Friday, May 29, 2009

A More Dangerous Kind of Love

So it turns out that story that I was writing in alternation with the dissertation wanted to be flash fiction. (Well, at least for now it does. I have the suspicion that this may be an idea I return to.)

I have been thinking a lot recently about the relationship between the artist and her fans, and the component parts of that relationship. And then something along the weird and creepy end of that spectrum happened to a friend of mine. I wrote this in response to that, and in a way, I suppose it's a thought experiment. But it's also a story. 

****

A More Dangerous Kind of Love

            I am a very subtle sort of vampire.

            Oh, I can bear the sunlight. I do not sublime into mist or shapeshift into wolf or bat. Should we meet, I will not seek your blood. But if you wish it, I will feed from you, all the same.

            The girl walks slowly through the bookstore, finger tracing the shelves as her dark eyes scan the new arrivals. Her gaze stutters and snaps back. The new Scarlett Thompson novel, on the shelf a few days before the official release. Eyes bright, cheeks flushed, the girl grabs the book, fingers smearing the slick cover, and makes her way to the cashier’s stand.

            I don’t write in public. The idea that someone might see a poorly executed phrase, read a sentence that still contains an infelicitous word feels like pins under my fingernails when I consider it. What I do may be smoke and mirrors, but I want to light the fire, set the angles of reflection. And there is nothing for me in those furtive glances.

            The girl opens the book as soon as she gets home, carefully separating the pages that hadn’t quite been cut, stroking her fingers over them as if she needs to absorb the words through her skin. As if she can. She brushes her hand over the tattoo on her shoulder – “Give space to those who dream dangerously” – her favorite Scarlett Thompson quotation, and begins to read.

            I do, however, quite enjoy seeing people read my books. It makes my blood effervesce. I’ll watch them from the corner of my eye, memorize the expressions flickering across their faces. On those days, when I go home to write, the words come more easily, the stories speak more clearly in my mind.

            The girl devours the novel in great gulps of text, letting Scarlett’s words – for that was how she thought of her, always, as Scarlett – wash over her like the waters of baptism. She gives herself over to the rhythm of the prose, sustaining herself on sentences and paragraphs rather than food or sleep. She feels as if Scarlett has written the story especially for her.

            I recognize them at signings. The ones whose eyes shine just a glimmer too brightly, whose pulse leaps if I shake their hand. They radiate desire like electrical fields.

            I love all my fans, but those, the radiant ones, they feed me.

            The girl closes the cover of the novel, with slow, reverent motions. She closes her eyes as well, breathes the story into her lungs, her bloodstream, her soul. She can still see the last, perfect sentence on the inside of her eyelids. She remains that way, motionless, absorbing, contemplative. An acolyte in the presence of a holy relic.

            The girl stands, goes to her computer, begins her ritual. She opens her files, reads the date of Scarlett’s birth, July 13, luck and its opposite in balance. She gazes at the dot on the map that represents the place where Scarlett lives. The place where someday the girl would go. She recites the bits she has transcribed from the rare short stories that Scarlett has never published, but reads from at signings. The girl has never spoken to Scarlett at a signing, but one day, one day soon, she will.

            I stand behind the podium, smooth my hands over the pages still warm from the printer, smudging the ink slightly. I close my eyes and let the longing of the audience fill me. It prickles my eyelids and I can taste it like a dark, rich wine when I breathe. Some might call it by a coarser name, but I call it love, what they offer, their eager faces and hushed anticipation. They crave pieces of me, and I am sustained by their craving.

            I sip from the convenient glass, and, refreshed, begin to read.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interlude

I am very nearly recovered from WisCon. My dear house guests have gone home. The last load of laundry is tumbling in the drier downstairs, and there is food in the house. An enormous stack of new books sits atop my "to be read" pile. 

