A poet – I look for them when we’re in port – once told me, “I see a malaise on your soul, little warrior.” But I’m only a cabin-boy, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’m not young enough anymore to be called by childish names. Still, malaise is a beautiful, difficult word. It sounds like something the captain or our doctor would use, but the sense of it is clear enough: sometimes, when I’m running a message, or scrubbing the deck, or tidying a cabin, I know I’m doing these things only because I have to. There is no want in me to do them, to sing and joke in the mess, to talk with others at our bunks before sleep.

I watch the doctor: he moves from action to action as if a fire burns within him. I know that’s something I’m missing; no fire burns inside of me. I think that’s what the poet meant: everything the doctor does he does as though a life depends on it, and no lives depend on me.

Our ship’s lone guest sometimes reminds me of the poet, the doctor’s fire, and myself.

He sits at the bow with his walking stick and a white mask he always wears. Sometimes the captain is with him, but the masked man doesn’t speak much, and the captain has been standing with him less and less.

Our guest also doesn’t speak to me, but he lets me sit beside him. I think that, like me, there is no fire in him, no heat. It’s not the here and now – not the ship or its people – that call to him: he watches, always watches, outward, towards the sea.

He watches the blue of the horizon.

The King

“I just… I just don’t see how this is helping,” he said, head bowed.

“You don’t need to see. You don’t need to understand, Elvis. You just need to follow orders.” The Colonel stood up, making motions to leave. He felt a pang of pity for the soldier, remembered when he was in a similar situation many moons ago. A few less sequins, though. A lot less junk food.

“Colonel,” he said, edging closer, “it’s not me.” He glanced around, afraid that someone was watching, listening. “I can’t pretend to be this person anymore. I don’t think I’m fooling anyone. And this.” He brushed a burger aside and picked up a sheet of music from his make-up table. “Blue Suede Shoes. Carl did this, a few months ago. An extra body was shipped in for him, he burnt through the first one so fast. Why do I have to do the same song again?”

The Colonel sighed, ran his paw through his slick-backed tentacles. He brushed some glitter from his insignia. “Listen to me, son,” he said, placing his hand gently on Elvis’s shoulder. “This planet is important to us. Not just you and I, not just the military, but our people. Our race. This Thread is important to us.”

Elvis looked at his mentor and tears welled up in his eyes behind his sunglasses. He longed to be free of this body, of this place with its heavy gravity. He turned to his mirror and wiped his eyes. He stood up and shook his hips at his reflection.

“Well, it’s one for the money…”

Blue genes

Only if both parents carry the gene….

Tom Petersen slowly placed the knitted bookmark against page seventeen, closed the magazine and very carefully put it down on the table. The bookmark had been a present from his daughter, Karen, for his forty-third birthday. It was green with pretty blue polka-dots; they popped strikingly against the green background but were much less bright than Karen’s blue eyes. His wife Rachel’s eyes were almost as blue as Karen’s, but not quite. They always joked about how his own bronze-brown eyes had zapped the mist out of Rachel’s powder-blue eyes to produce Karen’s perfectly azure ones.

To the repeating mantra in his head, Tom turned off the lights in the study, took the trash outside for the Tuesday morning collection, checked that the front and back doors were locked, and started up the stairs. To the mantra, he paused outside his daughter’s bedroom, softly opened the door and silently crossed the room. And to the mantra, he picked up a discarded pillow and gently placed it over her face, so that he would never have to see those beautiful azure-blue eyes again.

Downstairs, the lights of a passing car swung past the house, briefly illuminating the scientific magazine on the table in the study. Emblazoned on its cover in brilliant yellow text, below a picture of a beautiful blue-eyed child, was the phrase: “Defined by DNA: Find out what your genes say about you.”

Baby Blues

I was born to be a momma. That’s what I told them, baby blue, I told them that straight away. It ain’t about the grant, it ain’t about nothing like that. I just wanted a baby of my own, a little soft baby to look after, to love and hold. That’s all I want.

So they gave me the test, they gave me you, baby blue. Oh, what a strange bundle you were, all warm and wriggly, just like a real baby, a little blue baby. No matter, I can look after a baby, real or blue, I’ll pass any old test. I held you and I fed you, I burped you and I washed you. Nothing to it, day in, day out, all night, all day. What a happy baby, you’re acing that old test, people said. You’ll be getting the permit any day, any day, that’s what they’d say.

