It’s a Sunday morning and the woman in your bed is exactly your type. Turquoise hair, cut perfectly. Full sleeve tattoo in progress; she says she’s adding to it as she gets the money. A smile that makes you want more—and she knows how to use it. When she leaves—hair messy, socks stuffed into her pocket, still smiling, and saying you should text her—you shower, then bind both your chest and your wings.
Ten years ago, I stood on a rooftop alone. In front of me, a many-winged beast clung to the wires between traffic lights, drooling sparks onto the asphalt. I summoned a bright arrow from my wishing star and readied my bow. I had to defeat this false angel, rescue civilians, and heal the injured, and I had to do it all by myself, because nobody else would. When I leapt, my leading ankle struck the roof’s edge and twisted.
“Look closely and tell me what you see,” said the nun. I licked my dry lips. “Blood.” “And what else, child?” “Bone,” I said, though at twenty-six I was far from a child, even if I was still a novice. However, my mistress, Mother Frey, was approaching eighty winters, and so was permitted to treat most people she met as children. “At least, I think it’s bone. Pieces, anyway.” Mother Frey sighed and straightened.
Dear Fairy Godmother: I work as the housekeeper for a collective of seven men. It’s a non-normative living situation, but it works for me. (I am estranged from my family, due to my stepmother being crazy.) Lately, however, I’ve been harassed by a woman trying to sell me apples. She is constantly offering me free samples and acting hurt when I don’t buy. My employers have forbidden me from letting anyone into their home, and I value their trust. But I also know there are a lot of prejudices about old women who wander around forests selling apples, and I don’t want to play into that.
By the time Bose Roberds spied the lone, empty wagon, he got the nagging suspicion that he was meant to follow the stranger’s trail easily. The noon sun beat on him like a whip in a heavy hand. He’d followed the tracks across the plains for quite some time. Whoever he tracked could’ve traveled through thickets so dense that neither man nor horse could see for more than a few yards at a time. More than once, Bose feared that the man might lurk in the brush, hiding in the draws and canyons. The other cowhands lingered a few lengths behind him, more than a mite cranky.
Visshki, now the eldest and most senior of the Serpents, had heard of the curse pronounced by his own mother. He called a meeting with Airavata and all their other siblings. “Brothers, as you know our own mother has cursed us. Anyone who is cursed by his own mother has no hope of remedy. What is more, Brum himself was witness to this curse, which makes it immutable. Now, we are all doomed to die in the serpent satra of King Majaya which is but the same curse of our mother Kadrush brought to fruition.
Many years ago, in the Age of the Gods, there lived the Seed-Giver Drakka. He had two beautiful daughters, Kadrush and Vina’at. Drakka married both daughters to the Sage Kushir. One day, feeling generously disposed to his wives, Kushir told each of them that they could avail of any boon they desired. Both sisters were overjoyed. Kadrush was the first to ask for her boon and she demanded one thousand serpents as her sons, each fiercer than the other and equally splendid.
When she got to Yume’s room, the first thing Ruriko did was slip off her mask and remove her prosthetic jaw. There was an ache in her fake bottom teeth. It was going to rain, although one look at the sky could have told her that. Across the room, Yume dimmed the lights and sat on the edge of the coverlet. The bed was obscenely red, round and mounted on a rotatable platform, as one could expect from a pay-by-the-hour love hotel. Yume’s pale, gauzy skirt rode up her thighs as she shifted positions.
Byeong-Woo strides through the door. His face says I’m in trouble. Hopefully, it’s the delicious, sweaty kind. I step forward and push into him, ready to embrace his flesh, his taste—but he becomes a mountain, still and immutable. I step back. “We should talk,” he says. Fine. I’m good at talk. I’ve known for a whole moon what he’s going to say, and I won’t change my mind. I gesture at the low table, the only furnishing besides the thin mattress in the corner. This sparseness is intentional; a reminder that I won’t stay here, that my resources are for other things.
You remember when those rappers robbed a bank and killed a cop, that summer the girls from Wing turned green? I didn’t think it was connected then—the robbery, the gold, and the hordes of teens who were rotting from the inside. But I know better now. Back in the day, we thought anyone signed to a record label was rich. We eyed the expensive Fila sneakers and trunk jewelry and thought of new money. We peeped the shiny album covers in Funk-O-Mart, heard Jazzy Jill’s song “Money, Mics & Madness” blaring from passing cars, and thought of mansions.