Social Life, Shadow Walks, and Cyrus

Now that my family, friends, social circle, and much of Connecticut have been fully vaccinated, the month of May has served as a cautious restart to having a social life. A Mother’s Day brunch, a group sushi night at a private tatami room, a three-mojito-lunch around the corner from Yale, two museum crawls, a vineyard picnic, and a return to the gym have all occurred in the past four weeks, after a necessary year-plus lockdown.

It took me far too long to realize that this new mural on my gym wall is supposed to represent a man with a kettlebell, and NOT a claw-handed robot with a rectangular hatch on his chest hefting a globe in front of lava while walking on water.

Each event was handled with respect to social distancing and masking as appropriate.

I also sold a gothic short story, “Shadow Walk in Obsidian”, to Galaxy’s Edge magazine. This tale of love, loss, and sinister things will be my seventh appearance in this excellent publication, and the first under the editorship of my friend Lezli Robin, who took over after the passing of the legendary Mike Resnick.

The story grew out of a car accident that I was involved in years back. I live in a mountaintop Connecticut town, and so the roads leading up this ascent are narrow and serpentine. The fog also resides here, and we get a fair amount of rain through the year. There are lots of trees overshadowing the roads. The sum total is that it is inadvisable to speed even under the driest and sunniest of conditions.

An eighteen-year-old from a neighboring town had apparently failed to appreciate these variables, because he came veering out of the dark/fog/rain at high speeds. I jerked the wheel to the right, and he collided with my car at the midpoint of my driver’s door. The impact spun my girlfriend Donna and I around, and sent us careening through a wooden fence. Once I determined that we were uninjured, I tried my door to find it collapsed from the crash; we had to exit through Donna’s door. I will never forget her gently grasping my arm as I angrily emerged, saying, “We survived. Please don’t kill the other driver, Brian.”

I will also never forget the way the streetlights drew luminous pyramids in the gloom. It was very surreal. Like the start of an episode of The Twilight Zone, the camera zipping away to reveal Mr. Serling in his impeccable attire, saying, “Scene from a quiet town on a dark and stormy night…”

The resulting tale, “Shadow Walk In Obsidian”, proved to be an oddly exhilarating blind leap of writing, with no particular plan, straight from the subconscious without radar or maps. The opening paragraphs are:

The streetlights cut orange pyramids into the night. I hesitate once again, looking past their odd luminosities to the vehicle idling at the otherwise lonely intersection.

It is a vehicle, right? At 3 a.m. in Rain Valley, a mist has materialized over the town like a great cat, lazily pawing at the apartment buildings of Farview Street. The pyramid lights, the empty storefronts with their black windows, and the fog itself forms a kind of surreal pastiche; an Impressionist painting hung in silty water.

And speaking of great cats pawing at things, my home has a new inhabitant: Donna and I decided to adopt a cat. After our bunnies passed away, I was determined to never have pets again. I don’t consider myself a cat person (or a dog person, for that matter) but this little fellow has purred and pounced his way into my heart. His name is Cyrus. Just as Athena Cloudfoot enjoyed sitting in my lap while I wrote, Cyrus likes to nestle under my laptop and watch me tap away at the keys.

Does this mean a cat story is in my future? After all, Athena made an appearance in my Analog story “An Incident on Ishtar”, and I featured a dog in Fantasy & Science Fiction’s “The Dog and the Ferryman”. An uplifted octopus is in Daily Science Fiction’s “Sparg”. But a cat? Time will tell Of course it means exactly that.

I will end this update on a hopeful note, that vaccine rates continue to rise, and that everyone gets to turn the corner on this pandemic. We have quite a ways to go.

Our first group photo after being fully vaccinated.

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