My tangled hair does not impede desire. My excavated belly, loose sagging skin, does not make her avert her eyes. Her fingers touch the scars of birth and do not shy away. Her mouth closes over the coldness of my skin and does not spit it out.
I am a ghost, and she does not mind.
There is a thing in the cradle I rock, a lump of flesh, stained in my fluids. This is what killed me. A parasite that took all my food, stole all my breaths, until one day I woke up to find my heart stopped.
It was cold and growing colder, and the moon was rising, and Hell was nowhere to be found. Comrade Blotsky and Comrade Lvov were quarreling bitterly.
“Dunce! You’ve read the compass wrong, as always!”
“I didn’t read the compass wrong! Commander Tchernov said we mustn’t trust the map! Blockhead!”
This had been going on for quite some time. While they quarreled, the sky had faded from ice-blue to bruise-purple, and the moon had risen cold as a ball of clenched snow. Dark pooled in low hollows beneath the ink-stroke birches and shadows moved within the frosty mist. Stag-like shapes that moved like men.
Rated R: Contains Soldiers, War, Devils, and Hell.
I’m going to tell you a story about llamas. It will be like every other story you’ve ever heard about llamas: how they are covered in fine scales; how they eat their young if not raised properly; and how, at the end of their lives, they hurl themselves – lemming-like- over cliffs to drown in the surging sea. They are, at heart, sea creatures, birthed from the sea, married to it like the fishing people who make their livelihood there.
We at PodCastle are very proud to present a little piece of extra fantasy non-fiction. We don’t know how often we’ll present essays to you, but this one felt like it was worth doing something we haven’t really done before. We hope it challenges you. We hope it inspires you. We hope it makes you think. As always, thank you for listening.
(And don’t worry – We’ll have a fantasy fiction story for you in the next few days!)
I looked around the table. Most of the people there weren’t paying much attention. Lansky looked a little embarrassed, and Siegel shook his head. “You want me to find out if Chaim Goldberg can turn lead into gold, or if he’s running some sort of scam,” I said.
“Of course he’s running a scam,” said Lansky. “I want to know how he’s doing it.”
“My friend Meyer is unfortunately narrow-minded,” said Rothstein. “I am willing to entertain the possibility that he’s getting his gold through means that are not generally considered possible. Which is why I have entrusted this task to your care.”
“So you want me to find out where Goldbug is getting his gold from,” I said. “And?”
“No and,” said Rothstein. “Just that. It’s a simple job, and I’ll give you a thousand dollars for doing it.”
“A thousand dollars is a lot of money, Benny,” said Legs, putting his oar in. “Live things up a little, show your girl a good time.”