Sitting quietly in the port of stars, he was Auschwitz psychic: which meant he received flashes of the future whenever he caught a whiff of gas or overheard a harsh word spoken in German. He wrote prophecies in his crippled scrawl. Omens in Yiddish, slips of crisp Sirian parchment sat in a bowl for visitors departing for the frontiers.

The past is a painful pause in a journey with preset margins; the future is only a stay of execution from infinity's neurons; the present wraps in guilt for one and fear of the other … trying to forget concentration camps and to anticipate starships.

Another man slept in gray walls which crumbled from too little moisture, having been erected with alleys on a sere moon for the planet to keep its unhappier citizens confined to. He dreamed he was Rabbi Loew in a previous ghetto. He tried to build a golem from titanium but couldn't figure out why carving emeth into its forehead didn't make it live. He'd forgotten the key of clay from which all are born. He made it little shoes of this substance and lo! it walked, at least, even if its volition was weak and its political savvy shaky. Feet of clay, nu? Loew's spirit didn't mock him from afar. It wept and blessed the man in the name of another century on another brittle planet.

Where the past is walls of slow stone and the future is a fantasy held in suspense, the present ignores the one and worships the other...trying to forget the incarnations that ended in meaningless deaths and trying to anticipate the birth which will render the living among the scattered stars eloquent.

A woman believed she was the gravedigger, having buried each of her children in a different spinning galaxy, having wept for them at sunsets and moonsets and had her tears counted as they fell into varied darknesses. She patrolled the vast cemetery in her ship, left hand on the chaos-drive, right clutching prayers. She would be the first to see judgment when it came … when each color ever swallowed by a black hole climbed out again in rainbows and every name spoken since the dawn was heard through Hallelujahs. Then would she raise her shovel high, the gravedigger become a terra-former, sons and daughters again at her skirts. Gabriel would make sounds elastic across space, and the new shape of the universe would be a synagogue for resounding.

—Charlee Jacob

First appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated 18, 1997

With more than 950 publishing credits, Charlee Jacob has been writing dark poetry and prose for more than twenty-five years. Some of her recent books include the novel Still (Necro), the poetry collection Heresy (Necro), and the novel Dark Moods. She is a three-time Bram Stoker Award winner. Visit her at charleejacob.com.