13 November 2010

Jaguar, Collapsar, Tango: Vignettes

Godl awoke from dreams of the chase, and the hot rush of blood over the tongue.  The big cat twitched awake and sprang to his feet.  It wasn't easily startled, but something had disturbed its sleep.

Godl could smell it.  Close, hot and alive.

The stocky jaguar sat back on his haunches and sniffed at the air again.  Its mouth gaped and nostrils flared to draw the scent deep into its lungs.  The scent of meat on the bone made Godl salivate.  Its ears twitched at the sound of movement not far away.  Godl stood silently, gauging distance and wind with that particular trigonometry known to predators the world over.  The jaguar blinked its green-gold eyes, and padded softly into the undergrowth.

Godl was hungry.  Hunting had not gone well as of late and the consequences had made themselves known in slack muscles and a sunken belly.  It was time.  Survival would not be denied, and Godl sensed the end of an empty belly out there in the emerald abyss.  Its claws flexed and softly, softly, a thrumming growl seeped from the throat of the jaguar.

A throat that would know the crimson heat of life-giving blood, before the next sunrise.

 The Captain sat back in his chair, in a rare moment of leisure.  He sipped slowly from the squat tumbler in his hands, an heirloom from a grandfather thrice removed.  The tumbler was heavy crystal, not refined but elegant in the manner of a finely crafted knife or workingman's boot.  He took another sip, savoring the smoky warmth as it flared its way into his belly, all the while staring at the monster on his computer screen.

The tumbler served its purpose quite well, which in this case was the transference, from bottle to gullet, of the single-malt scotch the Captain preferred.  While the Captain was never truly off duty,  the research cycles were at a low-activity point in the expedition timeline.  Even hard-core astronomers and physicists in the Fleet needed some down time, and the Captain had decreed that some rest was in order, for the crew.

Which did not mean they couldn't do research in their leisure time, on their own ticket.  The Captain told himself it wasn't official research, it was simply observing the enemy to know more of it.  He reconsidered:  the enormous collapsar, around which the tiny ship orbited, was not so much an enemy as a force to be respected.  Even if that respect was based on fear.

The Captain was afraid, though he would never admit to that anywhere within earshot of his shipmates.  Black holes did that to him.  Even with all the training and experience under his belt, he still could not quite wrap his head around the notion that there existed a...thing...from which nothing could escape.  Not matter, not light, nothing.  That there were places in the universe where all became one, in singularity...symmetrical, to be sure, the Captain mused, but not exactly comforting.  They had been in orbit for weeks, yet knew little more than when they started.  It occurred to the Captain that perhaps the only way to really find out anything truly worth knowing would be to enter the black hole.

He froze, the glass halfway to his lips.  Enter the black hole, merge with the singularity...he gulped.  Raising the glass, he toasted the seething mass on the screen, and drained it.  He set the glass down heavily, and thumbed his comm module, calling for the Navigator.

"Course change", he barked in response to the Navigator's puzzled query, "We're going to see the other side..."

"It is a serious business, this wanting the love of a woman, no?"

Padraig O'Higgins paused briefly, then swallowed his small mouthful of wine and turned to look at the stranger. A stranger who had interrupted a rather involved meditation on the legs of the lady on the dance floor.  He did not recognize the man, but something about him seemed familiar.  Maybe he was one of the regulars here, and Padraig thought he just had taken no notice of him in his many visits.  He had the look and the clothes of a successful cattle broker, or perhaps a banker.  One with cousins out on the pampas.

"Love, señor?"  Padraig asked in return.  "Were we speaking of love?"  He tried to sound as neutral as possible.  Some of the porteños could be very touchy if they thought one to be undiplomatic.

The stranger smiled, and laughed.  His face was tanned, seamed as if made of the fine leather to be had in country.  His fingers were thick and clutched a heavy glass filled with what seemed to be the same red wine that Padraig was drinking.  Heavy silver rings adorned his thumbs.  Padraig found himself resisting the urge to look at the strangers' legs, to see if he could detect the outline of a boot knife in the fine pair in which he was shod.

"No, señor, you and I were not speaking to each other.  But you, you were speaking nonetheless."  He cocked his head in the direction of the tango dancer.  "You find her beautiful, do you not?"

The question caught Padraig off guard.  Had it been that obvious?  Given what he knew of honor and bravery in this, his adopted country, Padraig decided honesty would serve best.  That, and the wine was working its magic on his mind.

"Yes, I do".  He involuntarily turned his gaze back to the dancer.  Her partner had just taken her into his arms, and her magnificent right leg was in his left hand, raised above his shoulder.  Her head was thrown back, eyes closed, ruby lips glinting in the low bar light. Padraig stifled a gasp and repeated "I do."

"I know. I can tell.  And if I can tell, so can a lot of other people."  The tone in the stranger's voice caught Padraig's attention.  It wasn't hostile, exactly, but it did carry a hint of concern bordering on warning.  The stranger said "I've seen this before, among your countrymen," an obvious reference to Padraig's fair skin and red hair, "and I would tell you the same thing I have told others: be careful, friend.  You know, I am sure, how many gentlemen compete for the attention of the few señoritas here."  He paused, looking expectantly at Padraig, who nodded without taking his eyes off the object of his ardor.  The stranger sighed.

"This need for love can be dangerous.  Tread lightly, my friend, be careful to avoid the pains of a broken heart."

The way he said it made Padraig very aware that he wasn't talking about the heart being the only thing that would hurt.  The Irishman turned back to the stranger, fixing him with a needle-like stare.  The music swelled mournfully, beautifully, and Padraig wanted to weep and rush onto the dance floor to carry away the brunette vision that had overtaken his passion.  He spoke, almost too soft for the stranger to hear.

"I will, señor...but some things," he paused and turned his gaze back to the dancer, "are worth the risk."

The stranger swung his incredulous gaze from the Irishman's face to the dancer and back again.  He shook his head and shrugged.  The dancer turned, the music stopped, and she looked up, straight into Padraig's eyes.

She smiled, and the wave broke over him.

A little lagniappe, for you dear readers, on the occasion of my 500th post.  I hope you enjoyed it.


  1. I hope you are saving these for a collection, vignette style someday :)

    Gosh do I wake up from the greatest movie adventure dreams lately- no meds, exercise, and little alcohol make for some good action, and a few juicy adult stories too.

  2. Enjoyed it indeed IG, a lagniappe is always welcome, and what better occasion than your 500 th post !! Congrats and well done !! Looking forward to the next 500 and beyond ! Sending 500 honks from the upper east side of NYC...ok you know I can't do that,lol but I will do 5 !! Peace bro !

  3. 500 posts! Congratulations!!! Well done. You can write like I only wish I could. Dammit.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...