Category : fiction

Long Way Home

In the labyrinth of the City of Owls, I tore the right sleeve of my shirt on an oak railing while running to your door to tell you I was a new person, changed, renewed, revitalized, no longer living painfully and robotically under the slate clouds of a depression I barely understood. But at the ripping sound of my sleeve, caught on a loose spike of wood, my heart began to race like a horse under the lash. Sweat blossomed on my brow. My hands trembled. Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. I balled my hands into tight, white-knuckled fists and kicked a half-full trash can, spilling rotten orange peels and baby teeth into the street, startling an old poet sleeping in the gutter.

I took ten deep breaths and focused my gaze on a glass statuette of a hedgehog in the window of the shop next to me. I unclenched my hands. And I quickly forgot what I was doing, where I was going, why I was out in the streets. I didn’t forget you, it’s important that you know that, but I lost myself in a scarlet haze of panic and disorientation–briefly–and when I came out again, I was almost a blank slate, lost in an unfamiliar world, tranquilly confused.

I abandoned my quest to get to you and wandered the twisting streets of the city, singing quietly and tunelessly to myself, like the ghost of a rambling troubadour in a maze of smoky mirrors. I’m not sure if I’ve come out of that maze or not. I’m not sure of anything anymore. And so I continue to move through my days and nights, dreaming of you but unable to find you, wishing I’d taken a different route in the underground walkways beneath the Square of Moths and Candles.

The Museum of Lost Geographies

I first heard about the Museum of Lost Geographies from my cousin, Noah. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but he had come into town for my father’s funeral, and we were both eager to get caught up on each other’s lives. At first, we merely talked about jobs we’d had, places we’d traveled, relationships we’d been in since we last saw each other. Soon, though, we fell to talking about obscure bits of information and half-remembered stories we’d heard, just as we’d done when we were both much younger. Although now we drank beer while we talked.

“I was meeting a client in Chicago a few weeks ago,” he told me. “One of those guys who had hit it big during the Dot Com Boom then lost it all when the bubble burst. Some of those people had just gone for whatever corporate jobs they could find. Others had picked themselves up and rebuilt themselves, finding new ways to be entrepreneurs. But this guy was one of those who just lost it all. His spirit had been broken. He was the IT manager for a school system in the Chicago ‘burbs, but his heart wasn’t in it at all. We were meeting to discuss some software I was developing for the schools, but he didn’t even really care. When we met, he seemed to be barely paying attention to what I was saying. His eyes were constantly distracted and far away.”

“Probably just bored with his job,” I said. “I know a lot of people like that. I’ve been someone like that. I can sympathize.” (more…)

Sebastião’s Adventure

I once had a dream about a movie adaptation of a book that’s never been written, and the movie went like this:

An orphan boy named Sebastião lives with a troupe of traveling performers, a carnival of sorts. The troupe is presided over by an old woman everyone simply calls “Mamãe.” Mamãe spends most of her time cooking and cleaning, but also keeping track of the troupe’s finances, making sure everyone in the troupe is happy, and dispensing motherly advice when needed. She may not be everyone’s real mother, but she certainly acts like she is.

One day, the troupe arrives in a small, dusty town in the back country. The town is mostly ramshackle buildings of wood planks and sheets of tin. The troupe sets up their tents and carts right in the town, settling into some abandoned houses as well. They quickly become friendly with the townsfolk while they prepare for a run of performances.

A magician lives in town. He’s never been on a big stage or in a big city. His performances are strictly local, for very little money, if any at all. He seethes with jealousy at the arrival of the performing troupe. They live the life he’s always wanted and now they’ve moved into his performance territory. How dare they! He struts through the town in his black tuxedo and black cape, daring the performers to challenge him to some sort of theatrical duel, but he’s ignored by both the visiting troupe and his fellow townsfolk. This makes him even angrier.

