Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
April 23rd, 2007

I’m a pixel-stained technopeasnat wretch

papersky has declared Monday April 23rd to be International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

She says, in part:

In honour of Dr Hendrix, I am declaring Monday 23rd April International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn’t matter if it’s already been published or if it hasn’t, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.

Whatever you’re posting should go on your own site. I’ll make a post here on the day and people can post links in comments to whatever they’re putting up on. If you are a member of SFWA, or SFWA qualified but not a member (like me) you get extra pixel-spattered points for doing this. If other people want to collect the links too, that would be really cool. Please disseminate this information widely.

Here’s my contribution, on of a flash series that I wrote about Hurricane Katrina:

Marching Saints

“Well, my heart stopped beating and my hands turned cold” Emma Johnston sang with a deep, almost baritone voice as the small band played. The band moved slowly, pausing at each step in time to the dirge as the funeral procession moved towards the cemetery. “Please, see that my grave is kept clean” the song ended and the band moved on to “Nearer My God to Thee.”

I held it together until Emma sang the verse, “sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly” and I started to sob. My Grandfather, Robert Henry Lederoix had been my only family for 35 years and I would miss him. The rains were so heavy and the winds whipped by so hard that no one noticed.

Hurricane Katrina had scoured the streets empty of people and the small funeral was the only activity on the old city streets of New Orleans.

As we turned the corner into the cemetery, the water was already up to our ankles in the flooded avenues. The grave was ready. The funeral home men didn’t bother with the pallbearers and just ran the coffin to the vault. The men took off in the hearse, its wheels cutting wakes in the rising water.

Father Roche read the service as quickly as he could, trying to keep the prayer book protected by his umbrella. I could not hear a word that he was saying over the noise of the wind, but in a few minutes he looked up and sprinkled the coffin with holy water. He nodded and the two workmen placed the heavy concrete cap over the low vault. By the time they had finished, almost everyone was gone and the water was up to my knees.

I shook hands with Snooky Monroe, Gramps’ best friend and he left. I was alone at my Grandfather’s grave and the water was still rising. I didn’t want to leave, but I decided that I had to. I couldn’t get more wet than I was, but I did want to get to higher ground or get across the bridge out of the Ninth Ward.

The band is supposed to play “When the Saints Go Marching In”, but there was no band because of the hurricane. You couldn’t expect them hang around in such bad weather, even if Gramps had been just about the Greatest Saxophone player in the New Orleans. There would be a memorial service after the storm had passed and the mess was all cleaned up.

Still, as I turned to leave, I thought that it was a shame that there was no brass band seeing Gramps off to heaven.

Just then, the back wall of the cemetery fell in under pressure of water. I didn’t know it, but the Commercial Canal levee had failed and water had been pouring into the old neighborhood for several hours that morning. The water rushed into the old City of the Dead and the wave caught me and threw me against a carved alabaster angel. I fell on my butt and the dirty water covered my head. I came up sputtering.

The heavy concrete lid to Gramps’s vault lifted up as the coffin floated upwards. It slid sideways off the vault and the coffin cracked under the pressure. I waded to it and tried to press it back down, letting it fill with water through the splintered wood. Gramps was in there and I wanted him to rest easy in his grave.

Nearby, other coffins burst out of their vaults. In New Orleans, people are buried above ground because the coffins float in the saturated river bottom mud that makes up most of the city. Old ornate family vaults were crumbling all around me and splinters of old coffins were pushing up through the rising water.

I ran as best as I could, with the water up to my chest, towards the street and higher ground. A coffin exploded next to me and skeletal hands raised towards the sky as a dead man’s corpse was floated up on the rising tide. To my left and right the dead were breaking free of their stone boxes as I tried to escape down the Avenue of Dreams that ran down the center of the Cemetery.

The hurricane winds, which had been dying all morning, picked up again. With a crash, the west wall of the cemetery collapsed in two places at the same time and another wave of water rushed towards me. The wind was whipping up the waves and white caps formed on the lake that used to be called Jardin de RĂªves.

The winds moaned with a rising and falling tone and I heard in it the opening notes of “When The Saints Go Marching In.” A tarnished brass Trumpet, still gripped by its skeletal owner rose above the waves and the wind ran across the bell to make demonic notes. This was a musician’s graveyard and often a musician is buried with his ax. I saw a clarinet, a snare and an old guitar floating across the water towards me.

Katrina arranged the notes while a parade of the dead marched down the Avenue of Dreams. I saw in their midst my Grandfather. His eyelids were half open and as he was thrown by the waves his head was thrown back. I could see him smiling towards heaven.

I scrambled up onto an ornate iron fence and then leapt to the roof of a family crypt. As the macabre parade passed by, the doors below me burst open and four bodies, all carrying trombones flows out into the current. They added to the hurricane’s music.

As the dead floated down the current towards the river, I could hear my Grandfather’s deep voice rise above the wind.

Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh when the trumpet sounds the call
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in






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