by Cat Rambo
Read by Rachel Swirsky
Originally Published in Fantasy Magazine
They line up before Laurana, forty baked-clay heads atop forty bodies built of metal cylinders. Every year she casts and fires new heads to replace those lost to weather, the wild, or simple erosion. She rarely replaces the metal bodies. They are scuffed and battered, over a century old.
Every morning, the island sun beating down on her pale scalp, she stands on the maison’s porch with the golems before her. Motionless. Expressionless.
She chants. The music and the words fly into the clay heads and keep them thinking. The golems are faster just after they have been charged. They move more lightly, with more precision. With more joy. Without the daily chant they could go perhaps three days at most, depending on the heaviness of their labors.
This month is cane-planting season. She delegates the squads of laborers and sets some to carrying buckets from the spring to water the new cane shoots while others dig furrows. The roof needs reshingling, but it can wait until planting season is past. As the golems shuffle off, she pauses to water the flowering bushes along the front of the house. Placing her fingertips together, she conjures a tiny rain cloud, wringing moisture from the air. Warm drops collect on the leaves, rolling down to darken pink and gray bark to red and black.
Rated PG: Contains a Rush of Sugary Sweetness (No Corn Syrup or Artificial Flavoring!)