Category Archives: Character Development

The Chaos Project

From Zeus’s head, from Jupiter’s thigh, a child was born.

Chaos laid cosmic eggs.

Ash, Elm bore young ones. As did a glowing stalk of bamboo, sea foam, night, dust, a bone, a giant peach, a block of salty ice licked by a cow. A rock bore light. Maggots in giants’ flesh became children.

Some were impregnated by sun beams, wind, and golden rain, by lightning, dreams of sun, and a bundle of feathers, by a footprint, by leaning against a plum tree, and by devouring an abuser’s genitals.

By her father’s genitals cast in ocean waves Venus was born of foam.

And that is just one entry in Wikipedia on “miraculous birth”! Think of the solutions already written.

Among the powers we needed for this ideal was a method for reproduction that was truly a choice, one supported structurally, one not required of a woman’s body, one liberated from the claims of seed, of bio-kinship, of patriarchal lineage, of enframement, of slavery, of isolation from the safety net.

We needed to remember how to receive each offspring as magical gift, as bringer of insight, as sign of health, as love embodied.

Summer 2022. The golden women responded to the post-Roe crisis in the United States just as they had helped refugees of authoritarianism and climate crisis globally: they used their privilege and their vast wealth to fill gaps in policy.

CNN estimated that there would be 180,000 unwanted babies born every year in 26 states with no social safety net for these children, let alone their families.

The golden women of SIA were ready for them. They had already created the alternative structures we needed to support thriving.

Here, their underground storing, sharing, transferring network quietly moved, moved women seeking procedures, collected tissues, and, when this failed, supported women and children, incorporating them into the grand vision, into the arms of fictive kinship, where they could be relieved, nurtured, healed, and protected from further trauma.

The primary goal was to stock the arks with future generations of humans who would be born to the various projects of the Multiversity.

* * * * *

Circe and Persephone were products of the Chaos Project, born in Texas and Mississippi in the Fall of 2022, their brave mothers among many lost on the birthing room table as maternal mortality rates soared, especially for women of color.

The were the youngest among us, only 7 when they buckled themselves into the shuttle with us.

Little Priestesses, murmured Juno as she placed a warm hand to each beloved cheek: Circe with her pet pig, Persephone with her calico cat.

They would receive the Wiki in 10 years. They would help us to guide the first generation born on the awaiting ark.

They would remember Earth with us, Earth in all her wonders still apparent on the day we said goodbye and watched her become the blue marble we had known in images all our lives.

What Circe had not expected was the thrill of the stars rushing toward her. It seemed to her that she was reeled in by them, by magical silk skeins of invisible thread like the fibers of her largest muscle, like the nerves that electrified her, like capillaries, veins, arteries that brought her breath.

She knew she was made of star stuff. She could faintly remember. She did not fear death, though she had been protected from it. It had been her fate.

Death is but a portal, she knew.

She patted her pig who she called Daddy O, with a knowing smile, having been reared on the legend of her own name.

Snort, snort, Odysseus replied, smart enough to know she had her own pig’s part to play.

On this ark, all took the pronoun she.

The Volcian Girl

Kommos Beach on the south shore of Crete. The sun setting to my right. The timid surf. Gold cliffs that Theseus first saw.

The ten of us: Andy, Xan, Dido, Manny, Brit, Juno, Cly, Gallia, Camilla, and me. In a row, our feet bare and sunk into sand; our knees bare, our arms crossed around them.

Saying goodbye to Earth: to land, sea and sky.

The sea of aquamarine, navy, rolling the gold sands licked from the cliffs.

The sky also blue, clear, Our setting sun seen from Earth.

Our last days.

Most of us were fairly young. But 59 years had grooved a deep habit. So, to this we had come, to this evening ritual after a days work, after swimming, walking, quiet, talking, after a drive on the thrilling roads.

“I’m not going to be able to leave.” Camilla.

“Ha! Right?!” Gallia next to her, leaning with her desperate laugh against Camilla. Our friend. Her constant companion.

“Look. When we were in Italy, I found this place. You know, if you have money to fix it up, you can get one for $20?”

Camilla passed her phone around. Each of us looked at the picture of her ruined villa, its arches and graceful spaces. The wild vineyards. A courtyard with its greened and calcified fountain stopped.

I for one looked numbly, blankly.

