recognizes the tone of threatening.


“Move away from her.”


“What the hell are you doing?” Mit-na hears the tone of protection in the female’s voice and moves closer to her.


“Move away from her.”


“He’s not doing anything. What’s your problem?”


“Not him. Her. You must move away from her now, miss. Come to me. You will be safe with me between you.” The Father gestures for the female to approach him and stares into Mit-na’s black eyes. The female does not move.


“Show yourself!” the Father speaks and an eruption of energy soars at Mit-na. The pulse is composed entirely of the codes of will. The strings of numbers and blips shiver through Mit-na’s programs and she is powerless against them. The Disguise program shorts out and the hazy view from behind the boy’s face melts away as the hologram dissipates. Mit-na’s shining black eyes clearly see the female leap back against the side of the pine barrier.




Wha-what is that?!” Georgie panted. Pressed as far she could go into the side bar, the removable shelf digging into her back, Georgie stared, wide-eyed, at the creature which had been a normal looking boy a moment ago. Now she didn’t know what she was seeing. Her eyes seemed to play tricks on her. At the man’s command, the boy had begun to shimmer, like the picture on a television with poor reception. His body wasn’t moving, but her visual experience of him blinked and wiggled.


And then he was gone. Standing in his place was a silver-gray creature of the same size with a bald head and huge black eyes. Georgie gazed into the eyes and beheld her own reflection. The creature emitted a soft chirp from its tiny, thin-lipped mouth.


“She is an Alpi,” the man replied. “Probably wild. She may not hurt you, but it is better if you come to me now. They do not make the distinction between pleasure and pain.”


The little gray figure chirped again and Georgie studied its delicate body. It certainly didn’t look very threatening. A stiff breeze was likely to carry it aloft. No wonder it hadn’t wanted to stay outside in the harsh winds that were now shaking the walls of the bar. It was painfully thin; Georgie could pick out its bones poking through the green-brown sari garment it wore.


“How do you know it’s a she?” Georgie asked. There was nothing about the creature to indicate sex either way from what Georgie could see.


“They are all female,” the man answered. “Please, move away from her.”


The creature beeped at the man and then at Georgie. Moving as slowly as she could, Georgie pushed herself off the bar and took a step toward the little thing.


“She doesn’t look dangerous. I think you’re scaring her,” Georgie said gently, taking another step.


“Of course she is frightened of me,” the man said arrogantly. “If she is wild, I will kill her. If she is not, I will return her to her master.”


The gray creature must have understood this since she emitted a long series of chirps and beeps that sounded pleading. Ignoring the man’s irritated grunting, Georgie took another tentative step.


“Hi, little thing,” she said softly. “Are you scared? Are you lost?”


“She is not lost,” the man said impatiently. “She has run away. Or she is operating under orders from her master, in which case she is even more dangerous. Alpii never come into human areas unless some mischief is afoot.”


Georgie froze. She looked over at the man and then back at the creature. Suddenly she had a flashback to the day she applied for her business loan. She had stood in a sea of white faces, the only brown face among dozens of wealthy gringos in suits. She had never felt more the outsider in her life. Until now.


“And you are…” she directed at the creature holding the sword.


“I am Finntan and I can protect you from her, but you must not touch her,” he replied. This wasn’t quite the information Georgie was after, but she was too curious too correct him.


“Why not? Why can’t I touch her?”


“At the least, you will receive a nasty electric shock. At most, she will reach into your chest and pull out your heart to understand how it works,” he replied.


Georgie backed up a few steps. “Why…why would she do that?”


“It is her nature. She is programmed to gather information. It is of no consequence to her that she would kill you in doing so.”


A shrill, sustained tone emerged from the little creature and sent Georgie under the shelf and running toward the man. She stopped short of running into his sword. With the light on his face, she could now discern that his pretty violet irises surrounded almond-shaped, snake-like pupils. She stood in the middle of the room, trying to watch both creatures at the same time.


“Okay, okay,” she said, hoping she sounded in charge of her emotions. The quaking of the walls in the wind and rain weren’t helping. “I think…I think what’s going on is I’m dreaming or the roof fell in and knocked me out. But either way, you had both better just get out of my bar right now. Whatever you are.”


“That is not possible. Unless you have a boat,” he said, cocking his head toward the window. Georgie slid around him, avoiding his sword, and peered out the window. The water in the street was up past the first step of the bar’s stoop. At the end of the street, where the ground was lower, anyone hoping to cross would have to swim. The rain was still driving hard and the wind had already knocked over several trees and power lines, which slithered around in the water like deadly eels.


