The Swans

Spaceship on the horizon, a rather sophisticated piece of technology. It lands in a large plaza. Aliens emerge. The public is herded into a hall to hear what the aliens have to say. Perhaps the will be propagandized, cajoled, persuaded, forced. To do what? They’ll find out.

One man among these men and women is a rebel. He will not go into the hall, will not be herded like a sheep. Some will call him outlaw, some idealist. All, because he has not joined their ranks, will deem him a trouble maker.

He goes for a walk in the park, where he sees swans by the banks of a small man-made lake. Trumpeter swans diving, gliding under and on top of the water. He remarks to himself how like his life is the riparian dance of these big white birds. Then he sees a large eye in the water. It is only an eye, a detached eye, and around it the dream screen of his vision is etched with water currents.

Sun is settling into its winter bed. The rebel returns to the plaza. By the time he is there it’s dark, no one is around. He sees the spaceship, notices it’s made of rubber. He enters it, in darkness and alone. Jumping up and down as on a pogo stick, he bounces it out of the plaza. He has forgotten those who flew it to this planet, as well as those who seemed ready to obey its occupants. They are inconsequential, not even worth a footnote. He assumes the whole thing was a ruse, or the aliens were a group of illusionists staging a coup d’etat. No doubt the folks who went into the hall to hear what they had to say have been hoodwinked. It’s possible they have disappeared forever. The rebel does not miss them. He wonders why the aliens so readily abandoned their ship.

From the isolation of the large spacecraft he espies one other person who did not enter the hall of slavery. This figure stood hesitating around its big double doors, and soon walked away. Descending like a mourning dove, the rebel finds himself at the end of a dark alley. Some distant clock has just struck midnight on a firm land of flesh. He lands, dimly aware of familiar sensations: the palm of a hand on the back of his head, breath on his cheek.

At last they have found each other. They smile, they kiss. And the spaceship? It has dissolved into the nothingness only unremembered dreams accommodate.

Saturday morning. Spaceship barely a memory, as are the aliens. His new lover is in bed alone thinking of him, this other outsider . . . of his body, how good it feels in his arms. The rebel has gone to the park to feed the swans. Mist sways in the crisp air like a veil above the little lake.

There is always one swan, the rebel notes, that refuses the bread crusts being thrown into the water. It dallies in the lake, a gliding phantom. It swims behind a clump of bamboo; the scintillating ripples it made soon cease. A vague smile of acknowledgment is etched on the bread thrower’s face. Nothing, it seems, can deflect from their course the rest of the swans wearing the cold veil of the lake.

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