by Mishell Baker
In the city of Jiun-Shi the third shift was known as the goblin watch, but some of us were not very watchful. I, for one, was so absorbed in the daily details of living a lie that it took me three months to learn that one of the regulars at the Silver Fish Teahouse was a goblin. By the time our paths collided three years later, I had been promoted to third-shift manager, and my lie had been promoted to widely established fact.
Often during my shift I furtively watched him where he sat in his guise as a human poet and scribe-for-hire. Sometimes he was alone, his narrow shoulders slumped over a crisp rectangle of paper, his fine writing brush held in his gaunt left hand. Usually there were women at his table asserting their dominance, half-offended and half-fascinated that a man would bother to educate himself so thoroughly. To their credit, he looked the part of that second-class citizen of the Empire of Ru, the human male. But I—a liar smug in my knowledge of another’s truth—pitied those women who approached him in ignorance and waded in out of their depth.
He always remained tranquil, even as suitors playfully mocked him and threaded their fingers through his bird’s-nest hair. His sharp indigo eyes were always open, even when a woman leaned in to kiss his mouth. He never corrected those who treated him as a common plaything, but without fail a more experienced patron would whisper the secret into her sister’s ear just slightly too late to keep the poor woman from becoming infatuated.
About the Author
Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede.
Her urban fantasy series The Arcadia Project is being released by Simon & Schuster’s Saga imprint, beginning with Borderline. The series is narrated by Millicent Roper, a snarky double-amputee and suicide survivor who works with a ragtag collection of society’s least-wanted, keeping the world safe from the chaotic whims of supernatural beasties.
When Mishell isn’t convention-hopping or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two changelings. When her offspring are older, she will probably remember what her hobbies are. In the meantime, she enjoys sending and receiving old-fashioned handwritten paper letters. You can write her at:
About the Narrator
Elizabeth Green as been reading stories for Podcastle through each of her different life changes: including teaching history of science at a liberal arts college, designing knitting patterns, doing freelance graphic design, and now working as the graphic designer for Girl Scouts of Central Texas. On weekends you can find her and her son playing samurai in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG. She lives in Austin, Texas.