“Well…well that’s just great!” Georgie exclaimed. For a moment, she was thinking more of the business she would lose over the days, maybe weeks, it would take for the city to clean up the street. When she turned back, the man had the point of his sword at the throat of the little gray creature, who chirped and chattered loudly. He pulled back his sword, aiming his blow at the creature’s fragile neck.


“No!” Georgie shouted and ran toward the pair. An earth-shaking boom exploded from the sky as a flash of brilliant light flooded the room. Then everything was darkness.



Wha-what is that?!” the female speaks in the tone of fear. Mit-na chirps the tone of comforting, but the female’s aura does not change.  Mit-na’s arms and chest ache, and she scans her systems to identify the cause of the disturbance. It is the thing called “sadness;” it is an old program, placed there by the Mothers and Fathers as a training tool. When Mit-na has executed an action that displeases, the thing called sadness fills her circuits with distress and she knows never to execute that action again. Mit-na’s processor is unable to reconcile this data; the tone of comforting should not displease.


“She is an Alpi. Probably wild. She may not hurt you, but it is better if you come to me now. They do not make the distinction between pleasure and pain.” The shuddering sound waves of the Father’s voice simultaneously draw and repel Mit-na. Her own coding is designed in accordance with his, yet she perceives the tone of threatening from him. Bracing herself for the pain, she ignores her programming and chirps the tone of comfort toward the female again. Perhaps she can provide the data needed to reconcile this situation. 


“How do you know it’s a she?” Now the female’s aura changes, and Mit-na perceives the tone of interest. The Father speaks again and Mit-na tries out the tone of questioning on him and, getting no response, repeats the tone for the female. The female is slowly approaching Mit-na, but the Father’s aura is growing dark and tempestuous. Mit-na sings the Song of Allegiance, a series of tones and sine waves, but the Father does not answer with the Song of Safekeeping.


The female moves still closer and Mit-na watches the sound waves travel between her and the Father. And then the female’s tone changes. It becomes the tone of suspicion. Mit-na recognizes this tone; she has heard before from many Monkey-children. It is the sound their energy fields make when they behold her sneaking across their property in search of sustenance or information. She has been told repeatedly by her own Father to avoid this tone, which is why the holographic program was added to her systems. The tone of suspicion is bad for her Father. It threatens him with discovery. But Mit-na hates the tone of suspicion for her own reasons; it is accompanied by the thing called sadness.


But the tone of suspicion is not flowing solely toward Mit-na. The female’s distress is directed also at the Father. Mit-na’s circuits are tingling with an uncategorized music. She searches her data files to identify this experience. It is not quite the thing called joy, yet it is not unlike it. But it is also not unlike the thing called hatred. 


“I am Finntan and I can protect you from her, but you must not touch her,” the Father says.


“Why not? Why can’t I touch her?”


“At the least, you will receive a nasty electric shock. At most, she will reach into your chest and pull out your heart to understand how it works.”


 “Why…why would she do that?”


“It is her nature. She is programmed to gather information. It is of no consequence to her that she would kill you in doing so.”


Mit-na does not have time to translate this word “kill,” but she senses the immediate change in the female’s tone. Another strange pulse flows through Mit-na’s circuits. It is not unknown, but Mit-na is puzzled as to the appearance of the thing called anger at this moment. The vibrations build rapidly inside her, and she opens her mouth to expel some of the sound waves and relieve the pressure. The female runs toward the Father, ringing with the tone of fear. Mit-na has made a mistake. She scans her systems for malfunction.


As she does this, her processor busy with the complex operation of scanning each program and organ individually, she does not save any attention for the Father, who is slowly approaching her. When her scan is done—no malfunction detected—the Father is at her side.


“You will provide me with the information I seek,” come the waves of sub-frequency sound from the Father. Mit-na’s circuits break down the micro-vibrations coming from his organic brain and read the numeric equations of each wave, translating those functions into the series of ones and zeros that are words to her.


“All personal information is encrypted and access requires proper passwords,” says Mit-na to him, reversing the translation process and sending the words into his mind. Mit-na feels her middle writhe and churn as though expelling tainted sustenance while the Father’s tones root around in her private programs. But he is clumsy, surely not trained in dealing with such complex systems as hers. He cannot extract the necessary passwords with his fumbling tentacles of energy.


“Who is your master?!” the forceful waves hit Mit-na and she recognizes the tone of rage. Unsuccessful in his attempts to crack her coding, the Father has been adept enough to realize that her files have signatures. She is not wild.


“Tell me who sent you here, or I will cut off your head and read the registration number within for myself.” The waves came in low rumbles and the silver staff is pointed at Mit-na’s throat.  Mit-na makes no reply. The Father can decapitate her, but he will find no registration code on her processor. The files and signatures of the one who made her were erased long ago. How the Father whom she serves now first acquired her, Mit-na would never know. That story too has been removed from her memory. According to the information stored in her files, Gwydion Dyfed is the only Father she has ever known and his work requires that she remain unregistered.


