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.
The story goes that Jackson Chua, of Chua Drugstore: King of Pills, finally slept the sleep of the dead for the price of one carton of rat poison. For days there was nothing else to say but, Well, that marriage was going nowhere, He was nearly bankrupt anyway, He couldn’t take any more of his mother’s demand for a son. Shameless lies, especially the third, because old Mrs. Chua was the type who played the bouzouki at a faux-Greek restaurant.
Meet Hermes Maleficarum, the reclusive force behind the multiverse’s biggest publishing house. A mystery generations in the making. The first thing I notice about Hermes was how unlike the rest of his family he seems. Hermes’ parents, Taliesin and his wife Morgana, were something of a power couple in the magic business, cutting a twin swath like obsidian blades at every fashionable event.