RIVETED • by Kevin Shamel

Marla has new rivets in her and she isn’t sure why. Something itches inside — something like an electric bug. Her eyes are closed. She is afraid to open them. Behind them, visions flicker.

The Earth floats below her. It shines in the sun. Marla watches the magnetosphere spark and shimmer under cosmic rays. She feels radiation licking at her body and the tingle of open space.

She once stood upon the planet, watching the stars through the canopy of night. She once drank from a mossy spring. Once killed a duck. Danced slow and sweaty against a boy.

Ducks and boys. Moss. Water. The sky, when it was innocent and blue. When clouds were elephants and Abe Lincoln. When the sun made rainbows, and reflections, and warm sand for digging toes.

The sun — a yellow dwarf. A massive engine. A genesis machine. Giver of life. Searing lord of death. A star that lives one hundred and fifty million kilometers from the Earth. Marla watches the sun during a storm. Flares, bursts, and fire. She is unconcerned. She is dutiful.

Duty. What one must do. Inside, no matter the excitement and fear, there are hollows left by dreams that die, hopes and plans that wither, and goodbyes. There are last days together, with dragonflies and mist on the water when the sun comes up. Shining curls and blue eyes like the tip of the sky. Sex.

The air was humid. Marla could smell the plants, the soil, the friction of flies and flowers. Her skin shone with sweat. She tasted the salt of her body, squinting into the bright day. Kissing him for the last time. Bare feet. The breeze. Ice in a fruity drink.

There is ice in the space around the planet. Ice, dust, and pebbles. There is electricity, plasma, charged particles. Beams of energies surround and infuse her. She is cold and alive. She is hot and hollow. Like her head. Her empty, lifeless head.

The operating table shone terribly under white lights. Marla saw it as they wheeled her past to lay her down in another room and fill her body with sleep. She wished he had come to watch. She was happy he was not there. Marla was asleep for the procedure — but later, reviewing the video, she jerked when the laser opened her skull.

The Earth tumbles slowly below her and seas reflect the sun. There are flat sheets of clouds — some with flashes of lightning that send arcs into the ionosphere like neurons in a brain. There is a new smell in the ozone around her. Something that makes her afraid.

Marla stretches in her body anchored above the Earth. She is wrapped in layers of woven metal and nano-webbing. She is covered in eyes and other sensors to fill her with environmental data. She is armed with sixteen beam-weapons, a projectile factory, and multiple delivery systems. Her brain is locked deep inside her control center — surrounded by amniotic fluid and a sphere of living metal. At her core is a piece of the sun. She is a kilometer tall, and nearly as wide. She is one in a fleet of living weapons.

A decimated fleet.

Marla remembers the battle, over before it began. She remembers why she is riveted. She recalls being towed through a wormhole to the enemy’s solar system.

Marla opens her eyes. The sun she sees is blue and cool. It shines on a watery planet in the distance — one hundred and seven million kilometers from its star. Serpentine swarms of the enemy stream toward their triumphant world. She is bound above it, strung up to a great spinning wheel of blackened, scarred metal. Pinned to it by rivets. The space around her is colder.

Her instruments are aflame. Marla receives telemetry and current speed. She gathers useless information about radiation, expended weapons, nearby planets, and the composition of the dull blue sun. She hears other warships lamenting. She can see her closest fellows, welded to their crucifix beside her. Marla can feel the heat growing before her brain registers that they are headed toward that cruel blue dwarf to burn.

She closes her eyes for moss, and boys, and clouds against the sky.

Kevin Shamel is a bizarro fiction writer who talks about himself in first-person: “Hi! Thanks for reading this stuff I wrote about me. When I’m not writing, I like to dig for black opal, walk in the rainforest, make kefir water, take photos of the sky, hang with my sons, and generally appreciate life. My new novel, Island of the Super People, comes out in the Spring of 2011. Please have lovely, weird, bizarro days!

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