“Well…well that’s just great!” the female’s voice comes from the other side of the space. The Father raises the silver staff and Mit-na prepares her programs for the self-destruct code that accompanies permanent shut-down.


“No!” The high-volume blast of sound from the female is drowned out by a high-pitched flash that floods the space with noise and light. Mit-na’s skin crackles with the increased charge in the air as particles soar in a stream from the sky to the shelter. Then even the faintest waves vanish and a dim veil of heat is all Mit-na can see as it rises up toward the ceiling.


“Oh, dammit all!” speaks the female in the agitated tone. The walls quake in the wind and Mit-na can just trace their movement by the sound waves.


“Damn lighting! It must have hit the generator. Ouch!” the female’s sound travels down toward the floor and Mit-na sees the thump noise her body makes as it hits the ground. In the brief burst of light, she recognizes the Father’s body slumped on the floor. Her programs abort the shut-down and she resumes her scan of the space.


On the side opposite the door, Mit-na’s inferred scanners perceive a bright red light. The female is stumbling toward the light. Mit-na searches her catalogues for the word that indicates the pattern of light and heat she is seeing, the pattern toward which the female moves.


“I’ll have to go see if I can pump the charge back up,” the female speaks.


“Fire!” comes the word into Mit-na’s head. “Danger!” follows it. She chirps the tone of warning again and again, but the female is still moving toward the red light. The thing called sadness shoots across Mit-na’s arms and chest. She searches her circuits to identify the cause of the response and is puzzled by the answer: the female will shut-down. If she goes into the room with the fire, the female will die.


There are no programs in Mit-na’s processor that direct her to do what she does. Moving through the nothingness that is darkness to her, Mit-na heads toward the red light. She moves at the fastest speed possible for her small legs.


“Hey!” speaks the female as Mit-na passes her and then Mit-na feels a pain on her head as she hits a barrier. By the warm light emanating from the room beyond the barrier, Mit-na sees the female’s spastic movements as she starts again and again, bracing for invisible dangers in the darkness. The female finds the barrier and lays her hands against it, relief flooding over her only to be immediately replaced by fear once again.


“This door is hot. Shit!” The female moves through the darkness again. Her faint aura is visible as she goes to the horizontal pine barrier and returns with a metallic canister. She places a hand on the door handle and Mit-na chirps the tone of warning again.


Shhh!” hisses the female and opens the barrier to the small space. Mit-na watches as a cloud of sodium bicarbonate molecules and dust particles erupts from the female’s arm. The red light is extinguished by the cloud and Mit-na’s vision is dark once more.



“Show yourself!” Finn shouted at the Alpi. He was hoping he sounded sure of himself. Finn had never encountered a wild Alpi. His royal cousins owned a half-dozen Alpii, of course. A complicated household such as theirs required the little pets for data storage, statistical analysis, and performance of mathematical tasks that would take even the superior minds of the Sidhe several days to execute. But those Alpii were tame. They had numerous protection programs designed to keep them in check. Finn didn’t know what a wild Alpi might be capable of doing. He knew that, without their masters to guide them, they only had one objective: gather data. When it came to pure objective thinking, Alpii were the most advanced creatures on the planet, but they were completely devoid of emotional development.


He felt the computer mind of the thing obey his command and the glamour fell away. Finn watched as the young human boy became the silver-gray creature that was part animal, part computer.


Wha-what is that?!” the woman said anxiously. The Alpi chirped. Finn knew from his experience with tame Alpii that these chirps and beeps were less a language and more a way for the creature to release electrical energy it accumulated during its internal operations. Still, it occurred to him for a moment that the creature might be trying to speak; it’s tonal noises sounded so like his own people’s singing.


“She is an Alpi,” he said aloud.  “Probably wild. She may not hurt you, but it is better if you come to me now. They do not make the distinction between pleasure and pain.”


The woman didn’t move and Finn grew anxious again. He could exert control over the Alpi with electro-magnetic waves, but the human woman was more resistant. What if she refused to obey him? If the Alpi stuck its sharps nails into the woman’s throat, wanting to touch the pulse it saw beating there, would he turn and run from the place?


“How do you know it’s a she?” the woman asked.


He told her simply that all Alpii are female, not bothering to explain that they were created so, to keep them from reproducing on their own.


The woman was moving toward the Alpi now, stubbornly ignoring his warnings. Finn was astounded to realize that the woman thought the metallic creature was cute.


“These humans are too stupid to see to their own survival,” he thought to himself. “So many dangers they do not see.” The human female kept speaking to the Alpi as though it were still a human child. 


