PodCastle 332: Zeraquesh in Absentia

by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Read by Amal El-Mohtar

Originally published in The Dark, February 2014. Read it here.

In the city of Zeraquesh, each shadow is the shape of candlelight held still. A citizen leaving the comfort of roof and walls can expect to attract several hauntings at every corner turned. Such ghosts may be shed only under the light of anglerfish refracted through a prism. Most households keep at least one about.

The hunter has armed herself with a calligraphic blade refined in the stomachs of freedom fighters and a gun whose bullets invert probability. It is the second upon which she most depends, though it fires only under very particular conditions, in a unique location: but that is all right, for her purpose is singular. Neither is it a weapon of blunt force, for manipulating potential is a subtle art. Everything has to align just right. The chamber contains two bullets, no more.

For the moment she uses the blade, which spills couplets and proverbs so ancient they will cut through any armor and slice apart iron as easily as paper. That is how she makes an entrance for herself through the ziggurat walls, in negation of propriety, law, and good sense.

But she is used to having her way. The percussion of her footfalls lends surety to her path and the firebrand of her blade keeps the hauntings at bay. She climbs spirals, steps across roofs on which stone phoenixes and kirin nest, pushes through windowpanes in which faces not her own are reflected.

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