I returned to the minutiae of normal life today, taking myself to the social security office to commit the arcane rituals necessary to acquire a new social security card. I was prepared for a boring wait, but there was a gentleman there who roared. Constantly. In a manner that he seemed to think was communicative. He was quite polite about it, and everyone else there was diligently ignoring him. It was a bit surreal, and not at all boring.

The dissertation chapters I recently turned in are almost, but not quite, where they ought to be. So I should be working on them right now, but there is a story pinching at the edges of my consciousness. I'm not sure if it's flash, or a regular short story. If it turns out to be the former, I'll post it up here. 

Don't worry. I won't ever inflict the dissertation on you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

WisCon 33 and thoughts on heros

That all-knowing "they," who seem to have rules for nearly everything, tell you not to meet your heros. Because, they say, heros are just people, just like you. They have foibles and bad days, and if you meet your heros, you will always be disappointed.

They lie.

If you define "hero" as someone I look up to or admire, I have always had writers among my heros. There have been, and are, others, of course, and someday I may tell you about some of them as well, but there have always been writers. In the past couple of years of my life, I've gotten to meet some of the people whose work caused me to hold them up as heros in my profession. 

This past weekend, at WisCon, I met a lot of them. And it was wonderful. Not once did I meet someone and realize that I no longer wanted to read their work because of their personality. (In fact, I met a lot of new people whose books I bought because they were interesting, intelligent, friendly people.) As with so many of the writers I have met, what I found in meeting my heros this past weekend, was not people with feet of clay, but people who offered shoulders of support.  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An update which isn't really

Fabulous Clarion classmate E.J. arrived yesterday, and fabulous Clarion classmate Keffy will arrive Very Early tomorrow, and then, lo, we well make our pilgrimage to the strange and wondrous place called "Wisconsin." We will then attend WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention, where our fabulous Clarion instructor, Geoff Ryman, will be one of the Guests of Honor. Old friends will be seen, new friends will be met, and it will be wonderful.

So I may not be blogging over the weekend. But I will miss you all, very much. Be good while I'm gone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The blade itself

I returned to competitive fencing about a month ago. It's pretty much been great. I love my club, and the people I train with. My coaches are wonderful. Both are reading my novel draft (fencing is fairly important in the story) and Ro is actually doing a tech read for me, making sure that my terminology is accurate, and that everything I have on the page actually works. (I blocked the scenes while writing, obviously, traumatizing the neighbors by fencing with myself in a blizzard, and traumatizing my brother by practicing disemboweling him over the Christmas holidays, but it's nice to have someone double check these things.)

I had some expectations of how things would go when I started training again, and nearly all of them were wrong. I'm about a 25 mile a week runner, and I thought I was in shape. Which I am, but not fencing shape. So that was a rude shock. I started thinking like a fencer again much earlier than I thought I would, which is awesome, but it also means that my brain is faster than my hand right now. So I'll see a line, and move into it too late for that to be useful. But at least I'm seeing the right things.

I started taking lessons again tonight, and that will help a great deal, because I have also picked up some weird habits, like dropping into octave instead of riposting after I parry. And I seem to want to do all of my bladework in low lines. 

But my calluses are coming back, and I regularly have new and colorful bruises, and really, nothing makes me happier.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On the list of things I am never doing again

Last Sunday, I turned in the revised version of my Joan of Arc chapter to my dissertation advisor. Approximately five minutes ago, I pressed "send" and gave her the revised version of the Margery Kempe chapter. Eight days. This definitely falls into the category of things that I am glad to know that I can do, and yet hope to never repeat the experience of doing.

And now, I am going to go collapse into a babbling puddle of exhaustion. I may later attempt to revivify myself with chocolate and Buffy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Because, because, because, because, because...