Oh, my baby blue, my little bluebell. You and I, what a great team we made, for that test, that big old test. Look at mommy’s letter, right here it says: “Congratulations! You passed the parenthood competency test.” Competency, what a big word, my bluebird! Can you say competency? What a good girl you are! “Please return testing device BLU-1551 to your nearest reproduction control centre to receive your permit”, now that’s a bit of tosh. Return my little Blue Belle, return my little treasure? Not a chance, my baby blue, not even a tiny chance.

I was born to be a momma, you see, and you were made to be my little baby. My tiny little blue baby.

Our Fall Colours

“…God, it’s a hellhole in here, Sven from Vogue almost has his camera down Vanessa’s cleavage …”

“… such a crush, what’s Mario done, sold his soul? Last year was all D-list celebs and promo people, this year there’s a real buzz…”

“… heard it’s something special, he’s doing things with colour that aren’t  technically possible – it’s not shot silk, those scarves change colour even when they’re not moving…”

“…did you see her walking? She’s chalk-white and has lost about twenty pounds. I bet it’s heroin…”

“…who’s smoking in here, anyway? Bloody ash everywhere…”

“…no, it’s not blue, not quite. Never seen anything like it. That ballgown’s fierce, the colour’s otherworldly and the drape’s frankly impossible…”

“…apparently she never goes anywhere without wearing something in the new fabric, quite an obsession…”

“…God, darling, have a canape, you look like you’re about to pass out…”

“…no idea of the technology, he’s keeping it very quiet, says his science team is a bit out of the box and doesn’t want publicity…”

“… bold new experiments with texture and hue, these fabrics defy categorisation – hell, Paul, get the camera on me, for fuck’s sake…”

“…like an epidemic, models dropping like flies, even more than usual.  That new fabric isn’t healthy…”

“… saw her after the show, nearly collapsing, ash everywhere – when did she start chain-smoking? That weird almost-blue shade makes her look dead, frankly…”

“… Mario, darling, huge triumph, really edgy clothes…”

“… no, I tell you, it’s aliens! Lovecraft was right! Aliens are infiltrating our fashion! That fabric’s alive! You laugh now …”

“… God, did you hear? Annabel’s dead…”

The Pretty Blue One

“It’s my turn to choose first, you always choose first. I want the big one with all the discs, what do you think of that?”

NASA Observatory Omaha, USA: Bill, you better get down here fast. At first we thought equipment malfunction; but it’s not! And Bill, you better call the state department and get them to wake the president.

“Brat! You know I like the discs and there was only the one. Oh well, I’ll suppose I’ll have that huge orange stripy one with the red spot.”

Civilian Emergency Band: …astrophysicists are working to understand and mitigate the effects of these unprecedented events. Citizens should stay indoors and remain calm. Gather preserved food, potable water and warm clothing. Calmly and quickly obey instructions from the military authorities in your area. The government has implemented emergency protocols to protect you and your family in these extraordinary times: do not be afraid.

“I wanted that one! Now I’ll have to take the tiny bright red one instead”

Radio Saviour, Salt Lake City: They’ve been lying to us those scientists like they always lied. But tonight the truth is clear to the naked eye. HIS truth IS clear. HE that MADE the planet Mars has UNMADE it. As in the times of Noah, water has engulfed the crowded lands of the unbelievers and HE has sent a SIGN. So this time you won’t believe the egg heads when they say ‘natural disaster’ because HE has removed a WHOLE PLANET to show you that only HE can protect you now.

“I know which one I want next: that blue one near the middle with the swirls of white and the green bits. It looks interesting. I want the pretty little blue one.”

The Eternal Blue

The ever clear blue water sparkles in the sunlit sky, a thousand diamonds that can never be possessed but will always be admired from afar.  Hearts have soared when they have seen the ocean and heard the shrill cry of gulls on the salty breeze.  Endlessly enchanting those that have lost their way on the hard, dry land with all those tall trees.

Every day and every night the waves fall to the shore, never ceasing…  The endless call.  Even when down among the soft sand and smooth stone, there is the urge to go out and be alone.  Round the time of the purple hour when the moon is out and the sun is fire the whispers reach those patient ears.  Never ending need to be at peace within the deep memories of the wakeful mind.  A time for rest so long past together with the aching of the broken heart.  Longing for some restful sleep to dream the dreamless dreams.

Beyond the waves of blue and white, beyond the colourless dreams.  Leave the scorching days of toil and turmoil and the aching to be free.  Unbelievably beautiful and so peaceful, all will be forgotten.  Ever after and again, eternally sleeping in the dreams.