Sunrise

The wind blew along the frozen river driving every living thing away from the banks.  Except for one man.  Wrapped in a heavy brown cloak against the cold, he leaned on a fallen tree trunk to avoid sitting on the ice and snow.  He stayed there, waiting, facing the east.

The sky behind the far bank had just begun to brighten.  A golden reddish hue crept upward and bounced off the few clouds high overhead.  The moon having already set, there was no other light to compete.  As the light in the sky grew, he could feel the moment approaching.

Every magic was at its strongest at particular times of day.  The rhythms of that unseen power mirrored the rhythms of the sun and moon as they chased one another through the sky.  Seasons, too, mattered, as the the day echoed the ebb and flow of the year.  Dawn in the late winter was thus ideal for reading the signs.

He pulled a small pouch from under his cloak and, just as the first sliver of the sun appeared, cast the rune stones onto the snow.  Three runes told the tale.  Where he had been was signified by the rune of initiation.  Secret beginnings were all too clear in his tale.  No judgment was offered, merely an acknowledgment that those beginnings held clues for him now.

Next, where he was.  Disruption.  This seemed obvious as well, but the runes were not known for speaking so clearly.  Disruption in the world was a given.  But like the previous rune, this was a rune signifying the cycle of self-change.  Disruption within, as well as without.  He was still uncertain of his own role, his own path, and that must be resolved, perhaps by considering the source, the beginnings, of all of the disruption: his initiation.

Finally, where he was headed.  Movement.  Another rune of self-change.  Ultimately, his answers lie ahead of him, not behind.  There was no going back.  Whatever trials lay ahead, he must push through them and find some new future, not recreate the past.

As the sun broke free from the horizon, he realized he had tarried here long enough.  He trusted his reading, but the surface meaning of the final rune was also relevant.  It was time to be moving on.  Nodding his respect to the sun, he turned left and followed the river north.

Fun At Bars

“Is this seat taken?”

“No.  Be my guest.”

“So what do you do?”

“Mostly I sit at this bar and drink.”

“Really?  You’re not going to try?  Not even a little?”

“Try what?  You want me to use a line?  To lie?”

“Isn’t that what people do at bars?  Lie to each other?  Lie to themselves?  At least for the evening?”

“I suppose so.  But I gave up on that a long time ago.  Now I just come here to drink.”

“So no interest, huh?  Not even a little flirting or buying me a drink?”

“Didn’t say I wasn’t interested.  Just gave up lying to myself.  And I barely have enough to get me drunk.  Nothing to spare for illusions and false hopes.”

“Well, you’re a lot of fun.”

“Fun is for people who don’t need to go to bars.  Alcohol is for people who can’t have fun.”

“Ugh.  Here I thought you might be interesting.  I’ve got better things to do than sit here listening to this.”

“I should hope so.”

Every Night

He sat outside the door and waited for history to repeat itself.  The very first night, he tried going inside.  That had been easy; discovering he was intangible, he simply walked right through the door.  Recognizing the apartment once inside, he quickly searched for him.

He was sitting on the bed, a pistol in his lap.  Unfortunately, that was when he found out he was also invisible and inaudible.  No matter what he did, he was helpless to stop it.  After the inevitable, he found himself back in his own room in the present.

Every night, it happened again.  And every night, he was helpless to change anything.  So this night, as so many nights before, he just sat in the hallway and waited.  Once again, he heard the gunshot and a body slump to the floor.  And again, he found himself back in his room.  It was over for now, but it would repeat the next night.  And every night.

In the Forest

The fire popped and snapped every time a snowflake hit it.  The snow was steady enough to create a constant stream of noise, but not so heavy that he couldn’t keep it going with careful tending.  Even as night had fallen, there was no sign of it ending soon.  He had resigned himself to waiting it out while trying to keep warm.

The forest around him was dark and silent.  The land sloped gently before it rose steeply into the mountain.  He had walked far to get to this place and still had far to go.  The snow, and now the night, had conspired to make it longer.

As he contemplated his journey, something glinted in the trees across from him.  A pair of eyes reflected the flickering flames.  As they neared, a snout took shape, followed by the wolf itself, its gray fur taking on an orange tint.  Standing on the other side of the fire, its gaze never wavered, holding his own stare transfixed.

His mind raced, contemplating options and discarding them almost as quickly as they occurred to him.  His bow lay next to him, but aiming and drawing at a target so close would likely give the wolf too much time to strike.  Running obviously would not work.  He did not trust his own skill with a knife to think it would save him.  Perhaps he could summon enough strength to drive an arrow deep enough with his hand to give himself a chance.

While he considered what to do, the wolf had stayed unmoving on the other side of the fire.  He could not understand what it might be waiting for.  But as time passed, the wolf gave no indication of getting any closer.  After several minutes, the wolf laid down, its eyes never moving off of him.

The fire began to wane, and the wolf’s eyes began to close.  If the flames died, it would be difficult to restart them, so he took a chance and slowly moved to put another piece of wood in them.  As he did so, the wolf raised its head, its gaze once more firmly fixed on him.  It watched as he worked carefully to stoke the fire.  Once he finished, the wolf again lowered its head and feel asleep.

