The Bone Flute
Afterword: That Business about the Nebula
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The Bone Flute

I am forever falling in love with beautiful men who break my heart. Perhaps I prefer it that way. There are worse things than being left.


I first saw Venn in a spaceport bar. Not my usual sort of hangout, but I was a stranger to that world, with nowhere immediate to go and no one to see, and I was tired and looking for someplace dark and quiet. The bar was called The White Bird, and it was dark and quiet enough at that hour. Light was provided by a set of glowing, artificial birds that fluttered around, seemingly at random, lighting up different areas as they briefly roosted. The female dancers – off-duty now, and lounging at a table – continued the bird imagery with costumes of feathers constructed to continually fall away and reassemble in various more or less revealing ways. Besides myself and the dancers, there was only one other person in the bar, a dark-haired, very handsome young man who was sitting with the dancers.

They were laughing, the three costumed women and the man, and although I could not hear what they said, I guessed that the young man was being teased about something.

He rose from the table just as a bird was passing overhead, and his face was suddenly lit. I felt his beauty like a pain in my stomach. At that moment, with his beard and the classic lines of his face, he might have been an ancient god revealed to a hidden observer. He was still laughing and directing his attention to the group he was with; he was unaware of my presence.

He gestured at one of the women, and the other two began to clap their hands and hoot. The one he had indicated reached with one hand behind her head and was suddenly naked.

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