Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes
by Daniel Marcus
The only window in Suki’s bedroom opened onto an airshaft that ran through the center of the building like the path of a bullet. She would lie in bed in the hot summer nights with the salt smell of the drying seabed coming in through the open window, a sheen of sweat filming her forehead and plastering the sheets to her body like tissue, listening to her downstairs neighbors. When they made love, their cries echoing up through the airshaft made her loins ache, and she brought release to herself silently, visualizing men with slender, oiled limbs and faces hidden in shadow.
Sometimes the neighbors sang, odd, sinuous music redolent with quarter tones. The melodies wove counterpoint like a tapestry of smoke and for some reason Suki thought of mountains. Jagged, fractal peaks thrusting out of an evergreen carpet. Summits brushed with snow. Tongues of cloud laying across the low passes.
Sometimes they argued, and the first time she heard the man’s deep voice raised in anger she was sure he was a Beast, possibly an Ursa.
She was less certain of the woman, but there was a sibilant, lilting quality to her voice that suggested something of the feline. They’d moved in three weeks before but their sleep cycles seemed out of sync with hers and she still hadn’t met them.
Suki tried to imagine herself going downstairs to borrow something — sugar, yarn, a databead. His broad muzzle would poke out from behind the half-closed door; his liquid brown eyes would be half-closed in suspicion. They would chat for a bit, though, and perhaps he would invite her in. They would teach her their songs and their voices would rise together into the thick, warm air. Some nights there was no singing, no arguing, no love, and Suki listened to the city, a white-noise melange of machinery and people in constant flux, like the sound of the ocean captured in a shell held to the ear. Beneath that, emanating from the spaceport on the edge of the city, a low, intermittent hum, nearly subsonic, so faint it seemed to come from somewhere inside her own body.
On those nights, she had trouble sleeping, and she would climb the rickety stairs to the roof. She couldn’t see the Web, of course, but she imagined she could feel it arching overhead, lines of force criss-crossing the sky. Ships rode the Web up to where they could safely ignite their fusion drives for in-system voyages, or clung to the invisible threads all the way to their convergence at the Wyrm.
Newmoon hung in the sky, its progress just below the threshold of conscious perception, like the minute hands of a clock. She had visited there as a child, a creche trip, and she remembered the feel of the factories humming under her feet, the metal skin pocked with micrometeorite impacts stretching to the too-close horizon, the tingling caress of her environment field. (Continue Reading…)