Eminent Domain

free scifi by Bruce Holland Rogers

by Bruce Holland Rogers

What would have been nice on those six acres of city-owned land behind our homes was another park. We already had two. Another park would have suited the character of the area. That's what we said, loudly, at hearings about a proposed bridge, about the possible sale of the land to a grocery chain, about a planned clinic for disabled veterans. A bridge, a store, a clinic, any of those would have meant obstructed views, more noise, traffic. A park was what we wanted. A park, a green park, and nothing but a park, so help us God.

We didn't know about the cell-phone tower before the metal structure broke above the tree line, but once we saw it, we sued successfully. The city had tried to sneak that one by us, and we weren't having it. Our phones already worked fine. Why spoil our view for a better signal on the other side of the river? Besides, radiation comes out of those things. No one should have to live under one.

What was so hard to understand about park, P-A-R-K, park? One city manager after another proposed that the site was perfect for a school, a hospital, a police substation. For a time, all the new proposals were “sustainable.” A bank of wind turbines. High-density housing mixed with a local business node.

You want sustainable, how about a park? You put in a sprinkler system, lay sod, mow once a week, fertilize now and then. What's easier to sustain than that?

Then the angels came.

At first, when we saw them in the distance, we thought they were only people dressed as angels with costume wings. Three or four of them stood in the center of the undeveloped land, facing each other, holding something gray and lumpish between them. Well, it was none of our business as long as they took that gray thing home with them when they were done. They had better not litter.

Hours later, there were more of them, and there was a lot more of the gray stuff. They were building. The gray had been formed into three domes with an opening in the top of each one.

Now see here, we thought. Whatever it is you're doing isn't allowed!

Some of us went out to confront them.

Close up, they were not people in costume. The angels were maybe eight feet tall. Their robes were so white that you'd have to squint against the glare as you came close. The skin of their hands and faces was covered in fine feathers: white, black, brown, gray. It was hard to say what color their eyes were. You might look, but then you'd have to look away, and you couldn't remember what you'd just seen.

If they understood our words, they gave no sign. They kept up their single-minded labor, assembling domes with a substance that seemed to grow in their hands as they worked it.

We took out our phones and called the police then and there. We called the city manager, the mayor. Put a stop to this! But the city said it was out of their hands. They hadn't authorized this activity, but they didn't have the means to stop it, either.

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Angels work fast. Domes grew on top of other domes. Cell by cell, the structure grew up and out until the mass of gray came to the very edge of our back fences. It rose higher and higher as more and more angels appeared.

Even now, the hive may still be growing. It's hard to tell from down here. High above, we see the white-robed fliers come and go. Day and night they swarm. Doing what? Harvesting and answering prayers? Who knows?

Angelic robes are as brilliantly white at night as in the day. That is, they glow like stadium lights. If four or five angels are arriving from the same direction, it's like daylight on that side of the hive. This has totally altered the character of the neighborhood. If you hope to get any sleep, you have to buy thick blackout curtains. That's an unfair expense for us to bear, but our lawyers tell us to suck it up, gut it out, deal with it. Sure, we could file suit in some court or other. You can always file. But they tell us we can't expect to win.

So we're trying to make the best of it. If a hive of angels moves into your back yard, maybe your prayers get a boost. We get down on our knees. We pray. Every morning, often throughout the day, and every night we pray. We could ask for anything. People all over the world are beseeching God for cures, for an end to suffering, for peace and brotherly love. Our prayer is such a small thing in comparison. Heavenly Father, hear our prayer. We want a park.

About The Author

Bruce Holland Rogers writes all over the literary map, from genre fiction to the literary kind (which is also a genre). He stories have been translated into over two dozen languages, including Pashto and Klingon. His stories have won two Nebula Awards, two Micro Awards, two World Fantasy awards, a Pushcart Prize. We're not making that up!

His stories have won two Nebula Awards, two Micro Awards, two World Fantasy awards, a Pushcart Prize, and something called the Jonny-Cat Litter-ary Award from the Cat Writers Association. We're not making that up, either! He teaches in the Master of Fine Arts creative writing program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. You can find him at shortshortshort.com.

Fast-Paced Author Interview (At High Speeds! Risking Dire Consequences!)

The Squid: In a Russian accent, please explain why I can't have another glass of milk.
Bruce Holland Rogers: Moose and sqvirrel drank all milk. Moose and sqvirrel must die.

The Squid: What's your favorite city?
Bruce Holland Rogers: Budapest. Kyoto is second.

The Squid: Please describe fifty words or less.
Bruce Holland Rogers: "Less" is a lateral alveolar followed by a mid-front short vowel and an unvoiced alveolar fricative.

The Squid: If you could change one thing from your childhood, what would it be and why? (Please include the word "porpoises" in your answer.)
Bruce Holland Rogers: I'd convert my parents' basement into an indoor saltwater swimming pool with bottle-nose dolphins, for entertainment porpoises.

The Squid: What's your favorite imaginary color?
Bruce Holland Rogers: Lunia. I wrote a story about it once. Yes, really.

About The Artist

Our very own D Chang is a game writer and web designer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology.

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