Exhaustion was taking him over as well, but he forced himself not to give in to it.  Every time he moved, the wolf opened its eyes.  Were he to drift off, the wolf may take the opportunity to attack.  He could not take the chance.

However, as determined as he was, sleep must have enveloped him.  The sun’s light, shining through bare branches and reflecting off the new snow, woke him.  The fire’s embers still smoldered, but they provided no heat.  While he chided himself for succumbing, he also realized he was still alive.  The wolf was gone, an impression in the snow where it had lain the only trace of its passing.  Grateful for having survived the night, he struck camp and began walking once more.

Colony Eta

Waking up, Sam felt oddly refreshed.  It was more than just arising from a good night sleep.  All the little aches and pains that he had grown accustomed to were gone.  The small room was dimly lit and quiet, a nice contrast from where he’d left.

A door slid open, and a man in a white coat with a clipboard came in.  He sat in a chair, the only piece of furniture in the room other than the cot Sam was on.

“Hello,” the man greeted him.

“Hi.  I take it I made it.”

The man frowned.  “I suppose so.  How do you feel?”

“I feel great.  Better than I have in a long time.  Is my wife here?”

“Your wife?”  The man flipped through the papers on his clipboard.

“Rachel.  She came before me.  I had to finish some things back . . .  Well, back on Earth.  I figured she would be here when I arrived.”

“Oh yes.  I see her listed here.”  He looked up from the papers and studied Sam’s face for a long moment.  A look of decision crossed his face.  “Very well.  I’ll go locate her.  Please rest here.  I’ll have some food brought to you.”

“I feel fine.  I don’t need to rest.”

“Sir, please.  It is protocol.  We need to make sure everything is in order before releasing you.”

Sam sighed.  “All right.  I’ll wait.  But please get Rachel.”

“I will.  Now rest.”

Sam stared at the door after he left and wondered what was wrong.

*     *     *

Ramsey entered the control room and dropped the clipboard on the desk.  Fern looked up from the monitor with her soft brown eyes full of questions.  He always thought the name rather silly, but she had chosen it and made it suit her.

“We got another one?” she asked.  “I thought we had the system shut down.”

He shrugged.  “We had.  But the cycle down sequence took time to travel back to the source, and they must have uploaded during that time.”

“Will there be more?”

“Hard to say.  We tried to get them to stop before the cycle down, but they insist it’s just transportation.  I hope this is the last.  And that they can’t power it back on from their end.”

Fern looked back at the monitor.  “And now, we need to get him acclimated.”

A year earlier they would be more prepared for a new arrival.  Now it fell to the skeleton staff with limited resources.  “Yes.  We should find her.  She arrived about nine months ago and is still in public housing.  Please send someone to bring her over.”

*     *     *

The sound of the door sliding open again woke Sam.  Rachel stood in the door.  Her hair was shorter and dyed blue, but it was definitely her.  She seemed anxious , but he was relieved to see her.

“Rachel!”  He leapt out of the cot and embraced her.  She did not return the hug.  He took a step back and gave her a worried look.  “What’s wrong?”

“Um, nothing.  Hi.  How are you?”  She didn’t look at him.

“Rachel, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.  Really.  Just…  Let’s sit down.”  Her forced smile was less than reassuring.

He sat on the cot, and she took the chair.  They stared at each other for several seconds before she broke the silence.

“How do you feel?”

“I feel fine.  Rachel, is everything okay?”

She flinched.

“What is it?  Rachel, please talk to me.”

“I’m not Rachel!”  She immediately covered her mouth with her hand as though trying to take it back.

“What…  What do you mean?  Of course you are.  Rachel?  What is it?”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Please quit calling me that.  It’s confusing.  I’m trying to keep the memories straight and that name is making it harder.  My name is Tara.  Just call me Tara.”

“But…  What do you mean?  You look just like my wife.  I know you’re Rachel.  Why are you saying these things?”

Tears were flowing down her cheeks as she looked at him with a mixture of pity and sorrow.  “You aren’t married.  You have no wife.  You…  You just think you do.  Those bastards on Earth sent the memories of a man named Sam here, and they woke up in your body.  But you aren’t him.  Sam died on Earth when they tried to send him here.  And so did his wife, Rachel.  You and I were created to think we’re them, but we aren’t.”

“No.  No.  You and I were transmitted to here, to this colony.  You are Rachel.  They just sent us here.  Don’t you remember?  This doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know you think that’s what happened.  It’s what I thought happened, too. I do remember everything you said.  But that wasn’t really us.  We’re just copies of those people.  Now that we’re here, we have to make our own lives.”  She grabbed his hand.  “I’m sorry.  I know this is confusing.  After time, it will make sense.  Just…  Try to forget it all.  Start over.  It will make things easier.”

“Rachel…”

She shook her head and several tears splashed on his face.  “I can’t.  I’m not.  Just try to forget.”  She stood and hurried out of the room.