Because my almost certainly non-zombie friends, E. J. and Keffy, will be arriving next week. Because I will have this dissertation chapter revised before they arrive, and all of my energy is going into that, and not into blogging, and I don't want you to be bored. Because zombies and E.J. and Keffy make me think about Clarion. Because that's where I wrote this, for Jim Kelly's fool your friends flash fiction contest, and it was the first time I had consciously tried to do something different with my writing, and it worked. Because I do have a shameful love for 80s dance and pop music. Because even though it's about zombies, and has some NSFW language, when I sent it to my parents so they would know what I did with my summer vacation, my Mom thought it was "cute."

Enjoy.

Dead Man’s Party

 

            The thing about zombies, is they love ‘80s dance music. Really fucking weird, right? As in, you just can’t make this shit up. But it’s true. Some mass raising got a hold of a necromancer’s iPod while it was playing “Come On, Eileen.” Don’t ask. They left off killing the necromancer in favor of performing an improvised Irish jig. I’ve never seen the evil dead look as happy as they do in that video.

So now, it’s hard to go to a club anywhere without seeing a group of them enthusiastically agreeing that everybody should, in fact, Wang Chung tonight. And it’s not like they’re each off flailing around on their own. These are zombies, remember? Group mind. So they dance in unison, shambling around in perfect togetherness like the undead Rockettes. Kind of fucking awesome the first time you see it, you know? Although synchronized zombie dancing does mean that you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear “Thriller” at least once a night out at the clubs. The zombies have the choreography down perfectly. Tourists love that shit. And the zombies never get bored of that dance. Zombies are extremely serious about “Thriller.”

            The problem with all this, is that zombies still eat brains. And dancing makes them hungry. Tourists do not love that shit. Most tourists seem to think that the zombies are just people decked out in really bad makeup and rotting clothes, and get really surprised when the zombies stop worrying about how fine Mickey is, and start worrying about snacks. Most tourists are fucking stupid.

            Which is sort of where I come in. I’m kind of like the cruise director for the undead. ‘Cause except for when it happened that first time under the combined power of their recent resurrection and the danceability of the one hit wonder, the zombies have never been able to get into the groove on their own. Someone has to get the zombies to start dancing in the first place, and keep them going when they try to gnaw on the audience. I’ve found that “99 Luftballons” works well to get things started, and “Safety Dance” usually makes them stop eating people. Zombies have no fucking musical taste.

            So the other night I’m at the club when this complete fucking idiot of a dj decided to spin “Hungry Like the Wolf.” This started out okay, with the zombies happily head-bobbing to the repeated “dit dit do do dit do do dit do do dit do do do do.” Then the chorus started playing. Reminding zombies that they’re hungry like anything is not a great idea. As the head bobs began to fall out of sync, I jumped up on a table and set the emergency disco ball spinning, trying to get the dj’s attention. This would have worked better if a zombie hadn’t already been slurping down his brain like a really big oyster.

            Some woman in a pink tracksuit stretched to its capacity by her flesh tried to help out by wailing an off-key rendition of “Bette Davis Eyes” into the chaos. Since Duran Duran was still blaring, I don’t know what she thought would happen. Her efforts were about as helpful as you would expect. Zombies also really like eyes.

            The natives knew enough to hit the road when the zombies stopped dancing so most of them had escaped, but pieces of tourists were strewn everywhere, like the world’s most disgusting party decorations. The dj must have programmed an entire set, because my attempt to climb over random entrails was soundtracked by Joy Division’s assurance that love will tear us apart. I was a bit more worried about the fucking zombies, but I understood the concern. I slid on a discarded kneecap, and landed in a pile of viscera. I realized I was never going to make it to the dj booth to change the music. I told them we needed a better emergency plan than a fucking disco ball.

            I can’t carry a tune for shit, but after working in a zombie dance club, you better believe I know Vincent Price’s voice-over from “Thriller.” So I stood in the middle of a pile of guts, and started reciting it. Like I said, zombies are extremely serious about “Thriller.” Most of them were looking at me by the time I got through the first recitation, so I started the dance. That got the rest of them, and they filed back to the dance floor in nice orderly lines.

