Rated R for violence.
Who in Mortal Chains
by Claire Humphrey
I almost had friends in 1965.
Ryder was a brewer in those days, when brewing was a thing no one much cared to do. He was well loved among a circle of twenty or so, every one with a lost art. Mylene was a weaver; Tom worked leather; Eskil kept bees. Up on the mountain, Andy ran a print shop, with a hundred fonts of lead type, sorted by letter into a hundred wooden trays. Clifton made images with light: albumen prints, salt prints, silver negatives on glass.
I suppose I could have taught someone the art of the bayonet, or the language of signal-flags, but I was mostly just hanging around getting drunk with them. It was almost like hanging around people my own age, except that everyone my age is an asshole.
I did teach Ryder how to bake bannock over coals. We ate his first attempt with some of Eskil’s honey, and mugs of beer pulled from the cask. Clifton took a daguerreotype of all of us seated on blankets under the arbutus tree behind Ryder’s house.
He made copies for everyone, but I wrecked mine, of course.
The only thing I’ve managed to keep from that time is a rough forging from the shop of Jason the blacksmith. Steel, and therefore tempered against my temper. Jason would have made it a blade, but I told him I’d only end up cutting someone.
The rough forging sits now on the windowsill in my kitchen, half a continent away and four decades later. The window itself has been replaced by an ill-fitting piece of Plexiglas held in place with duct tape. The things I break, I cannot always fix.
About the Author
Claire Humphrey’s first novel, Spells of Blood and Kin, won the 2017 Sunburst Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Crossed Genres, PodCastle, and many other places.
About the Narrator
Julia Rios is a queer, Latinx writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Latin American Literature Today, Lightspeed, and Goblin Fruit, among other places. Their editing work has won multiple awards including the Hugo Award. Julia is a co-host of This is Why We’re Like This, a podcast about how the movies we watch in childhood shape our lives, for better or for worse. They’ve narrated stories for Escape Pod, PodCastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. Find them on Twitter as @omgjulia.