Zeraquesh in Absentia
by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
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.
About the Author
Benjanun Sriduangkaew writes love letters to the future and beautiful bugs. Her fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others.
About the Narrator
Amal El-Mohtar is an award-winning author and critic. She is the science fiction and fantasy columnist for the New York Times Book Review and the co-author, with Max Gladstone, of This Is How You Lose the Time War, which to date has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Best Novella. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa, and you can find her on Twitter @Tithenai or subscribe to her newsletter at amal.substack.com.