            It took thirteen and a half recitations before emergency services got to the club. I almost lost the zombies’ attention while trying to convince the police that putting “Safety Dance” on was as important as looking for survivors.

            I have got to find a new fucking job.

 


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Because you can still have a bad day at work, even in the best job in the world

I actually had a really good day, today. I revised close to 3000 words of the latest dissertation chapter. If I can keep up that pace, I should be able to give that chapter to my wonderful advisor before my zombie friends - er, E. J. and Keffy - come to visit. And I should be able to get another chapter of the novel revised tonight, which would also make me very happy.

I'm lucky. My day job, being a grad student in English Lit, matches really well with being a writer. And I like that day job. It means that I get paid to think about what interests me, to research what I love and tell other people why I think it's cool, and to read books. Which, you know, doesn't suck. And writing fiction means that, if I'm lucky, someday I will get to make my living by making things up.

But both of those things are still jobs, and some days, most days, actually, are not 3000 word days. Some days, thankfully rare ones, the words don't come at all. I've got my tricks: I clean the house, or bake something. I go for a run. Since I tend to soundtrack my writing, I put on the CD or the playlist that goes with that project. Sometimes one of those things is enough. Sometimes none of them help.

In those instances, I try to work on something else. I've learned the hard way that I do much better when I have multiple projects going, because it's very rare that I'm blocked on everything, all at once. But occasionally I have been, and it's terrible. Because then all I can do is wait, and hope something happens.

And so I've learned that I can no longer take days off, not on purpose anyway. I carry a notebook everywhere, and if I wake up at 4:37 am with a new line of dialogue in my head, I get up and go write it down. And the words get written, and the stories get told.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Medieval nattering on

I sent the Joan of Arc chapter to my advisor yesterday morning. (Yes, that was a weekend. A Sunday, as a matter of fact. I write on the weekends. And the holidays. And late at night.) I'm fairly happy with it. 

I am now revising the Margery Kempe chapter. Margery is probably my least favorite of the women I am writing on, but her book does have an absolutely marvelous story in it. Again, because I love you, I will translate the Middle English. 

Margery desperately wanted to live a chaste life. (She had fourteen children. At least some of which, she writes, were conceived after she had taken to wearing a hair shirt as a form of personal penance. Which hair shirt her husband, John, did not notice during the conception of said children. Er, methinks I would prefer chastity as well.) She finally got her husband to agree to this. 

But one day Margery and John are out walking, and they stop to eat. John has a bit to drink, and then says, "Margery. If a Saracen were to appear right now, and say that he would smite off my head if you were not to let me meddle with you again, what would you say?"

Margery takes some time to consider this, and then says, "I am sorry, but I would let him smite off your head."

"Margery," John says, "you are no good wife."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Part of the reason that I am a writer is my Mom.

I don't know how old I was, but I remember distinctly coming downstairs one night, far past the time I had been sent to bed, because I couldn't sleep. She told me something so much better than counting sheep. "Make up a story," she told me. "If you can't sleep, make up a story, and then you'll be able to." It still works.

She bought me books, and took me to the library. She put my poems up on the refrigerator, and drove me to Young Authors' Conferences. When I got home from Clarion and said that I had decided to try and see if I could make it as a professional writer, she sent me notebooks and pens to help with my work. And when I sold my first short story, she sent flowers.

She has always believed in me.

Thanks, Mom. I love you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Because when I need a break from writing, I write

The Joan of Arc chapter is nearly ready to go to my wonderful advisor. I need to add the Shakespeare bits, and recheck my Latin translations. And I need some distance from it, to make sure that when I read over it, I'm not filling in the pieces that I just think are there.

So as a break from that, I wrote a quick piece of flash fiction. I keep a notebook of first lines and ideas that I might want to use someday, and as I was paging through that tonight,  I came across the first line of what became this. I hope you like it.

