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Harris Tobias
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Harris Tobias
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Michele Dutcher

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Faultless part 3


Julie Foster

The symbol on her forehead grew more brilliant as time passed. Although she created many forms out of clay, she refused to give them life. She’d learned the heartache connected with the injury or death of her creations and she didn’t want to make more until she was ready to give them the attention and safety they needed. That would mean a different world, for on this one, there would be no such security. The Faultless would not allow anything new to mar Perfection.

A whole world. The thought was huge! Could she do it? She knew she’d need a design, a plan. She consulted the book often, overwhelmed by the massive responsibility of the task. Their Creator had done it and, from what was known, Perfection wasn’t his first but his last. One thing for sure was that she’d never create another planet like this. Its own impeccability was strangling it. By allowing no growth or change, nothing new, even the rippling hues of the sun were becoming boring in their unrelenting uniformity. Sometimes, when she dived deep into the purple depths of the ocean, she thought she could feel the festering ooze of stagnation slide through her hair.

Perfection wasn’t perfect, it was safe, inert and downright tedious. She would walk her garden of sculptures imagining them alive and moving, changing and growing. Often, she felt the urge to let them loose on the planet and would be shocked with herself. How could she think of destroying what the Creator had made, for that’s what would happen if she tipped the precise balance.

The Creator admonished her repeatedly through the book on not to meddle with others' creations. Everyone had their own reasons and needs behind their creations, another Creator couldn’t possibly know all of them. When you are ready to create life you must make an environment for it, from your own essence and matter.

One night as she lay outside her shelter of clay and leaves, not wanting to enter it before the first fat drops of rain so that she could see the late stars. As she watched the stars, she knew each was a group of suns and around them was a cluster of planets either with or without life. The book assured her that as a Creator she could make life on planets with suns. A prior Creator had made them and they could be used to promote life on the orbiting planets.

As a Creator, she could specialize in planets that couldn’t support life, as least not yet, but could be extremes of volcanic rage or chemical maelstroms, and noxious ice flows. The very unpredictability of them is what made them exciting and they could be watched for eons.
But she’d realized suns were not for her, although she could understand their creators need for exuberance. She fumed with excess energy but she loved the actual life of things. Was absorbed by their movement, breath, and vibrancy, therefore she would create in as many ways as possible until she found fulfillment. The ultimate living creation was her goal.

No tempestuous but lifeless planets for her or the burning turbines of gaseous suns. She’d already decided she wanted a mellow, long lasting sun for her planet. One not long created so she could adapt her life to it, making fine adjustments and thereby adding to the complexity of the challenge. She lay under the sapphire night sky and searched the stars. Some were reddish - too old or white - too young, too blue, which, although she knew meant it was searing, left her cold.
A fat drop of rain splattered against her forehead and she rolled into her shelter. Listening to the rain tap the roof, she wondered how Faultless Own was doing without her.

Probably hadn’t noticed she’d left. Or were relieved to have the threat of change gone, hoping she’d died so their world could continue on its predictable course. She found she couldn’t sleep after the end of the night shower. She was irrepressibly anxious to see what used to be her home, wanted to have one last look. They might have missed her after all.

Irritated with herself, she rolled from her shelter and flipped to her feet. The sky was a velvet blanket dusted with light and the moss underfoot released pungent fragrance with every step. The silence after the rains was moist and heavy, plugging the ears like wool. It was her favorite time. The Faultless never awoke from the absolute depths of sleep, so she inherited the night in their absence.

Effortlessly plunging into the black ocean, she sent the reflected stars into a blizzard, diving as deep as she ever had. She bent her legs with knees out and pushed off as she pulled webbed handfuls of water behind her head, squirting past fish with lantern eyes that turned on their stems to keep her in sight.
A pale octopus ghosted ahead and weaved a spell with its arms, calling her. She ignored it and caught the tail of a ray which spun her faster than breath through darkness.

The shore was empty, only the skittering click of crabs cleaning the beach sounded. Her trail of footprints gleamed wetly in the starlight and seeing them behind her, she felt dread. For the first time in her life, doom. Although not knowing the reason, she knew it had something to do with her footprints. Something she’d left behind.

Stopping herself from turning back to the safety of water, she made her legs take her forward. They caught at the ground. Jogging to shake their heaviness, she wondered what was wrong? Why was she the only one on Perfection who could be, feel and do wrong. Was that fair? Wouldn’t it be easier to be a Creator if you never made mistakes? Why make her this way and everyone else infallible.
Well, maybe not infallible, they’d locked her away and made her sick with grief, after all. Okay, they’d only made mistakes with her for she was an unknown and probably a mistake herself. Because why would any Creator add to an ideal environment? Why mess with completeness?

