Posted on: March 8th, 2009 Sky and Sea

By Vylar Kaftan

There was a time when the Sky ruled us, O my love, and everything was in its place. The Sky above, the Sea below, and we of this island loved the stars. You’ll remember your round blue beads, love, that you threaded into a necklace for our wedding day. I admired them as you straddled me, glorious, and we joined as man and wife. Sky and sea. Those beads have returned to their origins in the depths. Are your hands and feet dry, love? Because I want you to be comfortable. You must listen to my story.

When the Sky ruled–and this story you will not know, love, as men have passed the lore to each other through generations–we men were fierce fisherman, spearing the long gray eels and snatching them with our free hands. The Sea was our hunting ground, spread for our pleasure. In those days, Sky was closer to us, love. A man could stretch his arms and touch father and mother at once. We knew when a woman bore our child and we chose our women by our own desire. Does that surprise you, love? Do you wonder if I would have chosen you? The answer is yes, a thousand times yes. But hold still. Listen.

You’ve been told that Sea saved our people, love. When Sky raged against us–his children born of fallen stars–Sea hid us and nurtured us under the clouds. Sky threw lightning and thunder, but could not strike us. Sea cloaked us in greens from her belly, with seaweed that fed us and warmed us. For this we thank Sea in our prayers.

But love, do you know the true story of Sea? She tricked Sky into birthing us at all. She tempted the stars with their own reflections, glittering in her waves. The stars cannot resist their own, my love. They dove for their visions, and Sea caught them and birthed our people. Thus Sea made us without Sky’s permission–yet Sky must watch over us and cannot leave.

Do you not think she deserves punishment, love?

I know you’d answer me if you could. Silk absorbs all sound.

And so over time, Sky hated his reign and his children, and ascended further and further until we could no longer touch him. Sky left us, love. And this is the doing of Sea. Once Sky left, we men became weak, and women rose to run the tribes. Now men care for the children while women wage war. And women choose men for fertility, beauty, or any other reason they please. The only power left to men is our seed–which women may tease from us, and create children without our consent.

As you have done, love. I know what you’ve done.

Sky is too far, love, but Sea is close. I’m sure you understand why your bonds are so tight. The gag is so you’d listen to my story. The Sea remembers you, love, and will reclaim her daughter with only a splash. And someday we men will bring the Sky closer once more, and reclaim the stars as our birthright.

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Posted on: March 1st, 2009 Patmos Like Pink Elephants

by Nick Mamatas

“Did you know,” Rob said to me as we waited for the sweaty waiter-slash-owner of the little pillbox kafenio to come take our orders, “that the only question about Revelations is whether John of Patmos ate the magic mushrooms purposefully in order to have a vision, or whether it was an accidental ingestion?”

“Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it?” I found Rob boring. He had attached himself to me earlier that day, when the cave tour was cut short for safety reasons. He’s of the type who is ready to go anywhere, do anything, put anything in his mouth, but really only feels comfortable among white people who speak perfect English and say “Please” and “Thank you.” Tough luck for him on the Greek isles. Plus, the day was very hazy from the fires, and the air smelled funny.

“Are you supersti–religious?”

I shrugged. The waiter saved me. “What you like?” he asked. Rob ordered the yiouvarlakia avgolemono. “That’s finished,” the waiter said. Yiouvarlakia kokkino? Also finished. Beefsteak? Finished. Strapatsatha? Finished.

“Well, what on the menu is available?” Rob finally asked, flustered.

“Whatever you want!” said the waiter. He owned the place; he could talk like that to paying customers. Of course, so could an ordinary waiter. Lamb yiovetsi it was.

“It’s a lucky dish. People eat it in August, for the holiday,” I said.

“Is there any mushroom in it?”

“No. Not a lot of mushrooms in Greek cooking. Old ladies go picking them sometimes and use them for flavor.” Rob looked very interested in me just then. “I’m half-Greek.”

“I thought so,” he said. He opened his mouth, then shut it, then opened it again and complimented my hair. He was probably going to say something about my nose at first. “Are you here for family? A pilgrimage?”

“Work,” I told him. “International relations.” Our waters finally came. Mine had a scoop of banila in it. “You?”

“I’m into,” he said, his lips in a tiny smile, “extreme experiences.”

I just started laughing at him. I slapped my hand over my mouth, then snorted, then took a long gulp of water. “Sorry, sorry,” I said. I leaned forward. Men like that.

“That’s okay. I’m looking for Amanita muscaria.”

“The mushroom. Should be easy enough,” I said. “Just take a walk into the hills. Nibble on what you find. If you get a stomachache, wrong mushroom. That’s the Greek way.”

“Have you done it? Why don’t we go together? Get some wine; make a day of it. I hear there are good swimming holes up on the mountain.”

“Really? You heard that?”

“Heh,” Rob said. “No, I guess I didn’t. Something about water. Nerro, right? Must have been about the firefighting.” Our lamb came. I didn’t wait for Rob to start eating first. He stiffened in his chair.

“So,” I said between two bites. “Are you religious?”

“I’m…a seeker.”

Luckily my mouth was too full of lamb to laugh again. “Don’t you know that you only find what you’re looking for when you stop looking for it?”

“Do you really think that’s true?”

“It works for my car keys all the time.”

He laughed, then coughed.

“Hazy.”

“Yes.”

“Do you have family on this island? Are you worried about the fire?”

“Oh no, my father’s family is from Samos. And I helped start the fires. Like I said, I’m here for work.”

He put down his fork. “I thought you said you were in international relations.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And you set fires? What are you, a terrorist?”

“Anti-terrorist,” I said. My water was gone. The owner had swung his legs over the sill of the only window in the small café to smoke a cigarette and was slumped over, giggling. I got up to get my own water from the pitcher. Rob was up, trying to tower over me.

“If you were some kind of secret agent, you wouldn’t be telling a stranger. I could be…I dunno, a German spy.”

“Well yes, I hope you are,” I said. “That’s the whole point. We’re taking care of it. Gene-splicing. Aerosol technology. Crazy stuff.” Rob had noticed the owner and turned to me, fists up.

“No more fighting,” I said between sips. “There are lots of mushrooms in the hills, and lots of Amanita muscaria all over the world. It grows in Siberia, Central America, the Hindu Kush. Man, I’m glad I wasn’t assigned to the Hindu Kush.”

Rob’s knees began to buckle. “Wow,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. Then there were dragons and 1000-foot-tall whores everywhere.

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