art by Jonathan Westbrook
Speed of Love
by Deborah Walker
In the National Trust play area, in the sight of the immense Neolithic stones that have stood for five thousand years and whose purpose was lost and now is understood, the sisters watched the children playing. November air bit the children, turning ungloved fingers cold and red and numb. The children were indifferent. They hurtled around the play area, engrossed in the convoluted pecking-order games they'd devised. No strangers here. Children find their playmates quickly. They understand the rules.
At unmeasured distance, the triangles converged in apex aligning space. The Neolithic stone gate nearest the playground opened in a hiss of >c-light, splitting and reforming, and delivering the passenger.
"Look at that," said Penny, the elder sister, mother of the two girls galloping around the playground. "That's another one." She watched the slow man unfurl from a fetal position. "They're so damn slow. I can't stand them being so slow."
"It's the time dilation," said Maggie. "They can't help living near a white hole."
"I can't think why you wanted to meet us here," said Penny.
The slow man was tall. Probably Elska class, thought Maggie, like the engineers who'd mapped the intersecting triangles of space and re-discovered the void-spanning shortcut to this whirling, speeded planet.
"Slow as a snail," said Penny. "It's a wonder they get anything done."
The slow man turned his head. He walked towards the sisters.
"They're only slow from our perspective," said Maggie. "Anyway, I asked you here for a reason. I've got something to tell you, Penny."
"Hmm?" Penny was momentarily distracted by a scream from the playground. "Darling, don't do that," she shouted to her younger daughter, who was punching a small unchaperoned boy.
"I've met someone. Moved in with him, in fact."
"Hey, that's great. What does he do?"
"His name's Arille." There--she'd said it.
The children screamed as Patricia, the eldest of Penny's daughters, championed an attack on the occupied wooden fortress/slide.
The shell of the slow man's naked body glinted in the harsh air.