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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner



Star-Crossed Tourists
Prepare to Exit an Absurd Universe

    They march on.
    She is a brave woman,
    this Lyla, whom Zod often saw
    playing in the picture-shows
    that used to play in old Kandor
    before the revolution,
    before his Revolution.
    She was a tart, he had thought,
    a pin-up girl.  The scientists
    paraded her ilk to make stout
    men swirl their heads, distracted.
    He was wrong.  She is strong of will;
    old ill views be all retracted.

    They march on.  He takes the lead,
    for he has once before been
    to their destination,
    to the tar pit three-score feet
    under the cliff, where robot
    natives worship a color-whirl
    of hues that shift, then go clear
    to reveal... What?
    Scenes from next week's show?
    From series canceled long ago?
    New channels, or new peoples?
    Hidden worlds, or a peep show
    cosmos only?  The questions
    plague Zod as they draw near it.

                THE PIT

          The robots are chanting.
          Zod and Lyla can hear
          well the squeaking ranting
          of verbal metal runes,
          this enchanted speaking
          of indecipherable tunes.
          "Quite an introduction," whispers
          Zod, "wouldn't you say, to the Zone's
          rituals?"  For awhile, Lyla is
          spellbound, then says, "We'll camp the night
          here," the way the doctor tells you
          a relative has died.  "No night
          here," he says.  And she?:  "Just as well."

          And, it is.  The androids are done
          with their droning.  They back up
          penitently as the pit
          starts spitting up... What?
          Synthetic catgut sutures?
          Xerox copiers from the future?

          The robots are reduced
          to a silent recessional,
          in the methodic plodding of which
          Zod deduces her plan.  She's going
          to dive right in, isn't she?
          She is a brave woman.
          He sleeps the night dreaming on
          she who bested him at last.

    Dawn.  Her thirteenth day in the land
    that lied to its Creator.
    She sits, her suit hot, making sweat.
    How has he survived without one?
    The fortitude of the mad,
    she decides, screens out all pains,
    to the burning edge of doom,
    even.  Yet, he is still a man.
    A man has a right to know.
    She will tell him.
    He yawns.  She speaks, very slow:

    --    Zod?  It's gone.

          --    Hmm?  What's gone?

    --    Home.  The world.  Krypton.

          --    What!  How?

                (And he tries to stand,
                 forgetting that chains
                 bind him.)

    --    Blown up.

          --    By men?  By war?
                Don't leave me stew
                in cryptic 'know,'
                woman: Tell me more!

    --    By men whose inaction
          allowed natural forces
          to follow foreseeable courses
          to destruction.

          --    Surely there were warning voices?

    --    Only one.

          --    Jor-El!

    --    How did you know?

          --    His was our greatest mind.
                I held it in high regard,
                fact he caged me here aside.
                Now it seems I've him to thank.
                After all, I survived.

    He smiles.  Billions died and he grins
    that he wasn't one of them.
    For the first time since her own sins,
    dull in comparison to his,
    she sees true evil.  Zod may as well
    state his intent, for his smile speaks
    volumes:  "She'll try to leave me here," he thinks,
    "But I want to go.  Wither, wherever,
     anywhere but this land of smoke-not-mist
     and squalls of laundry-snow!
     Turn the tables on her!  Bind her wrists,
     she won't be missed, then into the pit I'll go!"

    Bate my breath, he thinks, and wait.
    She will watch his every movement.

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