She’d arrived at the shed before she realized, and stopped to breathe in the scent of hay. Sniffing again, the air inside was dry and chalky with something she’d never smelt before. Pulling at the door, the hinges squealed in protest. What? Hinges never squeaked! There was a scattering of little feet as she forced the door open the rest of the way. Empty. Except for damp discolored piles of straw in corners, the hayshed was bare.

Dread reared it horrible head and transformed her stomach into a pit. She let her hand fall away from the door and walked into the center of the room. A mouse ran past her, so fast she was unable to see it clearly. The pile of damp straw in the left corner moved. Probably the mouse’s mate, but fear choked her swallow and she turned away.

Stumbling over unexpected lumps in the dirt, she walked toward the town proper. Grass crackled under the thick soles of her feet. A twig snapped and jabbed an end into the soft web between her toes. Sitting on the ground, she tugged it out. The hole in her webbing leaked silver blood onto the stiff grass and soaked away. So thirsty was the ground that it sucked it with a soft fizz. The stick in her hand that she’d pulled out of her webbing, was drinking her blood just as rapidly, the silver running into invisible cracks.

Her blood was silver.

About to throw it away, she noticed something changing. Tiny buds popped out along the length while the end splintered off into wiry roots. Startled, she dropped  the twig and looked to her feet, eyeing her damaged web. The blood had stopped leaking and the hole in the webbing was already smaller, edges of the slash joining.

Her blood.

The grass she’d bled on sprang exuberantly up, lithe and supple once more while the rest  remained crisp and dry. How had the grass gotten so dry? It’d rained not even 40 marks ago but the land acted and felt as if it hadn’t rained in days, maybe spans. Scraping the dirt with her toes, she found it was hard packed like dry manure.


The thought kept interrupting her, demanding attention. The Faultless didn’t have silver blood, nothing on Perfection did. Red blood that called attention to the hurt is what they had. Little pain and little blood, only a flag, a distress signal was all that was needed. You could wash it in cool water and it would heal within a day.
She was not Faultless. If she’d not known it before, she knew it now. Her blood told her. She healed without water and within marks. She, alone, was not Faultless. Somehow, even knowing she was different, she’d thought herself one of them. Didn’t she wiggle her way to the shore to find her nanny waiting for her, as everyone had done? She remembered being caught in a soft hand and placed into a warm pocket. Remembered going to sleep until she’d lost her tail and grown big enough to be have to be held with both hands.

She been cuddled and nurtured, carried until she could crawl, then walk. Taught to speak, read, and please, she’d the same unspoiled childhood everyone else had but she was not one of them. Her blood screamed it as it pounded in her ears. Eyes, dry and burning, she entered town.

As empty of life as the packed dirt under her feet is what she thought as she left the third home, the home of the Builder. It seemed as if everyone had gone. Why? There’d been no need before.

A chill crawled across her face. Something was very wrong. It was in the loss of green plants, the vacant houses, and the dry wind that blew gouts of dust.

Stooping to peer at what was left of the once huge flowering bushes that’d been tended by the Gardener on each side of her house. The stems were bare of leaves and yellowed, they should have been in full bloom! She noticed a few crispy brown leaves were scattered around the stem and picked them up, holding them close to her eyes. The edges were eaten away in small crescents, as if by an insect. It fell from her hand, unnoticed as she stood and surveyed the grounds behind the house. The massive garden that had fed the whole town was gone. All that remained was rows of broken stems and sand.

 She began to run through the town, calling out,
“Hello! Is anyone there? Where are you?”

Pausing, listening, she could hear nothing over the hollow wail of the wind. By the Wise Solarium, she noticed a movement in the shadows of the doorway and hurried up the steps. The slap of her feet was loud against the cold marble. A pile of rags lay bunched against the left pillar and twitched as she drew near. A strange sour smell invaded her nostrils as she tugged the loose corner of cloth. With a yelp, two sticklike legs kicked out at her followed by a spasm of coughing.

She leapt back and stood gawking at what used to be the youngest Wise One. He was  weak and wheezing from the exertion of his kicks. Listlessly cupping his rags around him, he glared at her.

“What have you done?”

“Me? I have done nothing.” A drill of guilt made her voice tight and high.

