The Bath of Venus
The Bath of Venus
I chose a time too beautiful to share. I chose to float, and as extravagant as the idea seemed from the beginning, like all dreams it was ground beneath the millstone of details. During my first day away, I remained haunted by tasks left undone, fatal gaps in efficiency; but by sundown, I had accepted what was accomplished, and ‘away’ lost its meaning. I must be home, since there was nowhere else to be.
Yes, I was afloat in beauty. My name for this new home was the Bath of Venus. Naturally, I hadn’t called it that when I’d made the ruinously expensive arrangements that had transported me back in time nearly half a billion years. The sort of men who conduct research for private gain, in a certain style of hi-tech, clubby anarchy, have little more acquaintance with Venus than they have with doubt.
Under my houseboat deck rocked the gentle sea. Overhead, the sunset – growling from sea-rim to sea-rim with the fury of volcanic isles, far distant – sank into a dark depth of pastel stars. Ridiculously, I tried to find stars I knew. Breathing would have killed me if my all purpose skinsuit, which was uber-smart, hadn’t exchanged gases through my skin. The houseboat was also cutting edge. If asked, it could project a holographic star map, but that night I avoided talking with the computer and hearing its inhuman mimicry. I was tense, and reflected that an investment can be unsettling when it’s your whole worth. Night, stars, sea, bien. I closed my eyes and lay listening to the warm air. At last, I sat up scratching my depilated, enhanced scalp. The air spoke of water, night, and rock. And on top of that rock – thousands of miles of rock, the girth of a continent – only the vacant, soughing air. The ransom of my soul (I still called it one) would not buy, in this world, either the whisper of a grass-blade or the murmur of a single tree.
Dawn without birdsong.
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