paperback rider A: rooftop face time

remembered_by _the_penguins2_s

The intrepid binary pair, Librarian Millie and the employee who is searching for mythical Sheridarp, have reached the roof of the Dreamwalk Library. Rather than the urban environment they’d expected, their surroundings are desolate, and an unfriendly cloud of wasps is approaching. Part 1 is here.

Imperturbable Millie ignored the fearsome kilowasp.

I’m thinking that your so-called Sheridarp
is just a symbol, merely naming
what your 
soggy heart is seeking.
It stands for what you’ve never found.

I considered my reply.
Should I comment on the penguins
taking selfies, conjecturing
that they were denizens of Sheridarp?

Or perhaps I’d keep my counsel.
Scout wasps from the mother cloud
were buzzing all around us,
and my open mouth
might prove to be inviting.

Before I could decide,
a curiously dysmorphic shape
appeared above the parapet.
It alighted on the rooftop
and sidled over for a tête-à-tête
with Millie.

The creature was a contradictory miasma,
animate and not, perilously dull,
a silhouette reminiscent of a stranger,
of a ski mask draped across a fur-lined
overcoat hanging in a disused wardrobe.

I knew at once: it was a Dark Solarian.


Without a word of greeting,
the creature held its arms outstretched,
and points of coruscating light
glowed in Millie’s aura.
It was as if they’d always been there,
but only now were visible.

The creature drew her brightness to itself,
and as it did, Millie shed more light,
a radiant continuum peaking
at 380 nanometers,*
streaming to the Dark Solarian.

It was draining Millie’s life force,
the luminosity of her being.


The rooftop penguins cowered in the corners,
but I stood firm. My plan was simple
and impressively naïve:
I’d distract the Dark Solarian,
and Millie would be saved
when I sacrificed myself.

Mother penguins would tell their chicks
my story, hopefully embellished somewhat.

to continue in hexadecimal

*One of the penguins had a spectrometer handy.


artwork  remembered by the penguins (detail above)

34 thoughts on “paperback rider A: rooftop face time

    • Thank you, Peter. To me, it seems that contradictions are now normal, that we live in the era of exponential 1984. I have a solution to this which also works for fantasy tension, and I’m going to open a bottle right now.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Pingback: paperback rider A: rooftop face time — inconstant light | Fantasy Gift Sources: Book Reviews, Article Resources, News

    • Thanks, BG. Funny thing about “coruscate,” I always want to spell it with two r’s, don’t know why. What I like about speculative fiction is that anything can happen, and usually does. 😸

      Me too, with Sheridarp. I suppose that would mean we all want to go to there, but we won’t be there together because they are different places for each of us.


  2. You’re getting some decent mileage out of the Paperback Rider. It’s great. I think I remember saying a while back now that you’d work well in a narrative mode, week to week. You really do.
    I like the full tension/full relief effort of the finale: Millie’s life is draining, the hero puffs his chest to sacrifice themselves, the penguins are recorders of their destiny, hilarious. Do the penguins have thumbed wings for grasping cameras? I am just saying what everyone must be thinking, haha.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Daniel, yes you did. I’ve been trying to write less in each post, but I’ve failed. All that happens is I compress the story, which doesn’t work. I notice and correct and I’m back where I started.

      You’re supposed to have a consistent “universe” in speculative fiction, and the penguins have appeared all over the place. I should really check what they’ve been up to. 🙂 Apart from that it’s a free-for-all, e.g., people in penguin suits with voice controlled quadcopter phones. 🐧 I don’t think that though. (Also I don’t want to offend them.)


  3. Contradictory miasma-I must have encountered several dozen and possible may have been one in an earlier version of me. Keep up the good work and the tension mounting.

    Liked by 1 person

        • I think so, although I suppose it gets back to questions of creating something new. There is always cause-and-effect, our past experiences, but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine something new enough.

          Somewhere or other I wrote about the region in between what can’t be imagined and what can’t be comprehended by humans. It’s an interesting place, I think, and we can find some of it with mathematics and computers. For example, before their discovery, Chaos and Mandelbrot images were unimaginable. In my opinion, anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a waffle maker my mother gave me, that makes the waffles in the shape of penguins. They’re almost too adorable to eat. Almost.
    I’d imagine they’d want to take pics of their adorable selves. I know I have. Of them, I mean.
    I might be hungry for pancakes. It could be because of the roller coaster of emotions you take us on 😁
    I was laughing out loud by the last line

    Liked by 1 person

    • Penguin-shaped waffles–I wish I’d invented that. Mmm, maybe there are other things that could be shaped like penguins. Apart from penguins themselves.

      I find them particularly adorable when they appear on the label of Cerveja Antarctica, coincidentally one of my favourite Brazilian beers, which I have absolutely none of in the fridge. A shame, because I am currently experiencing an “I would like an Antarctica beer” emotion. 😸 Thank you, Vanessa.

      Liked by 1 person

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