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Monthly Archives: November 2007


“You’ve got your standard lunch-table factions in here,” says Hiram, “your lacrosse jocks, band geeks, cheerleaders and–”

“Let me guess,” says Alaric, “goths?”

“Visigoths, actually,” says Hiram.

“Are they still into self-mutilation and the Cure?”

“No. Just sacking.”

The Visigoths sack the pizza line; their leader whoops and whirls a heat lamp around his head. Some of them have ponies.

“I think the administration would be annoyed,” says Hiram, “if they didn’t produce such advanced metalworks.”

“I want a pony!”

“You should join.”

Alaric does, and learns that they sack so much because they never get any lunch money.


Dacelo’s handwriting tilts as it advances, like a man on a drunken boat, until by the ragged right edge it’s nearly horizontal. It always starts again straight and tall on the next line, though. It speaks to Proserpina of an endlessly misplaced optimism.

He spells everything right but misplaces the ends of his adverbs; his stationery is scented, filched from a woman’s desk. Proserpina remembers the absence of his mother at their dinner together.

She folds the letter and slips it under the lining of the chest at the foot of her bunk. Very sincerely, he says in closing. Your servant.


“Bonfire” comes from “bone-fire,” which is to say a fire that can turn calcium to ash: so a very hot fire indeed. You hold two bonfires in autumn and two in spring, and you drive cattle between them, lowing and foaming. It funnels their life into the planting or the harvest.

“Professional arsonists,” the police told the news. More like vocational, thinks Donnchadh, as he and the other priests watch the West Pier burn. Their fingers tingle. They’re thundering with it, the crashing strength of its iron skeleton, the gape-mouthed worship of those who shuffled its hot bright length.

The Justin

“What if the allirhinotiger is still there?” whispered the Justin, peeking over a dune.

“Amemet will stay away as long as you’re with me.” Ptah stepped over him and descended to the riverbank. “She and I have had words before. I think you dropped this.”

The Justin ran down eagerly to claim the battered and muddy Martin. “I can’t believe Stevie didn’t take it!” he exclaimed. “All right. I’ve got you, I’ve got my axe–time we blew this afterlife!”

“There’s something I must teach you before you go,” said Ptah, and the Justin was too happy to notice his implication.


“But all you do anymore is commercial crap,” protests Andrei. “What happened to your old work, in black and white?” He yanks a book off the shelf, fans it. “This! The stuff that came from–”

“The heart?” says Verity, and chokes a giggle. “Oh, please finish that sentence. And my ‘commercial work’ is at least as valid as overexposed pictures of a butter churn by a fencepost.”

“It’s selling out!”

“It’s my talent, used as I like, with money on top,” says Verity. “How long is this going to be an issue?”

“Until you kick me off your couch,” sniffs Andrei.


Revere’s musket worked well enough against the natives and their witching pelts, when first they came to Massachusetts; but after their tea party two years back the King’s men have been massing in Boston, and silversmith’s bullets won’t avail them much.

So they’ve been watching, the Masons of Liberty, and now they’re riding. The lanterns are bright in the church tower–a last-ditch signal they can’t take down. One if by land. Two if by wing.

Revere can’t let himself look back. “The Redthroats are coming!” he yelps into the swallowing night, while behind him race dark and slitted eyes.

See Me

“Aren’t you a little short for the Born Breathing?”

“What?” blinks the man wearing the death’s head. “Oh! The armor.” He pulls it off and offers a naif’s grin. “I’m See Me! I’m here to rescue you!”

“Is that really your name?” says the Princess Leaves.

“I’ve got your cogwork slave. I’m here with Ratio Tile.”

“Ratio Tile is here?” she says sharply.

“And the Wish Power is with him,” says a man in a darker death’s head, far above.

“Then he must not be allowed to escape,” says Government Cat.

“Escape is not his plan,” says Reaching the West Reaches.

The First Week

On the first day, God created man out of papier-mache, then dissolved him in water.

On the second day, God created man out of cheese and ate him.

On the third day, God created man out of other, smaller men, but they all ran away.

On the fourth day God created man out of disappearing ink.

On the fifth day God created man out of Lego.

On the sixth day God created man out of clay and then forgot to smoosh him up, and oh boy, you should have seen Its face when It got back to work on Monday.

They Shall Breathe Ashes

Legend has it that They Shall Breathe Ashes, the famous assassin, first killed at the age of nine. She was wearing a starched dress and carrying a straight razor. There was no blood on her shoes.

The first time Shelby killed anyone was at twelve, and it was a messy, desperate affair. Shelby held the lid of a toilet tank against the target’s throat until he had yellow showing through the bruises. They were both mostly naked. One of them left a fingernail on the floor.

The thing They Shall Breathe Ashes knows, and Shelby doesn’t, is how to create a legend.


Eventually this guy from the original team gets Death to let him bring Deep Blue to a chess match. He wins. People rage about the technocracy and preferential treatment, etcetera, but it turns out you can beat him with a MacBook running Rybka.

In fact, most of the the time all you need is one of those hand-cranked laptops, and soon deathless child armies rule the third world. They march the old warlords off to candy factories; the diamond business collapses. It’s a strange kind of paradise.

Death buys his own laptop but he can’t get the touchpad to work.

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