“Gliders of the colony! Mark this day!” proclaimed Magog. He stood on a branch of the colony’s primary home tree, arms outstretched, membrane of fur draping down to his feet.
In front of the sugar glider, perched steadily on the wide tree branch was an open casket. Inside, another glider, similarly marked as Magog, lay still.
“My father,” Magog announced, “former King of the Colony, champion of the High Races, rests in peace. Now that I am King, I declare the dangers of the High Race too great. We are retiring the Boom-Ay-Rang and terminating the races.”
Buried in the crowd, Loda listened. And fumed. His tail twitched. His claws dug into the tree limb he stood on. The crowd cheered. He watched as several gliders mounted the Boom-Ay-Rang to the tree trunk above the casket.
More cheers. Everyone knew the danger of the races and a growing movement tried to stop them. Not Loda. His life was devoted to Boom-Ay-Rang study and the High Race. He knew its origins, beginning when the Boom-Ay-Rang was left by the visitors. Tall creatures with fur only on their heads who visited in Loda’s father’s father’s time and left it behind.
Loda watched every race. Winning was rare. Racers launched off a cliff instead of safely gliding from tree to tree. The goal was to fly further than the Boom-Ay-Rang, and glide back before the Boom-Ay-Rang returned. Losing often meant a long and deadly fall.
Winning required skill in the air and knowledge of flight. Loda spent his youth learning to feel the pressure difference between the under and upper sides of the airfoil created by the membranes connecting his hands and feet. HHe studied the Boom-Ay-Rang. He could reliably predict its flight path based on the air at the moment of launch.
Loda kicked the creature next to him, a smaller version of himself.
“Rint, this isn’t happening! I’ve spent too long studying. I must have my race!”
Rint stared at him and blinked. No one else heard Loda’s blasphemy.
“Did you not hear Magog? There’s new law. They’ll banish you from the colony!”
Rint’s warning was ignored. Loda was already planning how they would get the Boom-Ay-Rang, load it in the launcher, and race. He’d add his mark to the graffiti of past winners covering the Boom-A-Rang. Rint would go along. He never said no to Loda.
On the fourth night after the funeral, with only a single moon in the sky providing light and most of the colony in torpor, Loda and Rint maneuvered the Boom-Ay-Rang to the launch pad overlooking Death Canyon. Loda took his place in the launching spot next to it. He shivered. This was his first time this close to the ledge of the Canyon.
“I’m ready” he said, looking straight ahead. Rint held up his arm, his own arm flaps hanging down.
“Three. Two. One,” he shouted, lowered his arm, and launched the Boom-Ay-Rang.
Loda pushed off the cliff and glided into the moonlit night.
It was the first week of summer and Kate was already tired of playing Barbie’s with her little sister, Callie. One more time of hearing how Barbie wasn’t dressed right or “that’s not something she would wear to this occasion” and she was going to scream. Thankfully, Kate had been digging around in the attic and found an old boomerang. She hadn’t played with one since she was a little kid and thought that it would be fun to teach Callie.
They decided to go out to the open field close to the woods, that way they wouldn’t break anything if lessons went bad. Kate threw it a couple of times and then walked Callie through it; she was ready for her first try.
Of course! Callie threw it straight into the woods…well if you called throwing it 10 feet behind you straight. They had to go find it, so they set off to find it in the dark, uninviting woods…at least it was daylight outside.
Kate had to keep telling herself that there was nothing to be scared of, that everything was going to be fine. They would find that boomerang and get out. Well, all of those thoughts just stopped when she saw Callie running up to a casket that lay covered in graffiti under an old, dead oak tree. How ironic, Kate thought.
Why was there a casket in the middle of the woods? That was just too weird for Kate to even think of an answer. She wanted to get out but Callie wouldn’t have it. Callie was already opening up the casket before Kate could stop her. To her surprise the only thing that was in it was an oversized sugar glider. This keeps getting weirder. They watched as the sugar glider flew deeper into the woods. That’s it for me, Kate told herself, and Dad can just ground me for losing that dang boomerang. With that final thought Kate grabbed Callie’s arm and turned to leave.