How Beautiful are Thy Feet With Shoes

The trouble with magic shoes, of course, is that they hurt. I knew that when I saw them.

My older sister, Elizabeth, as a reward for her kindness, was blessed so that jewels tumbled from her mouth whenever she spoke. Rubies that bruised her tongue and lacerated the tender flesh of her lips. Diamonds that fell to the ground, smeared with blood and saliva.

Elizabeth has not spoken in years.

But even without her example, I knew that there was always a cost for magic. If you are lucky, you pay in blood and bone. If you are lucky.

But the shoes were beautiful. And I am not.

The pain. Oh, the pain was like white hot knives dragging between the bones of my feet, catching on the tendons, slowing over the nerves. I tore the shoes off, flung them against the wall of my bedroom, and stood, panting, in front of the mirror that I had thought to admire myself in.

Even discarded, cast away, the shoes were the most beautiful things I had ever touched.

Perhaps, I thought, perhaps the pain was the price. A test. If I could endure, if I could be worthy, it would end.

I purged my memory of the image of Elizabeth learning to weep silently, so that she would not vomit emeralds with her grief.

I picked up the shoes, brushed the traces of dust from their cream leather soles, straightened the thin red straps, and slid my feet into them again. I, too, could learn to weep silently.

My ankles, I thought, as I stood  up, were more slender, my calves shapely, and the hollow behind my knee had taken on a pleasingly sensual curve.

I stepped forward, toward the mirror, and felt myself move differently, my joints more flexible, the muscles smoother beneath the satin of my skin.

And there I was, beautiful. I lifted my arms, began to turn, and felt exaltation replace the agony in my blood.

My blood. It coated the floor behind me, wet, red footprints that slicked across the polished maple of the floor.

The pain reasserted its presence then. I stumbled against the mirror, my sweating fingers smudging the glass.

I reached for the shoes, meaning to pry them from my feet, but my fingers had become so lovely, thin, and milk-pale. I danced my hands through the air like butterflies, and left the crimson shadows of my steps in my wake.

"Emma," she croaked, voice nearly broken from disuse, and amethysts fell like rain behind me, wine-dark with the payment of their production.

Astounded, I spun to face my sister, and the heel of my left shoe snapped off. I fell into Elizabeth's arms.

Her gentle fingers slid the ruined shoes from my feet. The white of my bones shone like pearls against the deep red of my flesh.

Beautiful.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sometime the clothes do not make the man

Or the woman, as the case may be.

I always get grumpy when I am working on Joan of Arc. Not because I dislike her, or her text. Quite the opposite, actually. I've been fascinated with Joan for most of my life (girls with swords have to stick together.) And the more I learned about her, the more fascinated I became. Like King Arthur, she had a miraculous sword. (Hers was pulled from under the altar stone at the church of Ste. Catherine de Fierbois.) Gilles de Rais, the man who became known as Bluebeard, served under her in the French army. And she was brave, and articulate. 

And she was burned to death when she was nineteen. Because she wore men's clothing.

So I get a little bit grumpy when I write about her. 

Which is why I have been watching this video, (link will auto-play) over and over, for the past few days. It has some of my favorite sorts of things in: art in a public place, spontaneous dance. And it makes me happy. And until I am done with this dissertation chapter, I could use the reminder that there is joy and beauty and creation in the world. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Song is You

It was, and remains, the most wonderful compliment that I had ever received about my writing: "I love this. I feel like you wrote it just for me."

I think that all artists have an ideal reader (or listener, or viewer). That person that you want to understand what you're doing. The person whose opinion is the most important one because he or she gets your art like no one else does. And sometimes, that person, that ideal reader, begins to influence your art as well.

The extraordinary new book, The Song is You, by Arthur Phillips, considers, among other things, the relationship between an artist and the man who, for a moment, becomes, perhaps, her ideal listener. I don't want to say too much about what happens in the book, because I want  you to read it, and discover that for yourself. But it is wonderful. Phillips' prose is scintillating and clever, and, as one might expect, full of musical references. (I quite desperately want to borrow his iPod.)

