the end of the first inter-apocalyptic era

the mercy of martians

The planet is cocooned in a hydrolithic sheath,
formed from the vaporized detritus
of ancient modern living.

Its mysterious condensates and fractionated hydrocarbons
hide the Martian battle fleet, hovering above
in orbital geostasis.


My neighbors came to me on a quiet Sunday morning.
An intervention, they informed me,
because I’d been infected by Deija Thoris.

They listed all my symptoms. I won’t go into detail,
although it must be said that I rarely cleaned
their windows after midnight.

It was true that I’d met Deija once
—the Martian Princess of Glass—
when her troops were razing Wollongong.

She came close, with optical correlations
of the near and far shining in her Windex eyes.

No-one will miss it, she told me, We’ll do Dapto too.

I said nothing, and she came closer still.
What will you think when you’ve thought
all your thoughts?

I had no answer. My neighbors were right,
and I would never forget her.


Besides, you’re an acolyte of the darkest arts:
logic and science, that led us all astray.

That was Andalucía, who lived next door.
Her pet dragons were always sooting up
my window panes.

I responded with a jaunty confidence,
and I would have gesticulated too,
but they’d bound me tightly
to the jacaranda in the yard.

Our breathing necklaces
are entirely scientific

quantum molecular aggregators.

We all wore them, to survive
in the oxygen-depleted atmosphere.
Mine was fashionably transparent.

Nonsense. They’re enchanted, they summon
breathable air from the planet’s distant past.

The dragon on her shoulder puffed a tiny cloud
in my direction.

I changed the subject.

Would you kindly loosen the barbed wire,
and bring my crayons and coloring books,
so that I might pass the time?

But my well-intentioned neighbors took no notice.
They went their separate ways, to do whatever
uninfected people do on a serious Sunday morning.


After a while, I noticed a flickering around me,
accompanied by a smell of burning carpet,
as if my hair was smoldering.

High above, I saw a brilliant flaming line,
an unnatural sunrise, an inferno consuming
the hydrolithic clouds.

The suspended crystals all around my house
began to tinkle in the spiralling convective winds.

By good fortune, that very morning,
I’d cleaned them thoroughly with Windex.
They glittered brightly in the firestorm,
starlight flashing like a cosmos in miniature.


  • Deija Thoris first appeared here.
  • Windex is a trademark of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.

The Mercy of Martians (detail above). Made by VEE, the Visual Evolution Engine, with ALISA, adaptive art automation, for assembly. For higher resolution full image, click on image above or link, then click again to zoom in/out on a region.

17 thoughts on “the end of the first inter-apocalyptic era

  1. That ending would be unpleasantly familiar to all too many people lately. I hope the cleaning helps and the hero of this tale survives. Although you do not say that it will continue, it would be interesting to see what comes next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, although I wasn’t thinking consciously about climate change, after last summer here, and seeing what happened in California, I think it’s embedded in the background.

      Glad you’re curious about what happens next, but I’m not thinking about continuing it at this stage. In the future, who knows?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” — Isaac Asimov. That’s especially important if your neighbor’s pet dragons soot up your window panes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, I’d never come across that Asimov quote before.

      Fortunately, I don’t suffer from the protagonist’s fetish in the real world.

      In terms of assumptions, which may not be based on a lot of data, I guess Asimov is saying not to have a closed mind and ignore evidence available around you: good advice.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim. That would be Peter, Paul and marijuana, I imagine. 🐉

      Dapto’s location might be useful if you played Australian Trivia. When I worked in Wollongong, and drove through Dapto regularly, I never once stopped, apart from red lights. Before that, I think I had a flat tyre there once.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the melding of the domestic world with the fantastical. The work has a homely feel about it, the interaction with one’s neighbours and the cleanliness of one’s windows. I enjoyed this, Steve, this marriage between mundanity and mythology.


  4. Beyond imagination Steve I don’t know how you do it. ‘What will you think when you’ve thought all your thoughts’ is brilliant Something other than thought maybe? Breathable air from the planet’s distant past again is a uniquely magical phrase. I love the mysterious artwork


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