Everything was something not to want. There was freedom in this. But I found it disconcerting.

“Oh! This place was so cool.” Gallia.

“Only $20,” Camilla repeated.

Then we got awfully quiet.

The waves rushed up at us, towards our toes at the edge of the surf where we had sat in a row.

* * * * *

The Mycelium had learned to connect across. Through the cooling sand—up its heavy layers, into the loose warm, into their feet, across the white strands of nerves, down the branches of them.

In Camilla, the sense of Home, brighter than the rest. Red and rooted. Determined.

For Camilla, the Volcian girl, the pull was innate. Indigenous. As the historian Virgil wrote, she had given her life to it once, long, long ago, resisting the one-day Romans.

The Mycelium felt how this also connected, unsevered, through sands, across the Aegean Sea to that wild vineyard. A light in Camilla was mirrored and rooted there. In Flagstaff too—and other…homes? But the beacon shone the brightest in ancient Latvium, amongst the Volci, in the golden days before Romulus and Remus would arrive, where the Mycelium knew humans located “the past.”

The Mycelium focused there, growing nerves, tightening connections, brightening them. She found another light, one matched in Gallia’s chest and all of our bodies. She tightened and brightened and fiercened the white nerve networks.

She did not mean to be cruel, but experimented like this as a matter of adaption. The humans had given her permission, entrusting her to the unfathomable complexity of time, space, history, destiny, knowledge. And there were places, lights like theirs, in her too, nodes in her, where we all met, where she could never let go, where she hurt and yearned valiantly.

* * * * *

The disconcerting numbness eased, replaced with a tugging. Quiet like the surf, but insistent, always pulling.

It pulled us home.

It pulled us to the stars.

Born, born again, and again. This faint sense of familiarity in a place has been written about a million ways, ruined, made trite. It was this the Mycelium tweaked in us.

What was it?



A magnet pull.

True North.



Pluto’s Return

Most of us were Metal Dogs, born in 1970. Like the rest of Generation X, we were born into utopian hopes for an end to poverty, for equal rights, and for the environmental restoration symbolized by Earth Day.

My mom was the kindergarten teacher at Summit Elementary. I started there in first grade. Every Monday the entire school met outside on the green square of lawn beneath the American flag to recite the pledge of allegiance, and to sing patriotically:

My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrim’s pride
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring
My native country, thee
Land of the noble free
Thy name I love
I love thy rocks and rills
Thy woods and templed hills
My heart with rapture fills like that above.

By June of 2022, it had been so long since I had said the pledge of allegiance at age 6 and sung those words so enthusiastically, so long since birthday piñatas and believing in magic, since going to the pumpkin patch with the whole school, since tricker treating for homemade snacks, since grade school campouts, since a hike in the “dwarf forest,” which I was disappointed to learn was not a woods full of fey folk, but a short forest.

There had been a gradual fraying of patriotism with the Iran-Contra drugs for weapons scandal, with wave after wave of environmental crisis, with the increase of police shootings of black people, with an epidemic of school shootings, with meaningless wars and devastating drone strikes on civilians, as mass graves were uncovered here, as we became aware of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, as the ERA was blocked by the rise of the moral majority, as sexual harassing and rapist judges and politicians earned places on the Supreme Court and even as President. Most of this felt like a coming to consciousness about the nation we really lived in. It was a heartbreak again and again. It was dismay at what my fellows would cotton to, elevate, vote for, and overlook.

I had only felt patriotic briefly once again, watching ash coated New Yorkers huddle on a curb, wrapped in a flag, when the French declared, “We are all Americans” and the world held us in their hearts.

Then the election of 2020. I did a tarot reading on election day, which correctly assured us that the process would take a long time, but the system would hold. This comforted me, even as a violent mob descended on the Capitol on January 6 to prevent the peaceful passage of power. I watched this happen in shock, weeping for a nation I had felt so disappointed by my entire adult life.

I had grown up watching newscasters wax eloquent about this miracle of the American political system: the peaceful passage of power from one party to the other, from one leader to the next. I had probably rolled my eyes at Dan Rather.

Part of the privilege I had was to take democracy and my right to criticize my government and to demand justice from it for granted.

