Sheila Halpern got her looks from her Momma, who died pushing her out. Died before, even, but still kept pushing. “You’re the prettiest thing in the whole darn world,” her daddy told her the day he put her on the train for the St. Polycarp’s Home for Happy Wanderers, his age-soft teeth all chipped so everything sounded muffled. She was eight years old, lice riddled, and 90% liar like her daddy.
Cats went in and out of the witch’s house all day long. The windows stayed open, and the doors, and there were other doors, cat-sized and private, in the walls and up in the attic. The cats were large and sleek and silent. No one knew their names, or even if they had names, except for the witch.
He watched her legs approach in the mirror and smiled down at the butter melting on his pancakes when she sat on the stool beside him. “You’re free to sit anywhere you like, but I can’t much promise to be good company,” he said.
I have been ordered to write an honest accounting of how I became a Midwestern Jesus and the subsequent disastrous events thereby accruing, events for which I am, I am willing to admit, at least partly to blame. I know of no simpler way than to simply begin.
Each time I find a new apprentice in these times of trouble, I remember being a girl of twelve, getting close to thirteen. The other lads and maidens my age were already starting to pair off. But I was still taking my little brother and sister to hear the Witch of the Forest of Avalon tell stories on her porch on summer evenings. The old tales always held a fascination for me.
Catherine of Aragon, sixteen years old, danced a pavane in the Spanish style before the royal court of England. Lutes, horns, and tabors played a slow, stately tempo, to which she stepped in time. The ladies of her court, who had traveled with her from Spain, danced with her, treading circles around one another—floating, graceful, without a wasted movement.
Marguerite Espinoza took her last breath as the sun slipped behind the Salt Mountains outside the expansive windows of her third floor bedchamber. Alvardo nearly missed the moment, eavesdropping to the gathered family’s whispered conversations. He had falsely predicted her passing four times in the past three days, but the passing was unmistakable. As Maestro Eusebio had said many times, “When the moment comes, you will know.” And he did.
In the Tenth Court of Hell stands the Wheel of Rebirth. Its spokes are of red lacquered wood; it creaks as demons pull it, dragging its load of souls back into the world. And before the Wheel stands the Lady.
You cannot stop an angel who truly wants to fall. This is the first thing you learn in Pandemonium. The second thing you learn in Pandemonium is how to drink absinthe.
An unseen log boomed against Wolfrun’s hull. In the last few days, Rhuan of the Grey Hall had taken to posting a lookout on the prow, to ward against just such events. This great, fat monstrosity of a river seemed at times to carry almost as much debris as it did water.