“What have you created? They were eating everything while we starved. And when we tried to kill them, we killed ourselves.”

“What was eating everything?” she asked barely above a whisper, noticing his skin was covered with tiny red bumps, and while his neck, hands, and ankles were swollen with fluid, the rest of his body was almost fleshless against the bone. Bruised splotches stained his feet, his long toes curled inward and away from her.

“This.” He opened his hand and a stiff furry form was clutched there.

“Pandi!” She breathed the word. Although, when she looked closer, it was the wrong color but the ears where definitely Pandi.

“Huh!” He said with a spat of coughing. “I knew you were behind this. Now I know what is killing me. What has killed our world.”

“Surely, not? The world?”

Another spasm of coughing, he wiped a glob of blood flecked phlegm off his lip. “Yes. The world. Look around you. At what you’ve done.”

Almost drowning in horror, she glanced around the bare miles of dirt and dust she could see in every direction. She’d done it. But how? Hadn’t she thought of everything? Seeing the hard Pandi fall from his hand, she snatched it off the stone. Examining, she noticed the changes and the similarities.

Yes, the tail was a long hairless worm, like the mice that would clean up dropped grain and food from the table. But the ears were round and furry like the Pandi. The small pink hands with their long fingers were Pandi, as was the luxuriant puff of fur around its body, although the color was mouse. Had the Pandi mated with the mice when they’d escaped the day she went swimming? How could they have adapted so fast?

Somehow they had, for the evidence was in her hand. She allowed it to drop and raised her hands to her face, caressing the silk on her cheeks with thoughtless fingers.

“You should have come and gotten me. Why are you dying?” She wanted to make it their fault and with a rush decided it was. “What did you do?”

Anger made him scream as he raised his once beautiful head, bulbous eyes flashing. “What else could we do? They eat nonstop. Our mice starved with us. We had to concoct a pesticide but it killed more than them, it killed everything.”

“You should have found me. I could have created something.”

“Hah!” He fell back, spent. “You’ve created enough. Why would we let you create more? We should have never allowed you to live but killed you when you refused to transform.” He lay quiet, breathing harsh but shallow breaths. “Should have killed you...” He mumbled before his eyes rolled into white and his hands slid off his chest onto the cold marble

Shrill triumph sounded in her voice as she turned away and stumbled blindly down the stairs. “Yes, you should have. So it is your fault after all.”

But tears were streaming from her eyes and she knew who was really at fault. She should have never created until she’d read the whole book. It had warned her but she thought she knew better and destroyed another creation leaving a dead planet circling a life giving sun. She ran back to her ocean. It was not all dead. The ocean remained the same. Only the land had died. She dived into the cool water, washing the itching dust off her skin and realized she might have just poisoned the water. Desperate for answers and her book, she pushed herself faster, past the point of exhaustion and could barely shiver onto her mossy island. She lay half in the water and half out, her face pressed into the moist growth of purple moss, breathing the spicy musk. Gathering her strength, she crawled to her feet. Her shelter was as she’d left it and the book was crammed into the far corner. Reaching for it, she sat and let its weight rest in her lap, falling into a deep sleep just as the white light of the sun crested the horizon.

Falling sideways, her back grating against the rock it once leaned on, she awoke. Groggily wiping her eyes, she noticed the sun was in full rainbow. It was mid-day and her stomach rumbled with hunger, surprising her. How could she want to live, eat and drink when she’d been the death of her own planet? Adjusting the weight of the book that had slid sideways, she read a sentence. “Life wants to live beyond anything else and given half a chance, will always adapt and change.”

Did her planet have half a chance? If it did, she might be able to pull it out of its plummet into death. Still reading, she absently held her hand under a stem of berries. The ripe ones obliged and dropped into her hands. Days later, the sky darkened to the color of her berry stained mouth and she could no longer read. Frustrated she threw the book aside and tried to rise. Her back refused to bend out of its kink and she had to stretch before she could straighten fully. She limped on a half asleep foot to the waters edge.

Leaping over a food ready fish bobbing the waves, she dove into the black water. A rush of bubbles roared past her ears. The salt of the ocean mixed with the swell of hot tears. She couldn’t do it, in all her reading, nothing could tell her how to turn around what she’d started and bring her planet back to its habitual perfection. But she’d found a way to leave.

The massive bird, white as new light stood on its red legs watching her with bright eyes. It had taken all her aged clay to craft it and most of her energy to carve. So she sat and watched it move, long after the light from her symbol had died away and left a darker shadow in her skin.

