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Monthly Archives: January 2008

Reaching the West Reaches

The Loveblind Bird plumes dust, skidding down the wall of the canyon on a single foil. Bolts shatter the water. The Heavenly orbs are spinning shards of hot metal; one slices through See Me’s sail.

“You’re all clear, kid!” roars Dog Shouting.

See Me leans forward and drives his proa toward the tunnel, down into the heart of the moon.

Deep below, turning slowly, Reaching the West Reaches breathes hazy clockwork air. Something goes bright above him; seconds later, the water picks him up and carries him away at impossible speed.

He shuts the lacquer lids of his eyes and Wishes.


Maddy stretches a recipe. Kent fiddles with his father’s old turntable while Destiny sells her aunt’s LPs.

H.G. talks to his cat a lot; Eola writes stories on paper airplanes. Adamkin collects playing cards from the gutter. Landrey does her homework in Sharpie and it bleeds through six looseleaf pages. Annabelle loans her a Bic #2.

Theo died, two years ago, of “complications.” Tally sits in his old desk.

What if there’s exactly one person in the world for you?

What if you’re not the one for them?

Jeremiah scuffs his soles in time to the beat of his iPod heart.

Miss Chamuel

The left side of Baldr’s head is bald, his nose bright with veins; his blue eyes are sunken. He has no eyebrows. The ends of his fingers are scabbed, nails bitten back beyond the quick. He smells of fermented honey.

He is so beautiful.

“Where have you left your vipers, pallbearer?” he croaks, standing in the doorway of his boat.

“You’ve confused me with someone else,” says Miss Chamuel firmly. “Hardly surprising given your condition. Did you sell off this sad little heaven yourself or just sign what was thrust before you?”

“Ah,” he nods, “you keep them under your tongue.”


Shana has the vague idea that when you’re a sugar mama, your boy toy is supposed to be… well, cut. Ripped. Defined. Tanned and waxed. Not, in a word, gangly.

But when she feels his skinny hands kneading her shoulders, she has to tap mute on her bluetooth to let out an mmm. Reflected in the monitor, the logo of his stupid t-shirt makes her toes tingle.

“Hey, uh, Shana?” he says. “Maybe we could try Portal together again at lunch–”

“Busy, sweetie,” she purrs, slipping a few crisp bills from her Louis. “Go buy yourself some Playstations.”

(He does.)


The problem is that as media icons of beauty become more cartoonish in all respects, round blue eyes bulging, legs shiny as acetate, cartoons are in the uncanny valley and climbing up the other side: it’s happening much faster than the hindbrain adapts. Derek can’t help what he’s attracted to. There are whole political parties founded on that fact.

All those Japanese pedophile tentacles miss the point: what Derek wants is a girl next door, those chaste icons of cheap yesteryear. Judy Jetson. A Daphne-Velma sandwich. And oh, how hard Betty’s giggle gets him; that and her perfect, erotic hydrocephaly.


Grainy film, but it has to be, trying to freeze motion in indoor lighting when a flash would give you away. Chicago flaps them dry under red Christmas lights. There are six keys to the darkroom; a dead man has one of them, and she’s got the other five.

Two prints: the beaker halfway up its bounce, intact. The beaker at its peak, exploding. She almost expected to see a bullet piercing it. Instead it’s the cap of a pen.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asks herself.

“Yeah,” says True, behind her. Chicago chomps her tongue to kill a yelp.


They broke the lightspeed limit on communication via the simple expedient of time travel. A ChronComm network has nodes that take a message, drop back a hundred years and then start transmitting. Your message reaches a node the next star over just as you send it.

They tried having messages arrive before you sent them, but that just caused headaches.

The nodes never go anywhere–they just age really fast. What must it be like, wonders Girox as he pokes at a broken one, to have atoms older than the universe? When the Big Whimper hits, will they already be gone?


In the abandoned wings there’s no one around to notice the smoke, and anyway, it’s actually outside on the stone stoop. Proserpina sits just in the doorframe. In her hand is a crude haft, bound to the same sewing needle with which she once made sock-bunnies for crying girls. She waits until the fire’s heat turns it opalescent.

She bares her forearm. She drags the hot needle through ashy blue ink, and jabs three times.

Then she throws it aside, claps her hand over the broken skin and says some words she picked up watching boxers, because it really hurts.


“Out the lampoons!” cries Mayhap, and three Ivy men crowd up in the prow of the longboat, gleaming barbs levelled for use. Before them surges the great white hope: its boiling enormity is striped with scars, the salt-burned wounds of a long and deadly hunt.

“He’s mine today!” Mayhap exults. “Strike true!”

They do, and ropes thrum taut in E minor. His blood is black as ink. Rivulets of it lock the long scars together into glissandi, and the boat frets the wave tops like a pillbottle slide.

The hope is diving; the boat goes down. Mayhap drowns in metaphor.


Erik goes out for a haircut and some groceries. When he opens the box at home, the haircut leaps straight for his head.

“No, haircut!” says Erik. “Bad!”

The haircut grumbles and paws at the back door. Erik lets it run around in the yard a little while and shave some squirrels.

It’s at this point that Erik notices it: his reverse widow’s peak. Hanks come away in his hand and he panics, grabs the haircut, shoves it into the screaming garbage disposal.

“Jesus, Erik,” says Marivel, staring from the door.

“It’s okay!” says Erik, a bit shrilly. “It’ll grow back!”

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