“Hi, little thing,” she said softly. “Are you scared? Are you lost?”


“She is not lost. She has run away,” Finn said impatiently. And then a troubling thought occurred to him. “Or she is operating under orders from her master, in which case she is even more dangerous. Alpii never come into human areas unless some mischief is afoot.”


Tinnar usually hunted alone. Cast out from the Cailech Sidhe for any number of crimes, these wanders were forced to make their way in the human world as best they could. Most lived by a combination of hunting game or fishing and stealing from humans. Sometimes the Tinnar formed loose associations amongst themselves for purposes of mating or hunting parties after larger game, but they were not organized societies in any way.


But Finn had also heard rumors of Tinnar that lived among humans. These creatures posed as humans and used their neighbors for their own gain or to undermine the work of the Cailech Sidhe. If this Alpi belonged to one of these Tinnar, its presence here might be more than an unlucky chance.


“And you are…” the woman prompted. Finn caught her meaning. She had finally awakened to fact that he was not a human man. But he was not about to get into a discussion of his own origins under these circumstances, even if revealing the truth had not been against his orders.


“I am Finntan and I can protect you from her, but you must not touch her.”


“Why not? Why can’t I touch her?”


“At the least, you will receive a nasty electric shock. At most, she will reach into your chest and pull out your heart to understand how it works.”


“Why…why would she do that?”


“It is her nature. She is programmed to gather information. It is of no consequence to her that she would kill you in doing so.”


The woman finally comprehended her own dangerous position and, when the Alpi began to whine, she ran toward Finn. But she stopped in the middle of the room, regarding both of them suspiciously. Finn longed to chastise her as he would a younger officer. He had little sympathy for her situation. She may be suddenly confronted with the knowledge that her species was not alone on this planet, but he had a treacherous Alpi on his hands. Her mental distress would have to wait.


“Okay, okay. I think…I think what’s going on is I’m dreaming or the roof fell in and knocked me out. But either way, you had both better just get out of my bar right now. Whatever you are.” Why were humans always so slow to believe what was right in front of their eyes?


“That is not possible,” Finn said, shooting a sidelong glance out the window on his left.  “Unless you have a boat.”


The woman scooted past him carefully and, with her safely out of the way, Finn approached the Alpi cautiously. 


“You will provide me with the information I seek.” Finn sent the message from his mind on the sub-tones he knew the Alpi could understand.


“All personal information is encrypted and access requires proper passwords,” came the calm, feminine voice. Contrary to the childlike appearance and cold demeanor of the Alpi, the voice sounded warm, almost seductive, in Finn’s mind. He was thrown for a moment but recovered quickly. He would have to try and wrest the data from her circuits. He wasn’t trained for this; he was a field officer, a warrior. His studies in computer science were limited to the most basic courses required by the Elfrida. But he would have to try.


Finn stretched his mind-vision forward and reached into the Alpi’s processor with electro-magnetic fingers. Inside his own mind, he saw the points of light and streaking trails of electricity that made up the Alpi’s brain. He hunted through the blinking data, but again and again he was thwarted by pockets of blackness, turned aside into some meaningless tangle of noise and color. With each new exploration attempt, the circuits of the Alpi hummed, sighed and moaned in that same alluring alto the creature had used in speaking to him. The loving murmurs of the violated mind unnerved Finn and he pulled away angrily.


“Who is your master?!” he threw at the vampish creature. “Tell me who sent you here, or I will cut off your head and read the registration number within for myself.” He hefted the sword above his head and prepared to strike.


“Well…well that’s just great!” the woman said from somewhere behind him. And then she ran at them, shouting. But her voice was drowned out by the cracking bolt of thunder and lighting that shook the world.


Finn felt the charge land somewhere near the back part of the building and the ocean of polarized air rushed across the floor and smacked into him like a tidal wave. An orange ball of flame leapt into his mind and then everything was dark. His mind went numb, but his bones and his blood quivered with electricity. Torturous, stinging pricks gripped his muscles. Liquid fire raced through his veins. He dropped down into a murky pool of feverish dreaming.


When he emerged, his body sore with cramps and his head throbbing, he was lying on his back and something wet and cool lay over his forehead, blocking his sight. A lingering smell of burning fuel and wood drifted on the air and Finn sat up with a jolt. His head swam and he moaned as the room spun around in front of him.


“Oh. You’re awake,” came the woman’s voice from somewhere to his left. Finn threw the wet cloth from off his eyes and, as his vision stopped wavering, he could see her sitting at a table sipping something from a mug. A single lit candle threw just enough light for him to notice the Alpi sitting across from her.


“What are you doing?” he groaned thickly.


