The wooden house and outbuildings caught fire fast, blazed up, burned down, but the dome, built of lathe and plaster above a drum of brick, would not burn. What they did at last was heap up the wreckage of the telescopes, the instruments, the books and charts and drawings, in the middle of the floor under the dome, pour oil on the heap, and set fire to that. The flames spread to the wooden beams of the big telescope frame and to the clockwork mechanisms.
The earliest movements she knows are not her mother’s movements but the sea rocking her mother, who lies unconscious on the ship’s deck, rescued. In that way, the sea can be said to be her mother. She is born under the morning star, and so is named Ushakiran. The surgeon delivers her into a world of storms and blood, of darkness and creaking wood, of a blanket wrapped close around her, cold arms that cannot hold her.
The boy looked like any other boy his age, except that, thanks to him, there had been for some time now no other boys his age, or of any other age. The elimination of all others had transformed him into the entirety of a subset that had once numbered billions. He was now the platonic ideal of his type, not just a boy, but the boy.
The process of transforming sunlight into a solid object had been complete about a month when we broke into the lab and stole as much as we could carry. Carrying it was an issue, actually—obviously we were fairly sure it wouldn’t weigh much. But what do you carry sunlight in? Some sort of vacuum flask seemed appropriate. We didn’t want the sunlight to leak, or get contaminated. But would it die, somehow, if we shut it up in the dark?
Once, they’d tried using sex to bring down a target. It had seemed a likely plan: Throw an affair in the man’s path, guide events to a compromising situation, and momentum did the rest. That was the theory—a simple thing, not acting against the person directly, but slantwise. But it turned out it was too direct, almost an attack, touching on such vulnerable sensibilities. They’d lost Benton, who had nudged a certain woman into the path of a certain Republic Loyalist Party councilman and died because of it. He’d been so sure it would work.
This is a story about a witch. Not the kind you’re thinking of either. She didn’t have a long nose with a wart on it. She didn’t have green skin or long black hair. She didn’t wear a pointed hat or a cape, and she didn’t have a cat, a spider, a rat, or any of those animals that are usually hanging around witches. She didn’t live in a ramshackle house, a gingerbread house, a Victorian house, or a cave.
“It’s the best bargain you’ll get in this town,” the faery woman says. She’s standing by a cracked kitchen sink with mold between the tiles, rinsing diced tomatoes and crooked green jalapeño rings. “A heart for a heart. And my heart’s more than what she’s used to, I’ll tell you that. You couldn’t find better if you went door-to-door from every house in the tithe-projects.”
When the Queen learned that she could not have a child, she cried for three days. She cried in the clinic in Switzerland, on the shoulder of the doctor, an expert on women’s complaints, leaving tear stains on his white coat. She cried on the train through Austria, while the Alps slipped past the window of her compartment, their white peaks covered with snow.
Darwin thought he might be more alive than other people. Not a whole lot, but ever increasingly, until finally, in a checkout line at Target, he was the last person left alive but his checker. Gabriella, her nametag said, and she was drifting off. Good for her he was the sort of person who reads nametags. Good for them both.
There is a werewolf girl in the city. She sits by the phone on a Saturday night, waiting for it to ring. She paints her nails purple.