Richard Parks' stories have have appeared in Asimov's SF, Realms of Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, and numerous anthologies, including several Year's Bests. His first story collection, THE OGRE'S WIFE, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. He is the author of the Yamada Monogatari series from Prime Books.
The deer are in the yard again. Not the one above, but could be her twin. Which goes along with the twin fauns she also brought to the feast. One nibbled the hem of my jeans on the clothesline, but decided the taste wasn’t up to her standards.
The trial is over. This was my second experience as a juror in a criminal trial and if I never have a third it’s all right by me. Let’s just say I know more about some of my fellow citizens than I ever wanted or needed to, and now I shall do my absolute best to forget it. Also, I do realize If poor judgment was a crime we’d all be in trouble at one time or another, but some people elevate it almost to an art form. What a waste.
And to cap things off, our silly cat got himself skunked in the early hours of the morning and I was too groggy to treat the situation as was needed. So now we have to wait for the funk to wear off.
Did I mention he’s a lap cat? We’re obviously being punished for something.
I’ve got jury duty today and have to leave in a few minutes. Actually, it’s the second time I’ve been called since the move, but the first trial got cancelled so now we are here again. I actually don’t mind. It’s never going to be convenient, but so what? Someone’s future is on the line. That’s not something you take lightly.
Besides, I much prefer being “juror xx.” Could be worse.
This is a new story set in the Black Dog Pub. It’s not in the collection for temporal reasons. Namely it wasn’t written when I released the book.
My name’s Casey. I’m the bartender here at the Black Dog pub…well, one of them. Neegan’s the other. I’m a banshee. Neegan…actually, I’m not sure what Neegan is. Tall, good-looking guy. Maybe I’ll ask him one of these days, but I digress.
The subject came up when I was talking to Tim the Clurachaun. You might notice him if you stumble into the Black Dog. Short guy, even for a fae. Wears a red vest. Like their drink, clurachauns, so he’s often here. Oh, and a word of advice—never make a bar bet with a clurachaun. Trust me on this.
Anyway, one evening Tim was on his usual stool muttering into his beer. Or maybe he was scrying, you never know. Finally he puts his chin on the bar and stares into the golden brew.
“’All that is gold does not glitter,’” he says, and I couldn’t help myself.
“’Not all those who wander are lost.’ You read Tolkien?”
“Not a bad storyteller, for a human,” Tim says, “though he had elves all wrong. They’re about as ethereal and wise as a kick in the arse.”
“What about the Seelie Court?”
Tim grunted. “I was referring to the Seelie Court. The Unseelie Court is worse, if more fun.”
Most fae are at least casually associated with one Court or the other. As a banshee I’m usually lumped in with the Unseelie bunch. Not sure why. Foretelling death is a useful service, and it’s not as if I actually kill anybody. Now, if you were talking about my Scottish cousins the baobhan-sith, you’d have a case. Those girls have a taste for blood. Good dancers, though.
Tim drained his beer, ordered another. “Speaking of Tolkien, I don’t envy humans at all…and I very much envy them.”
“At the same time?” I said, wiping a glass. “Not possible.”
Tim nodded, looking morose. “I know. Probably why it keeps happening.”
“How do you not envy them?”
“They have the lifespans of mayflies, by comparison. Most of them go through that short life in a fog, seldom with any sort of a clue what’s really happening around them.”
“And how do you very much envy them?”
He sighed. “They make stuff up.”
I frowned. “Really? That’s it?”
“Casey, darlin’, when we tell a story, it’s something that actually happened, if exaggerated. When they tell a story, they take a kernel of truth and blow it up into an entire myth! Nothing bends reality like a good myth, and they are myth machines! Like Yeats and the Leannan Sidhe, or that Tolkien fellow. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of his high and mighty elves that don’t exist shows up here one day. The fact that you and I are having this conversation right now might be due to one of them making stuff up.”
Tim does get into the foolishness when he’s into his cups. Still, next chance I get I will ask Neegan what the heck he is.
After the CDC revised guidelines on COVID and the fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks inside public spaces, I…still wear the mask. And probably will for the foreseeable future. I’ve seen a couple of arguments for doing so. Which to no one’s shock in our current period of cultural upheaval have absolutely nada to do with whether it is safe to forego the mask, but they are somewhat revealing.
The first goes something like this: I still wear the mask because no one will have any idea who is vaccinated and who isn’t, and I don’t want to make people worry about being near me. Besides, I don’t want anyone to mistake me for one of those Q loons.
Oddly enough the second argument takes the opposite tack but comes to the same conclusion: Well, I wasn’t wearing one, because FREEDOM, but now I’ll start because I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m one of those vaccinated and Gates-chipped sheeple.
Whatever works. I personally plan to keep wearing my mask for reasons more in line with the first than the second, but there’s a good bit more to it. In the 2019-2020 flu season approximately 38 Million (that’s million with an M) caught seasonal flu and about 57000 people died. In the 2020-2021 flu season? Just over 2000 confirmed cases total and maybe 200 deaths. Not to mention, congruent with the flu season, I normally come down with a really nasty sinus infection lasting weeks. Every. Damn. Year.
Except this one.
Cause and effect or mere correlation? Personally I don’t give a rats’ tuchus. Masks work. Some Asian countries already knew this, especially in dense population areas like Tokyo where “social distancing” is not so much frowned on as nearly impossible. Masks are common in public, COVID or no COVID. I think we need to take a lesson.
Besides, this way I don’t have to shave as often. It’s a win-win.
Voyager 1 launched in 1977. Its stated mission was to do flybys of Jupiter and Saturn. It did so with aplomb, discovering, among many other things, active volcanoes on the moon Io, and just how intricate Saturn’s rings are. But that wasn’t the end of its mission. Its trajectory after its last flyby was toward an even more ambitious destination.
As in, leave the solar system completely. Which it accomplished in 2012 by passing out of the area known as the heliosphere, the area of local space more affected by our sun than whatever forces might lie outside it.
Not its primary mission, but possibly more significant in the long view. Our very first robotic foray into interstellar space. Aside from instruments, it carries the “Golden Record,” with greetings in fifty-five languages on the assumption that any aliens smart enough to find It are also smart enough to figure out how to play it. It would be to their advantage, because the record also includes music by Beethoven and Chuck Berry. Which inspired the long-running joke: What will be our first communication from an alien species? “Send more Chuck Berry.”
I have my doubts, with all due respect to Chuck Berry, and this is also due to one more new discovery from Voyager 1: the Hum.
No one was expecting new science from the probe once its primary mission was over, as both Voyager probes were designed and expected to be operational for only five years. If that had been the case, Voyager 1 would still have been the first man-made object to leave the solar system, but it would be a dead hunk of metal when it did so. After forty-four years Voyager 1 and its sister craft Voyager 2 are both still very much alive, and Voyager 1 was the first to hear the universe singing.
Well, okay, it’s more of a hum, which why they call it that. For those of us who grew up fussing at science-fiction in movies and television which almost always depict spacecraft rumbling very loudly through space when there’s no air to carry any sound, it was a bit humbling. Yes, there is no air to speak of in space, so we can’t hear sound there the way we were designed to hear it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It appears the spaces between the stars contain traces of ionized gas—plasma—vibrating in a narrow band. It’s far too faint for us to hear, but with the right instruments to detect, amplify and interpret the wave forms, it becomes sound.
So it turns out the universe is humming to itself.
So much for the emptiness of space and the silence of the stars, both are illusions based on a misapprehension—ours. We just had to learn how to listen.