A hundred years ago, the blind instrument-maker known as Alem Das, or Alem the Master, made a dulcimer whose sound was sweeter, more passionate, and more filled with longing than any instrument that had ever been made.
Akamiko arrived three days before the anniversary of the Lady of All Colors’ death. The village held a small market filled with stalls selling fish and vegetables, and a bathhouse stood by the river. It was hard to imagine the Lady of All Colors growing up here.
Let the world tell all the lies it wants; I was there in the Year of the Children, and I know the truth. This is how it happened.
Six feet tall, the statue had been carved from wood that retained most of its whiteness, even though the date cut into its base read 2005, seven years ago. Jim thought the color might be due to its not having been finished—splinters stood out from the wood’s uneven surface—but didn’t know enough about carpentry to be certain.
Sigmund stepped over the New Doctor, dropping a subway token onto her devastated body. He stepped around the spreading shadow of his best friend, Carlsbad, who had died as he’d lived: inconclusively, and without fanfare.
She paced the stones, her feet separated from the chill by sable-lined slippers. She was cold despite them, cold from her toes to her crown. Perhaps it was the vengeance of the fire, that she had not joined her husband in its embrace. Long ago, he had decided that he wished to be immolated in the manner of their ancestors.
The girl surprised everyone. To begin with, no one in the world below had thought her parents would have more children. Her parents’ marriage had created quite a scandal, a profound clash of philosophical extremes; for her father was the Master of the Mountain, a brigand and sorcerer, who had carried the Saint of the World off to his high fortress.
Tristram was certain she would never have made the attempt had she not heard that it was a thing other children often did. She did so want to be like other children—lolling about like great striped cats, batting at moths with oversized paws, snapping at dust-motes with wet pink jaws.
The swings hang perfectly still in the windless dawn. I come here most mornings to stand among the abandoned jungle gyms and sliding boards; sometimes the swings squeak, sometimes they are still, but either way the equation comes to loss. Either way I think of Sarah.