The Pulse: Alberta



In his dark hotel chamber Antonio wrote sonnets to Beatrice, giving them titles like Amoretti, Secretum, and De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae. In many of these poems Antonio imagined Beatrice safely tucked in bed, dreaming of the wide world outside:

I wonder what dreams does a young woman dream

under the canopy of her four-poster bed

in the silent hours of the night.

Is she like a butterfly

opening her


Opening her eyes,

does she remember the

fields of her origin?

And in

the cold dark

when the Black Angel

descends from the High Forest

with his black cross and iron machete

does she scent the sweet odour of crushed lilac?

Antonio wrote verses to the white flowers that floated in the breeze, and to the lace that lined the edges of Beatrice’s panties. He thought of these lacy things with delight, and vowed to himself, By God I'm going to rip those flowers from that stem!

So it was with a flourish characteristic of courtroom and classroom (he rarely distinguished between the two) that Antonio prepared the opening speech that was to seduce the heart of Beatrice. He put on his best Armani suit, his shiniest black Gucci shoes, and stood in front of an old, ornate mirror — the same one he loaned several hundred years ago to an aging, bitter queen.

Antonio had to admit that this queen was a rather stupid monarch. Every time he made himself available to her all she could think about was whether or not she was as pretty as some girl called Snow White. 

The evil stepmother and queen, Illustrations from the 1913 play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1913 (Wikimedia Commons)

The evil stepmother and queen, Illustrations from the 1913 play Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1913 (Wikimedia Commons)

Franz Jüttner (1865–1925): Illustration from  Sneewittchen , Scholz' Künstler-Bilderbücher, Mainz 1905 (Wikimedia Commons)

Franz Jüttner (1865–1925): Illustration from Sneewittchen, Scholz' Künstler-Bilderbücher, Mainz 1905 (Wikimedia Commons)

What a waste of time that was! Didn’t she already have a mirror for that? Couldn’t she think of something more important to ask? After all, it wasn’t every day that she got to talk to the Prince of Darkness.

People thought that old mirror was so special because it could reflect the viewer and also peek into other realms — mirror realms, Antonio added, although he laughed to himself at the mind-numbing over-simplification. That type of reflection was child’s play. Centuries ago, Master Condensers on Fallar Prime had perfected mirrors that could reflect and infract simultaneously. Antonio suspected that Lewis Carroll knew this very well. How else could Alice see herself in the looking-glass and yet also step through it?

Through the Looking-Glass , illustration by John Tenniel, 1871 (cropped by RYC)

Through the Looking-Glass, illustration by John Tenniel, 1871 (cropped by RYC)

Antonio addressed the mirror, in which he saw the beautiful face of a farm girl — yet also his own smoky reflection. He superimposed the two so that Beatrice had on her earnest face a half-sinister smile.

He began with a quote from that great 17th Century prosecutor of love, Andrew Marvell: If we had world enough and time, this coyness lady were no crime. He then proceeded to enter evidence that, whatever Saint Francis might say to the contrary, there was no point in being good because there was no such thing as Heaven: And yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity. The grave’s a fine and private place, yet none I think do there embrace. In his closing statement, he threatened that if Beatrice didn't offer her virtue to him on a velvet pincushion, then large black worms would try her long-preserved virginity. And her quaint honour would turn to dust, and into ashes all his lust.

Lathering herself in the shower, Beatrice heard an echo of the words dust and vast eternity. She thought of the wheat fields surrounding their homestead, and of the long unwinding roads that lead to nowhere.

Her feelings of emptiness made her wonder whether all the things Prester John told her about Grace and the Bounty of God were just a bunch of words. Everything around her seemed empty — especially in the two years since her Granny died. Even the bright prairie sky, with its majestical roof fretted with golden fire, seemed nothing but a foul congregation of vapours. What did Heaven have to do with the things that gave her comfort and relief — like the soft steam caressing her body, and the shower rod warm and liquid as she fondled its silver nozzle?

Heaven seemed so far away. It seemed like a desert of vast eternity, and not some comforting place that her Granny told her about. Inspired by the daemon poesie, Beatrice felt the tragic words rise up inside her: Thy beauty shall no more be found, nor in thy marble vault shall sound my echoing song.

Thus with the incantations of carpe diem poetry, Antonio finessed his way into the good graces of Beatrice. He was especially proud of the way he wormed his way into her heart, that curious organ that he found to be the greatest challenge, given that it was at once the most physical and the most spiritual of body parts.

From his position in the tube of her aorta, Antonio directed the currents of Beatrice’s emotion, extracting promises, and slowly raising the temperature of her blood. He also spent a great deal of time just sitting there, gloating over his prize, which he called the apple of his eye. In his mind he could feel its warm pulsing flesh without even touching it.

Antonio smiled to think what his father would think about that.


Next: The Ascendancy of Baulis Prime

Back to Top

The Pulse: Contents - Characters - Maps