Sebastião is intrigued by the magician. The troupe has many different performers, but no magician, and the boy has always been fascinated by magic. He follows the magician through town, moving like a small shadow, slipping through streets and alleys as agile as a cat, unseen by the angry magician.

Sebastião trails the magician as the man sneaks into the troupe’s lodgings. He watches as the magician looks for a way to sabotage the troupe’s performances. The boy lets out a little gasp when he sees Mamãe walk in to discover the magician. “Who are you?” Mamãe asks. “What are you doing here?” The magician says nothing, shocked into silence. Mamãe looks him up and down. “Are you a performer?” she asks him. He nods. “Come with me.” She grabs his gloved hand and leads him to her kitchen. Sebastião follows silently.

In the middle of the kitchen is a huge, wood table, covered with onions, cabbages, and carrots. “I’m making a soup,” she tells the magician. “Help me chop the vegetables.” She hands him a large chopping knife. The two of them chop up the onions, the cabbages, the carrots. While they work, Mamãe questions him more. “What kind of performer are you?”

“I’m a magician,” he stammers out.

“Are you any good?” she asks.

“Well,” he says, clearing his throat dramatically, “I believe I am. But I’ve never made it out of this region. Sadly, my reputation has never made it as far as the big cities.”

“Huh,” Mamãe grunts. They continue chopping in silence, until Mamãe says, “Would you like to join our troupe? We don’t have a magician among us, but we could use one. We’d be happy to have you.”

The magician stops cutting, stunned at the offer. He looks up at Mamãe, perhaps to see if she’s making him a serious offer or just teasing him. She looks up at him. They look each other in the eyes. Sebastião sees it flowing between them like waves of hot, summer air: a sudden connection of love. Mamãe sees within the man a tremendous loneliness, a fear of dying alone and forgotten. The magician sees within Mamãe a powerful ocean of love she is happy to share with everyone. He could swim in that ocean for the rest of his life. He could drown in it, but he knows Mamãe would never let him drown.

Sebastião runs out from where he’s hiding, grabs the magician by the hand, and says, “Please, stay with us! Stay with us! Teach me magic so I can grow up to be a magician, too!” The boy is bursting with excitement. The magician looks down at Sebastião’s grinning, beaming face. He looks up at Mamãe’s face, so full of love and kindness.

He nods, slowly at first, but then more vigorously. “Yes,” he says, “I’ll join your troupe.”

Mamãe smiles warmly at him, then shakes her head and chuckles, looking back at her vegetables. “It’s not going to be easy,” she says. “The roads we travel are rough, our performances not always welcome. Our troupe is often like a family, squabbling and feuding.” She hacks a large cabbage in half. “But I think you’re making the right decision.”

City of Song

The signs are there, if only Kay can see. She really doesn’t need to feel so all alone. This world is wonderful. This world is free. She wanders city streets, trying to be a seeker in a labyrinth of stone, with paths and signs that only she can see.

The streets are twisting, turning under her feet. Kay’s lost, alone, and yet not so alone. This night is powerful. This night is free. She could unlock the dark with the right key, carved from marble, sapphire, ice, oak, or bone. The doors are there, if only she can see.

Kay asks for help, no gods to hear her plea, but she sees lights, as if from stars they shone. This city’s magical. This city’s free. Kay finally sees this fits her to a T, to walk the night as if it’s the streets she owns. The signs are there, if only she can see. This world is wonderful. This world is Kay’s.

The Sign of the Star as an Act of War

It was a ceremony of difference, a whispering campaign: Presidential candidate Roland Child, the Fool in Yellow, posted an arcane, anti-Semitic image yesterday morning, causing a terrible backlash and further confirming that his petty cabinet is made from insane, chained puppets, well beyond the usual boundaries of politics, and they all fled for the factories of fear, those ungainly misfits.

The image featured a picture of his rival, Mallory Castor, the Mistress of the Crows, dressed as a magician with a six-pointed star next to her face. She was offering up chaos and mud. He claimed she happened to betray him, and the star turned mainly from yellow to red. (more…)