As far as she could remember, the Lady had never been outside the tower. She might have been born here. She assumed she had been born, but maybe not. Maybe she just appeared, her complete adult self, flowing red hair and porcelain skin, dressed in a gown of blue trimmed with gold, with no memory of anything outside these rounded walls. All day, every day, she wove a tapestry set on a loom against the wall. She might have been weaving forever, and she didn’t know if she would ever finish.
Hastinaga was ablaze with word of Vrath’s amazing feat. Vrath’s stepmother, Dowager Empress Jilana, while taken aback at the manner in which it had been done, nevertheless bit her tongue when she saw what he had accomplished. That the two daughters of the king of Serapi were beautiful there was no doubt. At the wedding, they were the envy of every woman in the court. Tall, with full heads of thick, lustrous blue-black hair, fingernails and toenails painted blood red, heavy of hip and breast, heart-faced with a glow to rival the moon, they walked like queens already.
En route to visit my girlfriend in Indiana, I pull over at a rest stop in Illinois to wash my face. It is not my first mistake of the day, but it is the biggest. The bathroom is full of people. I see them before I place my glasses on the sink. I realize I am flinching after my body is already tight with worry; she will be enraged if I am late again. Children with juice-stained mouths are at the sinks on either side of me. A middle-aged woman with a deflated handbag scolds them. They scream, she screams, all of it rising above the rush of the tap. The water smells vaguely sulfurous, like the Fountain of Youth.
Elaine broke her curse like a mirror, heedless of the shards that scattered across the floor. The guests at the party laughed, applauded, whooped with delight at her reckless abandon. She offered them an exaggerated curtsy, holding the pose as she held their eyes, reveling in their gaze, in the simple pleasure of being seen. The broken pieces of the curse slid into liquid, shimmering like mercury before fogging into smoke and disappearing.
After decades of warring, a time of peace came to the Krushan dynasty. The great armies of the Burnt Empire set aside their battle armor and weapons in exchange for flowers and rice. A great celebration lit up the streets of Hastinaga, the capital city. The marriage of Emperor Sha’ant and his unusual new Empress, Jilana. The daughter of a fisher chief married to the Emperor of the greatest empire in the known world!
Sonny, his cousin, was from Houston, but being from the city wasn’t why Witt found him interesting. It was that while Witt believed in everything—God, the Devil, spooks, not spilling salt without throwing some over your shoulder—Sonny believed in absolutely nothing. Not 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination, not heaven or hell. The way he talked, Witt sometimes wondered if Sonny believed in him.
You’ll notice how the commercials never mention the price. They’ve all got some lab-coated guy with chiseled cheekbones spouting dumbed-down drivel about how emotions have wavelengths, the same as light or sound, which are reflected and absorbed by the objects around us. How this discovery has the potential to revolutionize your life. Yes, you, the one glued to your screen at three a.m., binging YouTube videos.
I got the healing touch when I was sixteen years old kneeling over my dying cat Benjamin in my bedroom. He was trying to crawl under the bed to die, but I wouldn’t let him, hauling him out and wrapping my body around him, my forehead pressed against his. He was a year older than me. He’d been there my whole life. I couldn’t imagine life without him. He stopped breathing, his heart stopped, and I prayed for him, though I rarely prayed then.
The nation greeted Vrath with great warmth and approval. The Burnt Empire regarded its liege as nothing less than a demi-god; in a sense, this was not far from the truth: Whether or not the Krushan dynasty was in fact born of stonefire, they were certainly something more than human. In the Krushan tongue, which was the official language of the capitol Hastinaga and the rest of the Empire, there was no word for “lie” or “falsehood.”
Okay. So. There’s a time when I’m looking for Coyote, because I need to tell him this story. So, I walk the St. Lawrence River from one end to the other, and I cannot find him. Check the Rockies—he is not there. I even paddle to Baffin Island, because he likes to sleep on it. It is Coyote-shaped, a little. He’s not anywhere. But me, I have a story to tell, and so I look for someone else. Raven is not home, and Muskrat is doing Netflix and chill.