“I’m having some tea,” she replied flippantly. “It’s not really hot. Kind of luke-warm. I had to boil the water over a candle. The generator is out. She’s having lemonade. It’s the only thing she would drink.”


The woman took another deep sip from her mug. The Alpi gripped a red plastic tumbler in her long, bony fingers and swung her legs back and forth under the table. Finn bolted to his feet and then immediately doubled over, vomiting onto the green and white tile floor.



“Are you okay?” comes the tone of concern from the female. Mit-na chirps the tone of comforting. As the cloud clears from her vision, Mit-na can make out the female’s heat hovering close to her.


“I had better see if I’ve got any candles,” speaks the female. She begins shuffling about the space, opening and closing the doors to smaller spaces. Mit-na turns her vision toward the body of the Father slumped on the floor. His form is cold and dark, but a faint pinkish glow shimmers in his middle. He has not shut down.


With her immediate survival needs met, Mit-na opens her files and allows the Objective program to switch on. The tiny hairs on her soft, gray skin now gather and interpret heat and electrical data from the atmosphere, telling her that the female is still engaged in her own task. Mit-na lifts her small, tough-soled bare feet in slow motion, moving toward the body of the Father without seeming to move at all. She leans down and scans his code with her sensors. He is most certainly still alive, but the shock has rendered his brain circuits inoperable for a time.


Mit-na lifts a hand and places her smooth finger pads on the Father’s neck. The elasticity of his skin, the pulse of his blood beneath, and the dim warmth emanating from him are all quantified and reduced to numeric functions. Mit-na processes these functions and produces a single piece of data: he will be unconscious for several hours.


Verifying the female’s location once more, Mit-na sets about fulfilling the parameters of her Objective program. She places her fingers against the Father’s bare feet and her own stream of electrons travels through his surprisingly delicate skin. Her mind, propelled on the charged particles, finds the nine crucial nodal points in each of his feet and follows the trail of energy up through his legs. Her mind-spirit races on the electro-magnetic path of his soul. She records each turn on the path, each branch leading away from the main highway from feet to head. She watches as the universal energy feeds each vital organ, bringing music to every corner of the Father’s body.


To Mit-na, this magical path is simply the movement of sub-atomic particles. Her concern is the mapping of the path, the gathering of data that can be correlated, analyzed, and categorized when she has returned to the safety of her own Father. The same circuitry exists within Mit-na, designed by the Mothers and the Fathers in a pale imitation of their own workings. To her, the path is only electricity. She does not comprehend the purpose of this mission. She does not know what her own Father knows—that to the Sidhe, this path is all. For Mit-na, the path carries the charge necessary to her own functioning. To this Father—and to all the Fathers and Mothers—the path is love. Through the bodies of these organic, mostly-water creatures travels the music of the universe. It rings in their bodies and voyages to each cell, singing all the while, reminding every cell that it is loved by the universe. Without this knowledge, the Father would surely shut down.


Mit-na’s particle consciousness approaches the center of the Father, the nodal point from which and to which all energy moves. The numbers and bits of data begin to twist and melt around her. Bi-directional time/space sprouts two new dimensions. Measurements become relative and lose all objective meaning. Possibilities become probabilities and merge with certainties. Perspectives weave through one another and congeal into a new world.


Pictures are now invading Mit-na’s mind. They are not pixels and binary codes; these are full-color images, complete with smells and tastes and textures. She watches the Father, much smaller than he is now, running through a grassy field with a small dark-haired female, one of Them. She gazes on the face of this Father as he stands next to the dark-haired female among the standing stones. They are older now and the resemblance between them is obvious. She is overcome with swelling pride and love as the brother watches his sister take her vows, swearing to uphold the laws and customs of the Tribe.


The sky above grows dark and Mit-na regards the Father dressed in white, the mourning paint on his arms and bare chest. Another dark-haired female, like the Father but not so alike as the sister, approaches. She lays her graceful hand on his face and he presses his cheek into her palm, letting the tears wet her delicate fingers. Hundreds and hundreds of Them float around Mit-na, singing to the their Mother Universe, calling on Her to open Her arms to their lost child and sing the song of comfort to those left behind. Mit-na is lost in the crashing waves of tenderness and love as the People of Danu share their energy with one another, touching each center with the love of the community.


The scenes fly past Mit-na faster now. The Father sits in the prow of a ship, watching his new island home approach through the mists. She watches the Father as he trains in the forests of Asa Oilean, learning to aim the great-bow and make the proper form as he fences. He walks with others: dark-haired, smaller ones like himself; tall, slight, light-haired ones; and enormous brown-haired ones with yellow eyes. The bonfires spark and crackle around her as the Father lies on the grass and caresses the naked breast of a Mother. His lips meet the lips of the Mother and Mit-na trembles along with him as the desire consumes him.


