Listen, listen, hush, listen. You’re wrong about the war. You’re wrong about why the world is changing. Why it is dying all around us. That the Gods, many and unknowable be they, wanted this: That’s what you were taught, that’s what you believe. That’s why they gave the Memra their fire beasts and the drawing light that they wield so wildly. That’s why the Reach sings those great stone men into being to crush that flaming war machine.
Death takes much and in return it offers Susan P—- only clarity. She finds herself in a great gray desert and knows her life has ended. Clad in a royal dress, she carries a bow and quiver, and a finely-carved ivory horn dangles from her throat. A tremor of fear shakes her. She’s not possessed such things in many years. Has she returned to His world? But Susan doesn’t recognize this bleak land, this starless black sky.
The villain won. It is that simple. By means fair or foul (but of course mostly foul), he has crushed the opposition, defeated all his enemies, and established absolute control over a domain that is, now and forever, entirely defined by his whims. Has he conquered the world? Perhaps his accomplishment is nothing that insignificant. Perhaps he has overcome a galactic empire.
“I’m so cold,” said the woman in white. I didn’t have anything to offer her. No cozy sweater, wool coat, or scarf. Looking at her, though, I wondered if she’d want anything of mine. She had her own sense of style. Her clothes, all white, made my greys look grubby and drab. “Aren’t you cold?” she said. I shrugged. “I’m used to it.” It was dusk. I’d been walking alongside the road out of town. The locals called it Bad Luck Bends.
Two days after my brother turned seventeen, he was gone, just like he’d guaranteed my dad. No sad goodbyes, no notes, no taking a knee in the hall before dawn to give me any good advice for high school when I got there. My mom’s story when anybody asked was that he’d moved out, he was old enough, he needed room, it was completely natural. My dad, if asked, would just shrug, knock back the rest of his can of beer, and say he hoped Rance was in the military.
Marisol stared into the cave, breathing in the stomach-turning scent of decay that meant a dragon’s den was inside. I held my handkerchief over my nose and mouth so that I wouldn’t gag. “You’re sure this is the one?” “Definitely.” She scratched the stub of her left arm where it tucked into the metal hinge, just above where her elbow had once been.
Gather round while Dusty Boots continues this tale from the Great Sweet Sea.
I have heard it on the rumors that when the tale-spinner’s guild gathers in their secret places, a full half of them are sworn to never tell the truth, and the other half to never tell a lie, even if it mean their life. Being one of that trade myself, I can tell you that’s more or less the shape of it, and I tell you so that you will know that the tale I tell you now is true, just as it happened and just as it was told to me.
Alta owns the Menagerie: a twin-gabled, brown shingled colossus. The whole house sits on the eastern edge of a square green park on Larkin Street, and is teethed with a row of white windows that overlook the street where Alta stands, having walked this early morning from North Beach to Russian Hill. Her reflection gleams in oiled blacks and white, caught in a larger dormer window.
When it begins to snow, it never stops. Perhaps not for you, but another iteration of you—a manifestation of your wild possibilities. I hope it’s not you, for my sake. When it begins to snow, the sky comes down in sharp, precise fragments, and you press your forehead against the window and think: don’t ever stop. And it doesn’t. I don’t want it to be you, because when it begins to snow, the world ends.