by Quintan Ana Wikswo


It is the first meeting. Their gaze is bleak, austere and focused, yet their fingers chatter skeletal around crude ceramic cups: the force field of combat discipline weakens at their appendages, at the furthest distance from their hearts.

Already the physiological deployment of resolve and commitment has begun to falter, has become less certain.

Their enemies are despair and shallow breathing.

The light in the room has shifted to glacier tints of ice and water, sky and eye. Their skin glints silver – more like trout than man.


>     Ilyushin DB-3
The coffee is tepid, and they barely sip it. It is their three hundredth and forty-second meeting.

There is a green gelatinous murk to the light, and now their fingers only loosely wrap their coffee mugs, a drape of slimy flesh that suggests a grip.

At the crests of their heads, each bears adipose fat, and the beginnings of fins.

The youngest strikes his fist against the table and the others snap into shape again: ankles, knees, hips and shoulders emerge from sinuous spines and they once more resemble themselves, their former selves. The forms that they recall, they rebuild. They reach up with real fingers to feel their skulls, and find these sites reassembled. Sharply razored hair appears – snipped into a brush of platinum or ebony or gold – obeying appropriate military affiliations.

They clench their memories of torso and leg, and blood pulses at their jaw lines.

This is the tactic they learned to keep from blacking out.