I can do anything

by Jane Carnall

I can do anything. Because same is not the same as similiar or as identical: being the same can mean either, or both, a wide word with an old pedigree and many, many meanings. As a writer I must know when the wide sweep that draws a whole landscape with a single word is needed: same is one such sweeping word. But sometimes the precise line that a fine propelling pencil makes is what is wanted: needed. Identical and similiar are precise words, saying what they mean and no more than that. No more.

I can do anything. I can make the blue moon rise: look, there it shines. I can make the bloody sun burn and here it sears your flesh. I can speak terror to your dreams: I can make you think you heard what you did not hear, and see what you did not see. I write and I make you read: sleepless, longing, needing to know more. I make you want with a word.

I can do anything. I can create a woman: tall, fair, brown-skinned, dark eyes under sharply-marked eyebrows, a round plump belly and big thighs, a good walker, a strong swimmer, heavy muscles in her shoulders. Her name is Mari, short for Margaret, though no one has ever called her anything but Captain or ma'am for years. For three years, she has commanded the exploration ship Double Destiny, with a crew of fifty and a mission to find a place for her homeless people to live again. She knew when she chose her ship, not the long-iced sleep, that she was leaving her family and her friends behind to stay young as she grew old. She was married: she thinks she will no longer be married once her partner wakes and realises that she is no longer the gentle woman he knew. She has seen people die that she was responsible for: not friends, but people she knew as well as one does know those who share a tiny metal-walled village in the middle of absolute nowhere.

I can do anything. I made Mari up: I didn't know anything about her when I wrote I can do anything for the third time. I still don't know very much about her. I didn't know she was married to a man until the very end. Or that it was a space-ship.

I can do anything. Mari is standing on the surface of an alien world, breathing fresh unrecycled air for the first time in five years. This is the world for her people. They must come here. But someone must go back through the long years of spacc alone, and it must be her: no one else will go. No one else will leave this paradise. She forces one of her crew to take her to their ship in orbit, forces her at gunpoint: and then lets her go, the young woman crying with fear and then with horror, as Mari Worthwant seals the ship behind her and sets course for the great sleepery where all their people are frozen. She will be very old when she gets there, travelling against the current of the galaxy: but her people will wake, and come: and find a garden world, where they can live and play. Perhaps they will call it Mari, after her: she can do anything, too.

562 words

11th February 2000

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