Efret, for that is what she’d named it, quick as lightning, snatched up food from the air into its long beak and chuckled the glittering particles of sun down its throat. She watched the muscles of the serpentine neck squeeze, bulging under the tight feathers as it plucked a rock from the sand.  Able to eat hydrogen, carbon, and all forms of light as well as small clumps of minerals, it was a bird of the spaces between. Never again to become planet bound unless she asked it to land. It was not made for land. It was made to live among the stars. It had lost interest in her once it’d found the sunlight but returned to her side when satiated and plunked comfortably into the sand, legs tucked underneath. It had eaten enough to lay hot eggs of light that would transform into more birds that would enter space and never return.

Dry were her eyes. She’d given up on her planet as the ocean had begun to die and thought she’d never be happy again but Efret drew painful joy out of her with its every movement. Rocking her body, she let the grief of her loss, her guilt, fill her until nothing was left. She curled against Efret and slept.

A harsh cry woke her, looking around and sitting up, she rubbed sand from her cheek. Efret was flapping its wings, running down the beach with gangling grace, calling to other birds that had birthed overnight, and now swooped and dived for bright food.

“Efret! You can’t leave without me.” She yelled. It stamped to a halt in the sand. Looking over a half loosed wing, it waited while she scrambled to her feet and limped towards it. Seeming impatient to be off, it clucked and dipped its head for her to hurry. As she neared, her feet slowed on their own.

Unexpectedly she was no longer sure if it was necessary to go and drew a toe in the sand. Maybe there was a chance she could find a way out, a way to restore. A bemused hope surfaced. A wave washed over her digging toes and a bloated, too small fish bumped off her ankle. Fish never died before their time and this one was very young.
The ocean.

Shells of dead crabs and clams littered the beach. Stepping on them as she moved on toward Efret, she left unnoticed and bloody silver prints as they cut her feet.

She felt nothing, heard nothing, never seeing the scattering of vibrant eggs in the sand that waited for the night to pulse and grow into their own.

Efret plopped into the sand, folding the twiggy red legs in one swoop, it held motionless as she climbed onto the wide back. The book, safely stashed in her pocket, had told her the only way to get beyond mistakes was to create freely. To start from scratch, learning as she went. She had to leave to do so for any life she created here would die from the poison dust. She wrapped her arms around the neck and weaving her fingers into the thick feathers, closed her eyes, and held on.

Floundering up the beach calling with its harsh voice, Efret spread shimmering white wings and gave a mighty flap. They rose into the air so smoothly that if not for the feel of the passing wind, she would’ve thought they’d stopped. She kept her eyes closed for she didn’t want to see the desolation of Perfection spread out beneath her.
She must have dozed for when she next looked, it was black as night, but not. They’d left her planet and were shooting toward huge balls of light that had to be suns. Behind them, she saw Perfection as a glowing and many colored jewel. The sun was a boiling white globe beyond. There was no wind, at least not the kind of wind she was used to. There were waves of energy. Tiny, glistening particles brushed her skin.

Efret was winging its way easily and must have been flying quicker than sound for although the distances between planets and suns seemed to remain the same, smaller boulders sped by earlier than she could see. Wondering if it would go faster, for this could take days for them to get anywhere, she was startled when Efret chuckled and swooped its wings in stronger drafts. Folding them into the side, it shot forward so fast a great heaviness pressed her flat. A trail of sparks whipped out behind them in ribbons as they set the tiny particles on fire with the friction of  momentum.

Eventually she was among a sea of icy rocks. The sun, she saw once they passed a massive black planet, was too old, a heavy red with a huge cast of sullen light eating the planets that were close to the spreading simmer. Efret cruised away at her thought and she scanned the radiant curls of other galaxies, searching for where suns were being born. Somewhere there had to be the right kind of sun.

A small and tight swirl of glowing lights tugged at her sight and she guided Efret in its direction. A star had recently exploded into life there and was just now pulling the material for planets toward it. This could be right. The sun was very young and hot, looking as if it had a long life. Finding a planet, blue with oceans and red with new earth, they landed alongside a bubbling river of lava steaming in the yellow light of day. It was adequate. She smiled and turned to face the wind.

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2009-10-03 10:40:55
I loved it!!

2009-10-02 18:56:40
beautifully written, the content is too mysterious for my taste, too far out. However, the author is an excellent writer and has great promise.

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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

Harris Tobias
Against a Diamond

Michele Dutcher