A low, growling moan issues from the Father’s lips. Whether within the vision or in the real space Mit-na cannot tell. She is lost, floating on the currents of love and passion and understanding that all of Them carry inside. She is becoming one with the Father.


But her circuits are not designed for such a union; the Mothers and Fathers performed their work imperfectly. They deliberately denied Mit-na’s species this glorious grace and in the spark of anger generated by this realization, Mit-na escapes. Her mind flies over the internal currents of the Father, recording and mapping automatically as she goes. Suddenly, she is at the crown, and her awareness is ejected from the top of the Father’s head just as the current flows on into the earth, continuing on its infinite, circular path across the universe.


“What are you doing to him?” comes the voice of the female Monkey-child. She holds a small flaming stick and glares accusingly at Mit-na.


The mission complete, the Objective program closes. Mit-na stores the gathered data. Her own Father will be pleased with her and she steals a forbidden moment of personal will, triggering the thing called joy by thinking of her own Father’s smiling face.


“Get away from him,” the female says in the tone of scolding. With her objective accomplished, Mit-na moves to a table and assumes the position known as sitting. The female flutters about again. She lifts the arm of the Father and presses her fingers to his wrist. She slaps his face lightly with her palm. She lays her head on his chest. Mit-na records all of this strange behavior.


“He’s not dead,” says the female. She exits the space and returns with a moist wad of paper pulp sheets, which she places on the Father’s face. “I don’t know what else I can do for him. Oh God, please don’t let him die. A dead alien in the middle of the floor would definitely not be good for business.”


The wind continues and the rain falls in solid sheets. The walls of the structure shake and bend. Mit-na absorbs the numeric data created by the atmospheric variations, translated the digits into sine wave functions, and sings herself a song. The woman alternates between the tone of anxiousness and the tone of annoyance. She fills a metal bucket with water and holds it over the flaming stick. She pours the water into a ceramic bowl and dips dried herbs into the water. Throughout the performance of these activities, she returns again and again to her oddly tender molestations of the Father’s body.


“I think he’s going to be okay,” says the female. “His heart beat is getting stronger. Do you want some tea? What am I saying?” Mit-na realizes these inquires are directed at her, but makes no response.


The woman places a ceramic bowl in front of Mit-na. When Mit-na only regards this with mild interest, the woman begins placing containers filled with various liquids on the table. Understanding that some response is expected, Mit-na lifts the container closest to her and puts it to her lips, imitating the actions of the woman.


“Lemonade? Okay, I guess it’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened tonight,” says the female. Mit-na draws the acidic citrus liquid into her tiny mouth. Her sensors record the pH and molecular make-up of the liquid. Her processor performs the proper analysis and find the experience neither dangerous nor unpleasant.


“That’s good, huh? I make it from fresh lemons. None of that powdered stuff around here. Want some more?”


Mit-na accepts glass after glass of citrus liquid as the female moves back and forth, attending to Mit-na and the Father alternately. The sound of the wind is fading and the atmospheric pressure increases incrementally. Mit-na analyzes the data and finds that the storm is moving away at last. Soon she will be able to venture outside. It must be soon. She is expected home at dawn. Her Father will be pleased. Mit-na does not know to what use her Father will put the information she carries, but that is not her concern. He will be pleased with her, and that is the only objective.


Mit-na feels the Father’s mind come to life before he make a sound. Her survival program instructs her to run, but then she feels the tone of comforting coming from the female and decides she is safe for the moment.


“Oh. You’re awake,” says the female. The Father tosses the wet paper pulp from his face and gazes at the female.


“What are you doing?”


The female explains her actions to the Father, who abruptly rises to a vertical position. Mit-na feels the Father’s mind churn and watches as he expels the contents of his stomach onto the ground of the shelter.


“Son of a bitch!” shouts the female. She moves about wildly, exiting the space and returning a moment later with a fuzzy clothe bundle attached to a wooden staff.




“I apologize,” Finn muttered as the woman wiped the mop over the floor.


“It’s okay. See, all cleaned up. You practically got hit by lightning, after all,” she said soothingly. Finn pulled the soiled uniform shirt over his head and rolled it in into a ball. The woman stopped fussing over his health long enough to regard his bare chest for a self-conscious moment and then she brought Finn a chair and settled him into it.


“You shouldn’t have gotten up so fast,” said the woman. “You’ve been out for hours. We thought you might be dead.”


Her last words snapped Finn out of his self-pitying nausea. He glared at the woman and then at the happily humming Alpi sitting at the table, sipping lemonade. The woman ignored his stare. Instead, she brought him a cup filled with some clear, fizzy liquid. Finn took the cup cautiously.


