The Return of Sacred Smog

Lore Graham


Suspended among the stars, we are timeless—

until the spell breaks. The threads of our lives are

guided by our technology and our stories, shimmering

with our hopes and sorrows wrapped in the soft cocoons

of Miracles, letting us build the fable that death’s

something one slips into easily after a long, love-

filled life. And for our parents, and their parents,

and generations of kin before, it was. But reach far

enough back and the myth crumbles. Like insects in

dormancy, we dream in the secure, warm dark.

Like insects, most of us won’t make it through the

initial frenzy in the brutally new landscape, turning

on each other as all illusion of safety evaporates,

leaving nothing but the gluttonous instinct to take,

consume, swallow, survive by any means available.


Hands pressed against the warm glass, decorative

gardens pregnant with ripening fruit behind me,

I can see the other step-pyramids—staircases to

meaningless pinnacles—rising from umber land.

Our distant ancestors terraformed this moon only

partially, easy to forget after centuries of breathing

these Earth-inspired airs. Yet sooner or later, the winds

sweeping the methane deserts batter past the spindly

ribs of long-faded atmo-posts, blowing the sacred smog

across the globe with its rich-foul, pus-gold airs.

The nitrogen’s the same, inert, but oh how little

change is necessary! A fraction of a percentage:

swap oxygen for methane, add a touch of hydrogen

cyanide, and we like insects are fumigated. We can

only lock ourselves in our ziggurats, waiting for

the apocalypse that we deserve to pass. After all,

we came to Titan. Did it ever ask for us?


It’s rolling in now, like clouds billowing up from

the underworld, like goldenrod mist deadlier than

hope, like the very atmosphere of Saturn is swallowing

us whole. I will live or die. I will learn to love the dark,

or submit myself to the precious heat lamps of this

garden—no longer ornamental, now pure necessity.

Or go mad. We’ve always been mad, haven’t we?

Why else would we give ourselves away to planets so

far from home? Why did my ancestors leave Earth,

abandoning me to this vast, cold god and its snot-sick

satellite? But that Gate is closed, hindsight only a

coward’s regret. I will count each hour as my own,

for as long as can hold on.



Lore Graham is a queer author of speculative poetry and fiction who lives in Massachusetts. Their poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Liminality, and Mythic Delirium, among other venues.