We find Florence Collins in the most unlikely of places: a dive bar called Tyko’s Haunt on the edge of Sea City’s factory district. Gone is her silver spandex, shimmering like frost, her white leather boots and gloves, the blue crystal necklace nestled in the hollow of her neck. She stands behind the bar slinging drinks, a dark flannel shirt hanging loosely over a stained black t-shirt, her jeans held up with a wide leather belt and a massive Sea City Stags belt buckle. We make sure to get some closeups.
In the main tent, around the sand and dirt floor of the arena, a wooden wall is erected eight-feet tall. The worn, angled seating rises from there. A makeshift gate sits on the side where the opponents emerge, and another across from it from where I emerge. Real boulders dot the floor for cover or weapons, or both. Everything is wood or stone, nothing metal.
“I’ve had plenty enough experience with magnetic controllers to know that a little fire ain’t so bad,” Mother Circus would say.
Whether you are adopting by chance because you found the smoking crater on your property or whether you volunteered for the Zeptonian Childcare Service, congratulations and thank you! There is no more rewarding choice you will make in your lifetime.
Makeisha has always been able to bend the fourth dimension, though no one believes her. She has been a soldier, a sheriff, a pilot, a prophet, a poet, a ninja, a nun, a conductor (of trains and symphonies), a cordwainer, a comedian, a carpetbagger, a troubadour, a queen, and a receptionist. She has shot arrows, guns, and cannons. She speaks an extinct Ethiopian dialect with a perfect accent. She knows a recipe for mead that is measured in aurochs horns, and with a katana, she is deadly.
Her jumps happen intermittently. She will be yanked from the present without warning, and live a whole lifetime in the past. When she dies, she returns right back to where she left, restored to a younger age. It usually happens when she is deep in conversation with her boss, or arguing with her mother-in-law, or during a book club meeting just when it is her turn to speak. One moment, Makeisha is firmly grounded in the timeline of her birth, and the next, she is elsewhere. Elsewhen.
Makeisha has seen the sun rise over prehistoric shores, where the ocean writhed with soft, slimy things that bore the promise of dung beetles, Archeopteryx, and Edgar Allan Poe. She has seen the sun set upon long-forgotten empires. When Makeisha skims a map of the continents, she sees a fractured Pangaea. She never knows where she will jump next, or how long she will stay, but she is never afraid. Makeisha has been doing this all her life.
Rated R. Contains violence.
Editors’ Note: Please hang out after the episode for an announcement from Dave and Anna. Additionally, you can check out Dave’s blog here.
When my daughter was one year old, I loved her for her smile. Anything could tempt her to joy—my own smile, the noises of cooking food, the proximity of the black kitten I gifted her upon her arrival.
What a fool I made of myself, contorting my face and making unlady-like sounds. All I needed was another giggle and the game would go on. She couldn’t yet ask questions I couldn’t answer and was delighted by the information I volunteered. “Kitty,” “No, it’s hot,” and “Boo!” all brought smiles. Even when she disobeyed me, I never struck her. My disappointment was enough to bring her to tears and she would pour herself dry on my bosom before looking up once again with a hopeful smile. Did I forgive her?
Of course I did.
When my daughter was five, I loved her for her eyes. They were the impossible purplish hue of forget-me-nots. We don’t have them in the salt marsh where I built our tower. Her eyes told me what she would say before she said it. But sometimes she still surprised me.
I bit my tongue when she asked me why our house had no windows on the bottom floor. She still hadn’t conceived of a “door.” I knew she would ask some day, but then, on that cool April morning, I wasn’t prepared.
“The sea rages in the winter, poppet. We don’t have room for her to live with us, do we?”
Rated R. Contains violence, including some suggestions of . It’s a fairy tale retelling, after all.
Originally published as a novella by Subterranean Press. Pick up your copy here!
It was the twenty-eighth of April, 188- and a day of warmth, beauty, and commerce in the crowded streets of London, but Lord Carmichael’s features had a distinctly wintery aspect. He stood by the front window of the King Street flat, scowling down at the cobbled streets. The snifter of brandy in his left hand was all but forgotten. Behind his back, Meriwether caught Balfour’s gaze and lifted his eyebrows. Balfour stroked his broad mustache and cleared his throat. The sound was very nearly an apology. For a long moment, it seemed Lord Carmichael had not so much as heard it, but then he heaved a great sigh and turned back to the men.
The flat itself was in a state of utter disarray. The remains of the breakfast sat beside the empty fire grate, and the body of a freshly slaughtered pig lay stretched out across the carpeted floor, its flesh marked out in squares by lines of lampblack and a variety of knives protruding from it, one in each square. Meriwether’s silver flute perched upon the mantle in a nest of musical notation, and a half-translated treatise on the effects of certain new world plant extracts upon human memory sat abandoned on the desk. Lord Carmichael’s eyes lifted to the two agents of the Queen as he stepped over the porcine corpse and took his seat.
“I’m afraid we have need of you, boys,” Lord Carmichael said. “Daniel Winters is missing.”
“Surely not an uncommon occurrence,” Meriwether said, affecting a lightness of tone. “My understanding was that our friend Winters has quite the reputation for losing himself in the fleshpots of the empire between missions. I would have expected him to have some difficulty finding himself, most mornings.”
“He wasn’t between missions,” Lord Carmichael said. “He was engaged in an enquiry.”
“Queen’s business?” Balfour said.
“Indirectly. It was a blue rose affair.”
Balfour sat forward, thick fists under his chin and a flinty look in his eyes. Among all the concerns and intrigues that Lord Carmichael had the managing of, the blue rose affairs were the least palatable not from any moral or ethical failure — Balfour and Meriwether understood the near-Jesuitical deformations of ethics and honor that the defense of the Empire could require — but rather because they were so often lacking in the rigor they both cultivated. When a housewife in Bath woke screaming that a fairy had warned her of a threat against the Queen, it was a blue rose affair. When a young artist lost his mind and slaughtered prostitutes, painting in their blood to open a demonic gate, it was a blue rose affair. When a professor of economics was tortured to the edge of madness by dreams of an ancient and sleeping god turning foul and malefic eyes upon the human world, it was a blue rose affair. And so almost without fail, they were wastes of time and effort, ending in conformations of hysteria that posed no threat and offered no benefit to anyone sane. Meriwether took his seat, propping his heels on the dead pig. As if in response, a bit of trapped gas escaped the hog like a sigh.
Rated R: Contains violence and monsters in the Victorian fashion.