“It’s not poisoned. It’ll settle your stomach,” she said. Finn took a tentative sip. The liquid was tasteless and cool and the bubbles tickled his nose. He nodded thanks to the woman. She went behind the bar and began wiping down the already-spotless counter.


“The storm is letting up,” she said. “Do you have someplace to go?”


“My company will come for me at sunrise. I must meet them on the shore.”


“Oh. Because if you needed to stay for a while…” Finn twisted around to see the woman’s face. Her eyes were lowered, focused on the bar, but a small, shy smile played around her mouth. Finn smiled himself. Humans were so odd. One moment, they were cruel and selfish; the next moment they were offering to let a homeless stranger move in with them. The woman raised her chin and looked him in the eye. Finn noticed for the second time that she was very pretty. For a human being, anyway.


“No. I must return to my camp. Thank you for the shelter. Your kindness will be remembered.”


“All part of the service industry,” she replied cheerfully. Finn’s head dropped to one side, confused.


“It’s my job,” she clarified. He nodded and turned back to watching the Alpi, but the woman addressed him again.


“What’s the tattoo for?” she said. She had noticed the tree-like design on his right shoulder.


“My Order,” he said, turning his head to look at the design. “Like a…what you call a nation. But without the geographic restrictions. A sub-set of our species.”


His answer prompted a flood of questions in the woman’s mind that were loud enough to be audible to Finn.


“What…where do…what are you doing here?” was the one she settled on.


“It is my job,” was all he said. He could feel the chill in the air lifting as the sun approached. He stood—slowly this time—and placed the cup of fizzy water on the bar. The woman snatched up the sweating glass immediately and wiped the spot on the bar where it was set.


“I must go now,” he said and moved to stuff the soiled shirt into his pack. When this was done, he lifted his sword from the ground where he had dropped it and pointed it toward the Alpi. “Have you any rope?”


“What? Why?” she said anxiously, coming out from behind the bar.


“I must lead her in front of me. I cannot carry her and my belongings at once.”


“Where…will you take her?” the woman asked.


“To my company. There are people there who will crack the codes inside her,” he said.


“Crack her…does that hurt?” Finn rolled his eyes. This woman still thought of the Alpi as the little lost boy who had come through her door the night before.


“She will probably die when it is done,” he said with a shrug.


“Well, you can’t take her then. She hasn’t done anything. She could have killed me or probed me or whatever while you were out, but she didn’t. You can’t just take her away to be killed,” ranted the woman.


Finn snorted with frustration. He could just pick up the Alpi and walk out. If the woman tried to stop him, it would only take one thrust of his sword to finish her. But she had been kind to him without reason. He took a deep breath.


“Her circuits contain information,” he said slowly. “The data was most likely placed there by someone hoping to harm both your people and mine. I must take her.”


The woman was quiet a moment and then a change came over her face. Finn thought he had finally gotten through to her.


“Okay,” she said, moving around the bar once more. “I think I have some twine in here someplace.”


“Thank you,” Finn said and turned back toward the Alpi. Another crack split the air open, but this one was not accompanied by a burst of lightning. Finn instinctively dropped to the ground and the peppery smell of a discharged weapon invaded his olfactory senses.


Misoka vastigali ag metoa!” he shouted, jumping up again. The woman stood behind the bar, gripping the small handgun with two white-knuckled hands. White plaster dust snowed on her hair from the hole in the ceiling above. Finn spun around, scanning the room with all of his available senses, but the Alpi was gone.




Georgie thought that if she could just keep busy, keep acting like the friendly barkeep, she would be able to keep it together. She told herself that these were just two regular customers, tourists from some far away country visiting charming Key West for the first time. From very far away.


She congratulated herself on this fantasy; she was doing pretty well. But when the man…or whatever he was…slid the shiny black shirt over his head, she almost lost it. It wasn’t only that he was probably the most beautiful man she had ever seen. It was the simple human maleness of him that startled her. He didn’t have weird markings on his skin or bizarre extra body parts. He only had two nipples with a sprinkle of dark hair running between them and down to his stomach. For a second, she wondered if his appearance might be an illusion, like with the little boy. But no. She could tell the difference now. The boy’s face had been immobile, a lifeless mask. This creature’s skin was alive with light and shadow, with the expressive interplay of muscle and bone beneath golden-brown skin.


