“I’m going to do it.” Kayla Tuggins pursed her lips as she reached across the desk and handed the card to Paul. “A haunted house, of all things.”
Yeah, I’ve come to terms with it. I’m not going offworld to do anything noble, like teach aliens how to speak human languages, or to plant trees, build houses, or pass out blankets and water during emergencies. I’m going offworld to go live in the house of some rich Blorgnathian who’ll spend the next five years licking my face.
I heard someone calling…calling to me.
Is it the voice of the woman on the other side of the airlock window?
Or is it the voice of the ghost that’s trying to possess me?
“It will change nothing. I know this. I didn’t do it out of defiance, or for justice, or even fame. No one knows it is me. And no one will know. If they did, they would say it was unholy, what I’ve wrought. They would say it was unnatural. They would say it must be destroyed. As it is, they are charmed at least, mildly amused, at least. At best, they are cheered, enchanted, even inspired. So perhaps in some way, I’ve done it for vengeance? No, that’s not right either. No one should paint out of vengeance. No, if you paint, you should paint out of love.”
I watched my friend sit back and take a sip. Elna set down her cup and presented her hands to me, all eleven of them.
“The volcano was so huge that when the sun rose in the east, it would crest upon the highest peak of the volcano, and it would look like the volcano was bringing the light of the sun to the people who lived below.”
The whole thing started about eight months earlier, when Marcus handed Vinnie an ordinary-looking pair of headphones.
I could not see the edge of the knife, but I felt the promised bite of the blade at the base of my tail. Courage is a strange thing. For when you think you have it, you are wrong. And when you think you don’t have it…you are wrong.
When I stepped ever-so-carefully onto that dais where the Ritual was to begin, I thought I had all the courage I would need.
I was wrong.
My daughter and I stared at the machine.
“I like that it’s black,” she said. “And those designs are so cool. There’s so much detail. Why doesn’t ours look like this? I might even use it if it looked like this. Wait…” She turned to me. “Do you think it still works?”
I peered at the machine sitting on the kitchen table, the sewing machine that I had inherited from my grandmother almost fifteen years ago. Long before Selma was born. I hadn’t laid eyes on it in all that time (even the few times I’d moved, I’d kept it packed away or covered). And before that, I’d never seen it at all.
“How can we know for certain what the truth is, unless we seek to find it?” an aphid named Quintillion argued.
She kept her wings respectfully folded as she stood before the Council of Grand Numerators. But she dared to sweep aside the train of glittering white filaments that plumed from her back, a particular characteristic of her tribe.
“They came out of the primordium, just as we did,” she said. “They are not beasts. They are an intelligent species. They are potential companions.”
Chloe glanced again at the handsome man who was lingering at a sculpture. The sculpture was a caryatid, a column shaped like a woman, in this case, a celestial being. He gazed up at the stone carving of the heavily robed Herald of the Gods. The Herald too seemed to gaze down at him. She pointed up to the heavens with a hand that held a scroll, the scroll upon which was written the spell that brought the world into being. Her other arm bent gracefully behind her head. The sculptor had captured the moment just before the herald unrolled the scroll and read the spell. The moment when she stretched after a long journey from the center of creation to its outer edge, where the gods had deigned the mortal world should be placed. The moment before she spoke the spell and the world bloomed into existence.