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1. A Hole in My Mind


I was thumbing through New Mexico with nothing, headed nowhere, when I fell in with a shaman named Shaman who pricked a hole in my mind. A little prick it was, but everything gushed in through it, and everything spilled out. Suddenly, I could not tell the difference between myself and others or between my body and the rest of the world.

"Dont be afraid, Mel," Shaman said. I was very afraid. We were sitting inside a long canvas tent, the communal kitchen of the Space People. All the other Space People were asleep. They had picked me up outside of Albuquerque and driven me out onto the desert to their little spread. Because Shaman liked me, they had picked me up. Even though there were Chicanos in those days who hated hippies, who conned their way into communes and shot them up, and I am as dark-skinned and small as a Mexican, they had picked me up.

It was dark in the tent. Flaps open, stars filled the big triangles at either end; feeble candlelight unsealed the night between us, loud with cicadas and dead souls crying. There was a votive candle in a shot glass on the dirt floor. Rococo shadows angled and sprawled across chairs, long table, canvas, and ourselves.

"Youve broken me." The words jumped where my bones should be. Something in me arched and bristled like a frightened cat. Were the words mine?

Shaman took them for mine. "Im you," he said. Incomprehensible. "Relax."

I left that place. I left the Space People sleeping. I left Shaman with his kit of tropes that killed or cured or pricked your mind and left you to bleed to death or to drown in the worlds blood, bleeding into you through a tiny hole. The last thing I saw there was the candle flame reflected in Shamans eyes, two little flames dwindling as I stumbled out into the desert, out into stars and the cries of cicadas and dead souls, which might have been my tongue, my voice, my limbs, or my self, since Shaman had pricked a hole in my mind.



First appeared in Asimovs Science Fiction, July 1997. Nominated for Best Novella. | Izzy and the Father of Terror | 2. Talk with a Joshua Tree