All of the sudden there was a rustling sound right behind them, where the casket lay, open. Kate was too scared to turn around and see what it was so she tried to keep walking; however Callie had no fears what so ever. She turned then let out a gasp and clung on the Kate’s leg. Just keep walking and whatever it is won’t bother you. Don’t acknowledge it. Kate had to tell herself something logical or she was defiantly going to lose it.
Since walking away wasn’t an option with Callie gripping her like she was, Kate turned around and was surprised to find a boy about her age standing two feet away.
He was tall with dark brown hair and a pair of eyes that looked like shinning emeralds and in his hands he held their boomerang. Kate stood there just staring at the handsome guy in front of her, with her jaw dropped and everything. She was awakened from her stupor when he said,
“I believe this is yours.”
An Epitaph for Mickey
Sombre faces were surrounded by an ever more sombre mood, and although a few tears found themselves falling floor-bound, most of the congregation managed to compose themselves. Dan glanced sideways, his eyes catching those of his daughter, sparkling with fresh grief and her first experience of loss.
Lowering his hand downwards onto her shoulder, it struck him how fast his little girl was growing up. What his father had said at her birth was true. ‘They grow up so fast, and we won’t be here to protect her forever Dan. I want to make the most of this time with her, so stop hogging her and take my photo.’ His eyes threatened to join in with the chorus of tears, and with those of his daughter but he decided he needed to hold it together for Lily’s sake if not his own.
‘Suits look like penguins Daddy!’ Lily piped up, the graveness of the situation temporarily lost on her once again. Dan pondered how children were able to detach themselves from the moment, to take in the minute details that no one else would afford a second glance. He missed that, the innocence only children know how to possess.
‘What a shame we forget about all that.’ Realising he had muttered out loud by the look of anger etched on Lily’s face, he apologised profusely.
‘Sorry.’ Lily’s eyes softened, but only slightly. Dan had managed to find himself in trouble again. At times like this he wasnt sure who out of the two of them was really the parent.
The voice overseeing the whole thing droned on and on about favourite foods, how loved he was by all the family, but Dan found it hard to keep his mind from wandering away. He didn’t feel bad about this in the slightest, not given the situation he found himself in. ‘Being a bad person is like throwing a boomerang made of crap. It always covers you in shit in the end.’ One of Dad’s favourites. Dan missed his father more than he had realised.
Bringing himself back to the moment, and wanting to avoid looking as bored as he was, Dan look downwards as if looking at his feet which were shuffling slowly, showing his anxious desire for the whole thing to end. In reality he was squinting, trying to decipher 5 year old Lily’s graffiti-like writing on the casket and make-do headstone.
The voice of authority finished it’s speech. The talk of trips out and naughty things he had done when young replaced by an uncomfortable silence, it’s absence filling the room awkwardly.
Once a moment or two had passed, he pointed. ‘What does that say darling?’, a genuine air of curiosity in his voice. Dan’s wife removed her vicar’s robe and folded it gently, the towel no longer serving as a robe.
‘Duh.’ Lily’s hands firmly met with her hips and her foot with the floor. ‘Here lies Mickey, the bestest Sugar Glider ever and my bestest friend. RIP Mickey.’
A Eulogy For Ang
“The thug life didn’t choose Ang, leader of the Boomer Gang, he chose it. He chose it ‘cos it was what he had to do. He rallied us together under his cause – our cause – making us stronger ‘n we would’ve been elsewise. Since then, the Boomers have thrived, have grown to rule the streets.” The speaker stood tall behind the podium, delivering his speech. A gathering of this size was dangerous, and already, bloodthirsty men and women pounded at the doors and plate-glass windows, shrieking their protests. Those who had braved the savage streets to sit at the broken pews shifted nervously, but respect had to be paid to their former fearless leader.
A black and grey rodent, Ang’s pet and unofficial mascot of the Boomers, sat atop the casket left of the podium. Its big, black eyes stared sadly up at the speaker as he continued. “Across the city, Ang has been a bringer of ‘ope, clearing out safe ‘ouses for the Gang in new areas previously out of reach. He led us into an age of prosperi’y, setting up fronts and expanding our interests further ‘n we had ever imagined. But that was before the Rotters moved in.”