June 9, I watched the January 6th Commission Congressional Hearings, captivated. Here was Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Commission, speaking before a wall of red, white, blue, and gold, before flags and bald eagles and a great seal. Here was Caroline Edwards, the young wide-eyed, brave Capitol Hill police officer testifying about getting knocked out as the mob threw a barrier on her, about coming to on the steps, and then getting back to work, holding the line against an insurrection. She was part of a desperate effort that surely saved the lives of Senators and Congresspeople in the Capital she and her fellow officers kept at their backs.

When Bennie Thompson asked her if she could share “one memory of that awful day that stands out most vividly in your mind,” she said:

“I can. That time when I talked about falling behind MPD’s line. I remember…when I fell behind that line and I saw–I can just remember my, my, my breath catching in my throat because what I saw was a war scene. It was something like I’d seen out of the movies. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. Umm. You know–They were bleeding; they were throwing up. You know–They had…I mean I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. Umm. You know I was catching people as they fell. You know–I was. It was carnage, it was chaos. I can’t even describe what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that, as a police officer, as a law enforcement officer, I would find myself in the middle of a battle. You know–I’m trained to detain a couple of subjects and handle a crowd, but I’m not combat trained and that day it was just hours of hand-to-hand combat, hours of dealing with things that were way beyond what any law enforcement officer has ever trained for. And I just remember, that moment of stepping behind the line and just seeing the absolute war zone that the West Front had become.”

She was nothing like me. But I saw how she had fought for democracy, along with all the people who had prevented this coup at every stage, none of whom were of my ideological leaning. I felt patriotism then. I felt how THIS was my country. These my values.

I thought it was over. That our system had held.

I felt hope. And I turned my consciousness briefly from our multiversity vision. I was set to leave for Crete in a few days. But I felt American for the first time in decades.

My resolve stuttered.

Then, I walked out into the summer night, still bright with the sun who had just gone round. I walked into the woods and my dog leapt ahead, springing up above golden grasses to hunt ground squirrels only he could hear.

The land said, welcome Earthling. It hummed to me. It said, that might work, that might turn history.

There were many beautiful projects all around us, all aspiring.

The multiversity, that was mine. So, I would go to Crete.

And I would get in a shuttle and leave Earth forever—so that, one day, my progeny could bring life back, hopefully with a utopian vision that could hold.

How We Found the Gate

Manny walked into Lyudmila’s office the day she learned that Tamara had died.

It was 2001.

“Manny Zaki.”

Lyudmila looked up at the tall, lithe person offering their hand across the desk. She had just placed the receiver into the cradle and in a practiced motion, reached down, opened her bottom drawer, and pulled one of the cheap highball glasses she kept there. She put the glass on the desk and half stood to shake Manny’s hand. It was warm, smooth, golden.

“Hello Manny,” she said. “Will you have a drink with me? I have just had some sad news.”

Many,” the name came out, translation across two accents.

“Egypt,” Manny said, anticipating the usual question.

“Pardon me?” Lyudmila had again bent to her bottom right drawer, for the second glass and then the fifth of vodka. She looked over her shoulder at Manny with her dark blue eyes and smiled her half smile.

This half smile, the attempt at humor in the deep, cool, eyes, all struck Manny with sorrow.

Manny sat down. Lyudmila poured.

“No thank you, but please, go ahead,” said Manny.

Many Zaki,” Lyudmila repeated, pushing two fingers in the glass across the desk. “You are one of my new grads. I remember. Your name, Zaki. It means “pious.” Odd name for a scientist.”

“No better way to know god than in looking at the stars.”

“You know Many? You are so right.” Lyudmila huffed out her nose, amused. “Tell me about yourself.”

Manny leaned back in their chair and began to tell Lyudmila about their dreams for their graduate study in astronomy. They reached up to their hair in a practiced fidget and let the knot loose, then smoothed and twisted and knotted as they talked. Lyudmila was supremely easy to talk to.

Then Manny stopped talking. They looked into Lyudmila’s dark stare. That half smile again. Damn.

“You have amazing hair,” said Lyudmila. She had sat in her heartache as Manny talked, having swallowed her drink quickly. Her vagus nerve she knew was responding to the organs of her body, to the sounds to her ears, the sad news that had come over the line, the low, clear sound of Manny’s voice, to the sight before her, the clear liquid, the person at her desk. Her eyes burned. Her vagus nerve did something to her throat. A lump. To her heart. It made her feel knifed.

The vodka burned down her. She poured another to sip. Though she wanted oblivion. She waited. Made herself suffer. She was good at that.