He wanted to follow her, but Ramsey blocked the doorway.  “I am sorry.  I know this is confusing.  Over the next several weeks, we will help you acclimate.  It will take time, but you will have all our support.  Now, you’ve had quite a shock.  Rest.  We’ll start in the morning.”  The door slid closed.

Sam sat on the cot, staring.  He was Sam, wasn’t he?

An Open Letter (spoiler-free) to George Lucas

I’m not sure about posting this here.  It’s not truly prose, and it certainly isn’t fiction.  But Star Wars was one of the things that started my love of stories and helped prompt me to want to tell my own stories.  That seems fit for a muse.

Dear Mr. Lucas,

Let me first say thank you.  Star Wars was the first movie I remember seeing in the theatre.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that that story, and the following movies, helped shaped my life.  I have grown into a life far beyond that childhood fantasy, but I have never forgotten and I still remember it fondly.  I remember the speculations about who the other might be that Yoda mentioned at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.  Or how Han was going to get out of the carbonite.  Or even whether Vader might be lying.  Many summer days were spent in endless conversations about such things.

When you released the remastered versions, I will admit I didn’t like all of the changes.  But it was your story, yours to do with as you see fit.  I didn’t see it as ruining my childhood, but nostalgia made me resist.  And when The Phantom Menace came out, I waited in line, overnight, to get tickets.  And I saw it several times opening day.  I didn’t hate it the way so many of my contemporaries did/do.  Did I think it, or any of the prequels, as good as the original?  No.  But it’s hard to beat that magic of seeing the first movie in the theatre as a young child in 1977.

I appreciated the prequels for what they were, warts and all.  I had remembered, years ago, hearing tales that you had ideas for nine movies.  That only R2-D2 and C-3PO would be in all nine films.  And while the prequels were interesting back story, I was dying to see what happened next.  The Expanded Universe, in all its messy glory, filled some of that hole, but I still wanted to see what you had in mind.

You see, several years ago, I remember complaining about something or other with respect to Harry Potter.  A friend, who had come of age during that series of books told me that he didn’t care about the problems.  That Harry Potter was part of his childhood, and he would take all of it, messy or not.  And I realized that’s how I felt about Star Wars.  So that, even if I, as a story-teller, didn’t like some of your choices, as a kid, I would take anything I could get.

But it was not to be.  First, you said no more movies.  Maybe you felt burned by the fans.  Maybe you just felt burnt out.  But the movies were over, apparently.  We got The Clone Wars, we got some animated shows, and we got rumors of other television shows in development.  The films were over.  We wouldn’t see VII, VIII, or IX.  I would never know what you had planned.

Oh well, it’s your story, your universe.  I had to respect your decision, and hope, maybe, you’d change your mind.  Instead, you sold the franchise.  You turned it over to the conglomerate of Disney for a huge payday.  I don’t know why you did it.  And I can’t imagine ever turning over a creation of mine like that, but you must have had your reasons.

Disney obviously had no intention of paying billions of dollars just to crank out licensing deals.  Soon we got word of episode VII.  And I got very nervous.  We’d get a movie all right, but it wouldn’t be your movie; it’d be Disney’s.  The prequels may have had problems, but they were your problems.  Who knew what was in store for us now?

But I bided my time.  I was cautiously optimistic.  Disney threw out all of the Expanded Universe and determined to start over, with only video productions as canon.  What would they do to this universe I grew up in, to these characters I loved?

And what came out a couple of weeks ago?  What was The Force Awakens?  It was a good movie.  More, it was a good Star Wars movie.  It is definitely more than a little nod to episode IV.  And I have lots of questions.  But the characters are interesting.  The situations that develop are engaging.  And I am intrigued.  I am avoiding spoilers, but sitting there on opening night, I breathed a sigh of relief.  They hadn’t completely screwed everything up.

So what do you do?  You complain about it.  You criticize it.  And you know what, go ahead.  I certainly might be upset if someone had taken my vision and changed it.  But of course, I wouldn’t have sold away the rights to my vision in the first place.  I wish you had held on to the franchise.  I wish you had told your story.  Even if it were completely flawed, I would have watched it.  But you didn’t do that.  You left it.  That, too, is your right.  You don’t owe me, or anyone, anything.  You don’t owe us another story.

But if you take your story and sell it away, I simply do not give a good damn any more what you think about it.  You likened it to a divorce.  (I’m going to ignore your other, offensive comments, for which you have apologized.)  I liken it to you walking out on your kids.  You just handed it over for a big pay day, whatever your reasons may have been.  Don’t turn around and dump on it now.  As a fan, I love Star Wars.  And if you had never made another film, I would have wondered what might have been.

But you handed it off to others.  And now, those of us who still love your story, have to hope that it will be recognizable in the hands of someone else.  So far, I’m pretty happy.  Do I wish I had seen your vision in some theatre in a May debut?  Sure.  But that ship has sailed.  And you’re the one who kicked it away from the dock.  So frankly, I no longer care what you think about Star Wars.  You obviously stopped caring the moment Disney offered you a check.

Sincerely,

A Star Wars fan who doesn’t complain (too often) about Jar-Jar Binks or Ewoks