Some of the gathered mourners hissed or murmured their hatred. One spat on the wooden floor. “A war broke out, right on our doorstep, but Ang din’t flinch. He showed us what we was made of, and led us out into the streets to protect our turf. We fought, and many of us died, but Ang kept us strong. Even when we thought we was lost, Ang kept us looking t’ward that distant light of ‘ope. He was only nineteen, but I believed in him because he saw more in us ‘n we saw ourselves. He showed us the strength in our hearts.”
The speaker wiped at the corners of his eyes and looked around at the ragged mourners while he composed himself. “Even when the walls were pain’ed with Boomer blood, Ang never lost ‘ope. Erry time we did, he’d just flash a smile, ‘n tell a joke, an’ we was right back up again, fresh for a fight.”
The protesters had grown in number, undoubtedly Rotters looking to deliver a decisive blow to the Boomers. Their pounding on the building shook it to its foundation. Many of the Boomers readied their guns. Some near the back took up positions flanking the doors in case of a successful break in.
“I offer a final toast for Boomer Ang.” The speaker raised a beer and a Colt 45. “May he never come back.” He put the gun against Ang’s head and fired, ensuring that he wouldn’t. “Awright, let’s honor him the best we can, by showin’ these Zombie bastards the kind of men we are.”
“You’re lucky you weren’t turned into a rock,” said Lola.
I shifted my body so I could look up at her. The Vespa had run out of gas and we needed to walk, we hoped, only a couple of miles to where Bouncing Betty Babington supposedly lived.
Lola dismounted and walked around to the sidecar that I was awkwardly stuffed in. My front hooves rested on the handle bar, but my backside and rear hooves were fit into spots they weren’t meant to be.
“Just help me get out of here. And I need to eat,” I replied.
Lola did as I asked. Not as easy as it sounds. Goats don’t belong in sidecars, but it was the only option available.
Once out, I started munching on weeds on the side of the road. Rainwater from an early morning storm left puddles, too. Good, because I was thirsty. I saw my reflection in the still water before I put my face in to lap it up.
Oddly enough, my beard looked the same as when I was human. Besides that, I didn’t recognize myself. I looked like a typical goat, except for the Derby Hat strapped to my head so it wouldn’t fall off.
It was a cruel joke for Mr. Waters, the circus owner both Lola and I spent our entire lives with, to say we weren’t wanted anymore. It was even crueler to turn me into a goat, and remove Lola’s talents. But why give me the magic hat? I didn’t understand, but grateful that through the hat, I could talk.
But this morning’s rain also affected the hat. It wasn’t as powerful anymore. Should I tell Lola?
I looked over at her. She sat with her back to a large tree trunk. In her arms, she cradled the bugle she used to play while walking a tightrope. Now, she could do neither.
“Let’s go,” I said.
“Oh, Tony,” she responded, “What if this woman can’t help us?” Her knuckles were white as they clutched the brass bugle.
I didn’t have an answer. We stared at each other until she stood up, and started walking.
Bouncing Betty Babington was exactly where we were told she lived. Instantly, we understood the moniker. Outside a small shack was a rectangular trampoline. A woman, presumably Betty, bounced on it. Incredibly, her form changed at each bounce. On one bounce, her hair was blonde. On another, brown. Yet another, her hair stayed brown, but she grew a foot, or shrunk. Each was a transformation.
“Hello!” she called out. Her final move, one that our former circus colleagues would have envied, began as a double back somersault with half twists through each before dismounting and landing in her final transformed state.
Lola explained our predicament, since the magic of my hat was wearing out. The last thing I remember before returning to my human state was a teary Lola giving her bugle to Betty, then placing me on the trampoline.
The View from the Trampoline
By jumping on the trampoline in her back yard, eight-year-old Lolly Smith, grape-flavored popsicle clutched in one grimy hand, pigtails flying in the air behind her, can see over the tall wooden fences surrounding the back yards adjacent to hers. A single bounce gives her a bird’s eye view into Mr. Gvidas Petras’s back yard with its shrine to the Lithuanian flag. Two bounces allows her to see over the fence into Mr. Jones’s back yard with its precisely arranged lawn furniture, and Mr. Jones himself reclining on a lawn chair. With three bounces, she can just see over the fence into the Bailey’s back yard, which contains their children’s playground equipment and their pet goat, Emerson.
Boing! Over the top of the fence to the west, there’s Mr. Petras coming out with his bugle to perform his daily salute to the Lithuanian flag.