But for me, the thing that turned this from a good book, one I was glad I bought, and would happily loan to a friend and not worry about getting back, into a book that I will buy copies of for my friends and read over and again, was the ending. Endings are tricky. They must be earned and are difficult to do properly. One of the things that has resonated with me most since Clarion is the idea that an ending must be the right one for the characters. Not the one you want to give them, or the one that they want. Not the happy ending or resonating tragedy you think will please or impress your readers. But the ending must be what is right. And oh, does Phillips get this ending right. He gets it in a way that reverberates back through the entirety of the book, and means I will be going back and rereading as a writer, to see the places in the novel where the pieces fell into place, where the perspectives were changed, and the choices were made that led up to the absolute rightness of what happened. It was amazingly well done.

A number of you have indicated an interest in writers who fence. (Fencers who write? Some sort of pen/ sword connection, anyway.) For those of you with such an interest, Arthur Phillips is a former competitive fencer. And yes, there is a very quick fencing reference in the book. Go find a copy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

By way of introduction

I know. I know. I did this already. There was even a "Welcome" post. But then all these lovely new people showed up, and I want them to feel welcome, too, and I also thought, "Gee, it might be nice to have a sort of all 'round introductory type whassname." So for those of you who have been here since the beginning, sorry for the being repetitive, and please, feel free to stop reading at any point. It's not like there will be a quiz or anything.

So, (waves) Hi, I'm Kat. Until I defend my dissertation in August, I am a graduate student in English Literature. My primary period of expertise is basically Chaucer through Shakespeare, and I've also done scholarship on and taught fantasy literature. My dissertation is on the tension between holiness and heresy in the writing of four women mystics from the late fourteenth to mid-sixteenth century, and involves a lot of speculative theology. 

I am also a writer of speculative fiction. I am an alumna of Clarion 2008, where I was taught by six utterly brilliant instructors, and wrote with seventeen other students for six life-changing weeks. No, you can't yet buy anything I've written, but I have sold my first short story to a very exciting upcoming anthology, and I have a novel in draft, and yes, I will tell you lots about those things. I tend to talk about writing a lot. I don't usually post my work, but since you lot seemed to like the last bit, maybe I'll give you the occasional excerpt or something.

Recently, I have returned to the world of competitive fencing. And really, who doesn't like talking about sword fights? I occasionally post about really serious things. I do not post about the more (coughs, raises eyebrow) personal parts of my personal life, because, hey, that's why they're called "personal," and also, my Mom reads this. I do not, as yet, put up pictures or videos or whatever else is shiny because I will break the internet if I do.

I like it when you leave comments. I like this even more when you are respectful of yourself and others when you do so. Manners, you know? 

Lovely to meet you all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Tea Party at the End of the World

So, over on Twitter, @neilhimself has 335,038 followers. (For those who do not tweet, @neilhimself = Neil Gaiman, and 335,038 = a rather lot.) Which means that neither Armageddon nor tea happened when he reached follower 333,333, as he suggested either or both might.

Which I mention because there was an informal contest running, wherein people were taking pictures of themselves with Armageddon and/ or tea, and tweeting them to Neil. It was a contest I had planned on staying far, far away from as 1. I am seriously inept with a camera, and 2. I am at the OMG! Middle French! portion of the dissertation rewrite. (Although, had Armageddon actually happened, I would not have had to turn in the dissertation. Hmmm.)

But then I kept wondering, well, what sort of tea goes well with Armageddon. And then I knew. And then I knew other things. And so then I wrote a very short story about it, which I sent to Neil for giggles, and "If you post it," he said, "I will link."  And so I have done:

The Tea Party at the End of the World

 

            The pleasure of her company was requested at Armageddon, and tea would be served.

