“Why can’t I see the storms that dazzle the mind?” Jennifer says.

Billy lies. “It’s night, honey.”

Jennifer clutches for her memories, her children long forgotten. Billy is starving thin. Billy’s eyes glow green from uranium dust reacting with ultraviolet light. Their children are wild creatures that glow like fire as they dance in the silver snow.

Jennifer sings sadly. “Remember the valley before the coal stacks blew and the nuclear plants went boom? Mercury, sulfur, silver and snow, all because the aliens didn’t know.”

“They did not mean to blow up our planet.” Billy said. “So they Settled with us.”

“They didn’t Settle with us, Daddy.”  His daughter singsongs. “They Settled with the Trees. Burned in my mind are the words between Them and the Trees, and the Names They wrote into the Settlement. You and Mommy aren’t written.”

“But you are.” Billy says.Darkness: A silvery forest set at the base of a mountain, taken from the tail side of a US quarter,

Billy looks through his child’s glassy neon hand, eyes gliding across a valley of ancient forest glaring under a blanket of mercuric snow. The sky is cut with stippled clouds, an ever changing blue and bloodied bowl. His eyes land on one of Them floating in the thick mist, roaming on pulsing jets of air.

Jennifer rambles madly. “Them and the Trees talk with light, Them that have no words.”

One floats over Billy, suspended by a bladder of hydrogen.

“Palmetto bugs bite at my brain.” Jennifer rattles in death.

Them were more like squid than roaches: Chitinous armor over fluid muscles. Not ugly. Just different.

“Can I live until my children die?” Billy says to one of Them.

The Trees were changed by the Settlement. Their leaves are always glowing. His children have transformed into translucent, glassy sprites. Billy’s name is written into the Settlement, but he must shed his form. His arms spread and split. His feet pierce the soil. Billy tastes the water with his toes, bending toward the sunbeams. Billy feels the love of his children as they shelter in his ever glowing leaves.


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