Boing! Boing! To the north, there’s Mr. Jones, napping, his derby hat pulled down over his eyes. Next to him, on the grass, a paperback copy of 100 Ways to Roast A Goat and a technical manual for dismantling trampolines.
Boing! Boing! Boing! Now she can see into the Bailey’s yard where Emerson the goat is munching on grass.
Boing! Mr. Petras is fitting the bugle to his lips and playing warm-up scales.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones’s lips are twisting into a frown beneath the brim of his hat.
Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat is looking around for something else to munch on.
Boing! Mr. Petras is erupting into a veracious fit of bugling.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, pushing the derby hat off his face, is scowling at the racket from next door.
Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat is standing on his hind legs, nibbling at the leaves from a low-hanging branch.
Boing! Mr. Petras is starting his one-man concert by playing the beginning notes of a funeral march.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, disappearing into his house.
Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, leaping high into the air, aiming for another leafy branch.
Boing! Mr. Petras, cutting loose with a powerful, jazzed-up version of his country’s national anthem.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones reappearing from his house with a shotgun, heard muttering “a man’s castle” and “the virtues of silence” and “multiple things that shouldn’t be seen OR heard.”
Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, up in the tree, ripping leaves and twigs from the branch with his teeth.
Boing! Mr. Petras, wailing away like Louis Armstrong on steroids.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones taking aim—
A shot rings out. In surprise, Lolly cries out and falls off the trampoline, her popsicle flying. Multiple screams, followed by a savage “Naa-aa-aa!” Lolly sits on the ground for a moment. Then she climbs back onto the trampoline.
Boing! Mr. Petras, not in his yard, the bugle lying discarded on the grass.
Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, not in his yard, the shotgun tossed aside.
Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, standing beneath a tree next to the fence in the Bailey’s yard, munching on a well-worn derby hat.
A Bugle in Time
“So you’re going to time-travel by music?”
“Very roughly speaking. My resonance theory—“
“I’m quite familiar with it!” He glanced at the tattered trampoline in the corner of the room.
Despite his colleague’s response, the inventor continued. “An accident; and we did escape, after all. In any case, I’ve figured out the problem. The fabric of the trampoline set up an inter-dimensional resonance, but too irregularly. Thus the—”
“Ah, yes. Anyway, this bugle is made of a unique alloy and configured so that when it is ‘played’ it will set up a controlled set of hyper-spatial and trans-temporal resonances down to the quantum level. Your analogy to music is a good one; after all, music has complex timbres, resonances, and harmonies, and those quantum effects—”
“As we found out last week,” the colleague said a bit sourly, “quantum effects can cause unpredictable results. How do you know you won’t open another wormhole? Even worse—the slightest error in your ‘timbres’, and the very molecular structure of anything in this room—such as us—could be completely disrupted!”
“Each effect is produced by a specific resonance pattern—a different ‘tune’, if you will. True, my musical skills are not optimal; but my device will self-correct, and play the right ‘tune’ to open a portal to the Paleozoic Era!” As his colleague continued to glare at him skeptically, the inventor handed him a hat.
“A derby hat?!”
“’Bowler’ is the preferred term, actually. It is made of a fabric similar to that of the trampoline, but with a reversed resonance pattern. By molding the fabric to the exactly proper topology—which, oddly, produced the shape of a bowler, or if you insist, ‘derby’ hat—I have produced a shield for you. Put it on, and you will be unaffected by any effects produced by my temporal bugle. Not that you have anything to fear—“
“I’ll take the precaution!” The colleague put the hat on and found it to fit perfectly. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but somehow a feeling of calm descended on him, and there seemed to be stillness in the air around him.
“That’s the protective field you’re experiencing,” said the inventor. “Well, no more delay—I am off to the Paleozoic!” He placed the mouthpiece to his lips and blew a strange melody. The colleague watched in fascination. No portal to the Paleozoic opened; but the inventor had turned immediately into a large goat with an irritated expression on its face.
“You know,” said the colleague, “I think I can analyze your bugle, recalibrate it, and restore you in a few days. The goat brightened. “However—“continued the colleague with a devious grin. The goat’s face fell.
“You owe me for last time. Now my lawn needs to be mowed, and my mower’s in the shop, so I have a job for you while I’m working on your horn. They say a goat is better than a mower….”