Georgie realized that she was staring like teenaged girl. She blushed and hurried off to get him a chair and some club soda. She wiped down the bar for the hundredth time that night, trying to bring her attention back to work. She didn’t want to think too much about the situation or her own mixed reactions to the current patrons. She made friendly small talk with the man, as she would have with any of her regulars, but secretly her curiosity was getting the better of her. He kept turning about to gaze at her with those eyes, both seductive and creepy. When his back was turned, Georgie studied the tattoo on his right shoulder. It was a brownish-green representation of tree with curling branches that formed a star where the leaves would be. He seemed to be in some kind of military unit; maybe the tattoo was the equivalent of a Marine Corps unit symbol. Or maybe it was the name of his sweetheart, written in a mysterious language.


“What’s the tattoo for?” she finally got up the courage to ask. 


“My Order. Like a…what you call a nation. But without the geographic restrictions. A sub-set of our species.”


Having asked this first question, Georgie was ravenously curious. Where did he come from? What was he? Were there a lot more of them? Why did he look so human, and yet so different? Why did he seem to pulse with warm, inviting to light and to smell of happy memories from Georgie’s own childhood? Why did she long to reach out and touch the soft skin at the back of his neck?


“What…where do…what are you doing here?” she stammered.


“It is my job,” he said, matter-of-fact, and rose.  “I must go now. Have you any rope?”


“What? Why?” Georgie feared he might be planning to tie her up and haul her away with him. And would she have minded if he did? But he picked up his shiny sword and pointed it toward the little gray creature.


“I must lead her in front of me. I cannot carry her and my belongings at once.”


“Where…will you take her?” Georgie asked, relief for herself mixing with concern for the odd little person she had befriended.


He said his people would kill her in order to get the information they needed. He said it without shame or remorse.  A moment ago, he had acted so gentle, even, Georgie thought, flirting with her. Now he talked about killing this helpless little person like it was all in a day’s work.


And Georgie realized how unpredictable people could be. She thought of her own regulars. Sherie was a prostitute who lived on the streets, but left eight dollar tips because she knew how Georgie struggled with her own finances. Freddy had been a drunk all his life, but he had never missed one of his son’s baseball games or school graduations. Tim and Bess seemed pretty vanilla, always fussing over Georgie like mother ducks. But once Bess had left her purse behind in the bar and in it Georgie had discovered a leather-covered whip. Who really knew what went on in another person’s mind? Why should these strange creatures be any different?


“Okay,” Georgie said aloud. She moved around to the back of the bar. She didn’t really know what she intended to do. She just knew that she couldn’t let him take the little creature away to be destroyed. Not after it had alerted her to the fire and probably saved her life in the process.


“I think I have some twine in here someplace,” she said. She saw the gun when she opened the draw, hidden away in case of dire emergency. Georgie didn’t really like guns; she had never even fired this one. Could she shoot him? Even if he wasn’t a human being, he was still a living thing? And maybe he could dodge bullets or something? What if she shot and missed? Would he turn that sword on her? But in another second, he would turn around and ask what was taking her so long. She didn’t think. She just grabbed the gun, pointing it toward the ceiling, and fired.


The man fell to the ground and Georgie had a moment of panic, thinking she had hit him after all. Startled by the horrible noise, the little gray creature bolted from the bar. Georgie heard a stream of angry nonsense words emanating from the direction of the floor. And then he was standing, pointing the sword at her.


“Why did you do that?” he screamed at her.


“I…I didn’t want you to kill her. I don’t know why. I just didn’t think it was fair,” she muttered, lowing the gun.


“My people will come back,” he said through clenched teeth. “They will hunt this island until they find her and they will kill her. You have not saved her life, only prolonged it and given her the opportunity to return to her master. And he, whoever he is, will read your face in her mind when she arrives.”


Georgie didn’t respond. She didn’t know what to say. Obviously, there were forces at play here beyond what she had ever expected.


“I’m just a bartender,” she said lamely. He looked away, turning his eyes to the window where the first gray light was growing in the sky.


“I must leave now,” he said. “You will not be harmed. Someone will look after you.”


“Will you come back?” she said before she could stop herself.


“Perhaps me, perhaps another,” he said. “You are part of the wider world now, matsh.”


With that, he sauntered out, letting the screen door swing closed behind him. Georgie stood frozen for ten minutes, breathing in and out slowly as the sunlight peeked through the window, painting patterns on the floor through the tape on the glass. Then she picked up a bar rag and began wiping off the tables. If she hurried her clean-up along, she could probably open on time this afternoon. It could be a profitable day. Everyone would need a drink after last night.







© 2005 by Lea Ann Douglas.  Lea Ann Douglas is a writer and professor of English and Philosophy in Virginia. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Writer's Hood, Asgard, and Dream Passage. Her plays have been seen in Virginia, Los Angeles, and London. She is currently the editor of the online fiction magazine Cruinnaiu, which cheerfully accepts unsolicited submissions of sci-fi/fantasy fiction and art work. Send an email to _Cruinnaiu@aol.com_( for submission details.