…And Some Borne…

And so I found Borne–this thing that was not food and yet drew me to it.

Entangled in the coarse brown seaweed of the pelt, near a curled claw the size of my body, I found the sea anemone. At least, that is what it looked like to me: a dark purple, faintly glowing, half-closed sea anemone, captured like any common clot of dirt.

I could smell the sea salt on it as soon as I saw it. For a moment, there was no city, no daily search for food and water, no roving gangs of killers and escaped, altered creatures of unknown origin and intent. No bodies dangling from broken street lamps or made into burned smudges over cracked pavement, the cracks now filled with huddled green-and-blue committees of things almost conscious, almost not.

For a moment, I was looking forward into the perfect past, the dead present and worse future both behind me. For a moment, the thing was a sea anemone from the hazily-remembered tidal pools of my youth. I could smell the salt and feel the wind and knew the chill of the water over my feet, and then the long, fun hunt for seashells and the gruff sound of my mother’s voice (a smoker), the lilt of my father’s voice, the honey-warmth of the sand as I squinted toward the horizon and the sharp white sails of ships, the sun above the carious yellow of one of Mord’s eyes.

Then, just as quickly, the thing in front of me was an opportunity again: for food, for trade, for survival.

It lay there humming to itself, about the size of my closed fist, the half-closed aperture on top like an eye socket without the eye. The closer I came, the more it resembled a hybrid of sea anemone and sea urchin, with the coloration of a squid: a sleek, muscle of colors straying always to sea-greens and deep blues. It didn’t really look like food, but I picked it up anyway. It had four subtle ridges spaced equidistant and vertical along its warm and pulsing skin. The texture of its skin was smooth, like water-worn stone, but both less and more fragile than stone. It smelled of sea grass and lazy summer afternoons and, faintly, of honeysuckle. Much later, I came to realize it might have smelled different, even looked different, to someone else.

I didn’t know what it was. I had never seen anything like it before.

To all sides, Mord’s body rose and fell with the gentle tremors of his breathing while the scavengers, emboldened, now advanced through his dirty, holy fur.

I hid my find in my bag and strapped my bag across my torso. I didn’t want the others, fast-approaching, to see it.

It lay there, beating against my chest like a second heart.


  1. says

    Thanks. It’s nice to post excerpts while it’s in progress. This is all rough draft material. I’m still working on the tone of “Borne”–the first section is more formal/biblical in its tone and approach, but that can’t work for a whole novella/short novel. And some of the description is, to my mind, a bit sloppy still. But, for a draft, it’s where it needs to be. I’m being very patient with this one because I think it might be…special.


  2. Christopher Drake says

    I rather like the feeling of it. Has kind of a ‘dhalgren’ (samuel delaney) sort of feel to the narrative, kind of a whispy picture in mind with all of the outlines burning brighter than the color between them as the amount of description sort of washes the image itself out. For some reason, it reminds me of watching a very well lit movie scene through frosted glass, if that makes any sense. I’m looking forward to seeing it in more polished state someday :)

  3. says

    I started reading with a little skepticism – like I always do – and in this short length got completely sucked in – as ever. Thankfully I’ve learned patience over the years and can wait [taptaptap] for this to come to its fullness. Comparing it to Dhalgren caused me to reread the piece, and I like Christopher’s characterization of the novel and this snippet. Dhalgren is the book I’ve read more times than any other. Maybe this is a time to read it again – something to do while I wait for Borne. Thanks Jeff!

  4. says

    I can kind of imagine what a comparison of dhalgren to Predator would be like. And it would be weirder than the usual fair, even. It drove me to chuckle at the image.

    To Dave: Dhalgren is the only book that has a narrative so deep that I questioned my own reality (and whether or not I was turning schizophrenic) every time I came up for air. It had such a dramatic effect on how I thought about things while reading it, that I had to ask others to basically take my whole personality with a grain of salt until I was done. I proposed re-reading it the other day, and my fiance gave me a somewhat horrified look at the mere mention. I love that book.

    Jeff: I’ve been lurking in the background a little while now, and I forgot to note with my comment how appreciative I am to get a chance to glimpse your future works in draft. Gives me a bit more perspective on my own work and how far it needs to go. Much thanks.

  5. Aaron Singleton says

    I know I’m a bit late, but I just found your page a few days ago. I really like this snippet. I forgot I was reading. Instead, I was there, inside, and not here at my desk. A good sign.