            Amelia looked at the r.s.v.p. line on the card, with the number written neatly in ink the colour of old blood, and blinked. Could one really r.s.v.p. for the end of the world via text message? Her mum’s voice came to mind then, the clipped, precise consonants reminding Amelia that there was no excuse for lack of manners.

            Amelia looked at the “save the date” card again, tilting the slightly oily-feeling parchment until the number came clear. She entered it into her mobile, and pressed “send.”

            The formalities having been observed, she made a note in her date book. It seemed the end of the world would occur on a Tuesday. It was just as well, Amelia thought, as she closed the leather-bound book, and placed her pen back in the enamel holder on her desk. If Armageddon took place on Tuesday, then she would not need to resort to a polite lie in order to break her date with George on Friday. George was lovely, really, but he pinched.

            Amelia thought that perhaps she would bring shortbreads to Armageddon. The invitation hadn’t requested that she bring anything, of course, but with Famine as one of the organizers, well, Amelia worried that there might not be biscuits with the tea. And besides, it would never do to arrive empty-handed.

            The locusts had already begun pouring forth when Amelia arrived at the Mount of Megiddo. She was very glad she had gone with her first instinct and worn a wide-brimmed hat. Even if it was no longer in the first stare of fashion, it was lovely for keeping locusts off.

            Amelia gave her invitation to a figure in brilliant armour atop a sweat-slicked red horse. At least, Amelia hoped the beads of moisture coating the horse were sweat. She clutched the plate of shortbreads, pressing it to her chest as the figure on the horse pointed her direction with a blade that ran with blood. Amelia hunched over the plate, shielding the biscuits from the gore that dripped from the edge of War’s sword. End of the world or not, blood in the biscuits wouldn’t be at all hygienic.

            Pleased that her seat was such a good one, Amelia watched the chaos of Armageddon unfold in front of her, plate of shortbreads balanced precisely on her knees. She was beginning to feel uncomfortably hungry, but tea had been promised. She would wait.

            Perhaps the tea would be served after all the late-comers had been seated. She watched as people continued to file in, and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. Amelia took punctuality very seriously.

            When Amelia looked again at the field of battle, the Whore of Babylon had appeared upon her seven-headed beast. Amelia was a bit surprised to see that the Whore of Babylon did indeed look like a whore, and not at all like the pope. She gave a brief thought to what else she might have been misinformed about, but there was nothing she could do about any of that now.

            The seven-headed beast raised a fair amount of dust with its passage, and Amelia felt increasingly parched. She was certain that the invitation had said that there would be tea.

            At that moment, Amelia detected the smoky scent of a truly fine lapsang souchong. She closed her eyes in pleasure, and when she opened them, she saw a hand – the bones of one, anyway – offering her a cup made of palest green porcelain. Amelia accepted the tea with a steady hand, and her voice was pleasant and even as she offered a shortbread in return.

            The offer was, somewhat to her surprise, accepted.

            Amelia sipped delicately, savoring the rich flavour of the tea. The sounds of the battle receded as she drank. A skeletal hand reached out and plucked another shortbread from her plate. Deciding that she was rather beyond concern over her weight, Amelia helped herself to another biscuit as well.

            Amelia drank the last of her tea, straining the leaves back into the cup. She looked at the pattern they made, dark against the pale, nearly white, green of the porcelain. The sign was an obvious one.

            She wondered if she ought to volunteer to help clean up, but that was merely putting off the inevitable. But before standing up to take her place in the line that began behind a horse the colour of the cup from which she had drunk and stretched into forever, Amelia placed the plate of shortbreads into a bony hand.

            The end of the world was no excuse for lack of manners.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"My boots are all sticky"

One of my favorite Saturday morning rituals is checking to see which Saturday Morning Cartoons Irene Gallo has linked to over on Tor.com. The second one for this morning, "Baman Piderman," is, for reasons I cannot even begin to explain, wondrously funny.