Her vagus nerve put butterflies in her stomach too. This gorgeous young person reminded her of youth, of her own earliest visions. And of something ancient too, something that went across the unknown, that zapped and lit up the electric connections.

When Manny again shook her hand and said goodbye. Lyudmila took that long, fast drink she had wanted. She also emptied the glass Manny had left untouched.

Oblivion did not come. It had not come for many years.

That was the beginning.

Lyudmila had defected in 1979. She and Niki were invited to Hawaii for a meeting of astronomers engaged with sending probes and flybys towards Venus. The Americans’ 1978 Pioneer Venus had collected data the Soviets wanted. She was to use her considerable charms to win access to it from one of the American scientists there.

She got the information. She and Niki conferred beneath the starry sky as they swam in the warm ocean.

“I don’t think they saw it,” she said. “I don’t believe they know what they have Niki. But it is a sign of life.”

Nikolai had returned home to their children. Lyudmila would not see them again for more than two decades, after the eastern block finally opened.

But there had always been in her that need to suffer. The world as it was designed caused this.

She stowed away on a ship. Her American scientist had arranged everything with his connections. And now, here she was, ultimately, a disappointment to the Americans, at a small public university in Northern Arizona. But free. Free to suffer. Free to look at the heavens. Free to feel Tamara there. Niki. The children. All out of reach. All tied securely by silk to the network, her nervous system.

In the morning she woke shocked at her heartcrimes. It felt like the fist of muscle in her chest was tied up. Several times a day, a silk cord yanked by some object, a perfume, a thought, a doubt.

Isolated in her convictions, she suffered.

And yet, she was not one to wear armor. Or to dread pain. Now Manny, dipping in her door. Lyudmila’s stomach lifting suddenly at the sight of a figure in the beige halls, far ahead, turning a corner. A familiar gait.

Ridiculous, Lyudmila chided herself. But it made her smile too.

They worked well together. Manny was quick and quietly brilliant, making leaps and connections across gaps Lyudmila had become resigned to never bridging, had not known she needed to.

For Lyudmila, these were years full of joy. Tortured by desire, but happy. Sometimes she felt the red bird blooming in her chest, a whole new world to greet each dawn for. She was too old now for acting on such thoughts she told herself.

She rushed to work, balancing her creamy, spiked coffee on the dashboard of her Subi, taking sips between lights in the navy pre-pink morning, eager for her calculations, after hours the night before behind the telescopes.

Everyday she knew that soon she would look up from her desk and see Manny leaning against her door jamb, a sheaf of papers, a pencil in their knotted hair to pull out and jot notes. The clean smell of the tumble of that dark, straight, shining hair. Manny’s gesture to push it back behind their ear. How it would fall again, lit with auburn from Lyudmila’s desk lamp.

One night at the observatory, Lyudmila told Manny about Venus. All of it. Tamara and Bernice and the red bird. And the phosphine gas from the 1978 Pioneer Venus probe, the alien life it suggested.

“I want to show you something,” she said. She entered some coordinates into the telescope consol and, as they waited for it to move there, she told Manny the whole story.

It was 2008.

Listening, laying in the chair beneath the lens, Manny realized they were holding their breath as Lyudmila talked. Lyudmila was not looking at Manny, just watching the roof as the great scope whined and whirred its slow way towards a spot just beyond Venus, to the gate Lyudmila’s calculations said would open there.

Manny was looking at Lyudmila out of the corner of their eye, indulging longer and longer moments to rest their cheekbone to the chairback in order to stare directly at their teacher as she spoke. This was the side of Lyudmila that smiled, the half-smile that began gloriously at the eyes, deep laugh lines that were so beautiful—

Lyudmila was talking and shaking her head side to side over her feeling for Tamara and at how brazen they had all been 38 years ago…38 years ago, the year Manny was born. As she shook her head, Lyudmila caught a glimpse of Manny from the corner of her eye. Manny was staring at her, brazenly now.

Lyudmila stopped talking.

With a small laugh of recognition and happiness, Lyudmila stared back. It was quiet for a long time.

“I have been meaning to ask you,” Lyudmila said. “How is it that you don’t drink?”


This story came from a tarot reading–I am developing each character in 2020 through such readings on my channel, Metal Dog Tarot. Here is Manel’s reading: