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#2192

“I can’t believe she’s here.” “It’s a lie; you know she did it.” “She should be ashamed to show her face.” “Why haven’t the police arrested her?” “I bet she was jealous.” “I’d be afraid to be alone with her, what if she tries it again?”

The mutters follow Chelsea down the hallway Monday morning; few of her classmates bother lowering their voices as they gossip in her wake. During the assembly she feels one thousand pairs of eyes swivel over to her while the principal explains how Amanda Anderson fainted in the pool locker room and hit her head on one of the sinks, and how her friend Chelsea, the first to find her, was just minutes too late to stem the bleeding. There’s no criminal case here, the principal stresses, just a tragic accident that deeply shocks and saddens the community, but that doesn’t stop the assembled teenagers from jumping to the most scandalous conclusion. Behind Chelsea, one of the school’s queen bees titters and exclaims with mock concern, “Better not sit too close to her, you might be next!” While the teachers call for silence, Chelsea tries to ignore the accusatory stares. She fears if she meets anyone’s eyes they might see the guilt there, misplaced or no, and then she’s done for. It doesn’t help that no one ever understood how someone as popular as Amanda would hang out with someone as mousy and awkward as her.

The students are finally dismissed and Chelsea hurries to Biology, gaze firmly fixed on the ground as she winds her way through the knots of kids in the halls. At least Mr. Benham is a no-nonsense sort of teacher and won’t allow the class to spend all period goggling over the murderer in their midst. Even better, he starts class off with a pop quiz – no talking allowed – and silence settles over Chelsea for the first time since she stepped onto school property. She reads through the questions once, twice, three times before realizing with a twist of her gut that they’re all based on the weekend’s assigned reading. Which she didn’t do, of course, because she was busy talking to her family and Amanda’s family and the paramedics and the police officers, and then watching the whole thing blow up on social media. She barely slept, let alone worried about her schoolwork.

This stupid quiz is the final straw; tears well up in Chelsea’s eyes and she can’t blink them away fast enough. Choking back a sob, she grabs her backpack and rushes out the door. There’s no one in the hallways right now, which is a minor blessing, but as she rounds the corner to the front doors the truancy officer, Mrs. Colewick, catches sight of her. Arms crossed, she moves to intercept Chelsea. “Where do you think you’re going, Miss Paulson?” For once Mrs. Colewick’s dour expression doesn’t even phase Chelsea, who merely dodges around the woman while calling back breathlessly, “Home!” The officer turns as if to follow her, hand outstretched. “You can’t just–”

“Then stop me!” Chelsea hits the doors running and is gone before she can hear if Mrs. Colewick responds or follows her. She runs as fast as she can, not really thinking about a particular destination, just focusing on the rhythm of her feet pounding on the pavement. She runs until she’s lost among unfamiliar streets where passersby can’t possibly know who she is or what she’s done. She runs until her lungs can’t take it anymore, and then she stops. And sobs.

 

 

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#2191

These days I find myself longing for Mars. Not like a Bradbury character yearning for adventure, though, but more like someone skipping to the last page of a tense book to see what happens. Why? Because Mars is dead. Mars is a barren wasteland. Mars is red soil and orange rocks and not a single living thing, not even a drop of water, and that’s oddly comforting. Earth will be like that one day at the rate we’re going, so can’t I just pack up now and move to Mars where the end’s already come and gone? It’s the waiting that’s killing me, you know, it’s the anticipation. I know one day all the green places will be buried under cement and the oceans are gonna swallow us up in their acidic, plastic-laden waters, but when? When will the last bee perish from pesticide poisoning and throw our global food production into chaos? When will the last day pass during which we could ever breathe freely without face masks? When will the last polar bear go extinct, the last Amazonian tree be bulldozed, the last national park fall to the greed of big coal and oil? When? When? I just can’t take it anymore; roll the damn credits! I’m out. But at least there’s nothing on Mars we can fuck up very much, just rocks and dirt and dust as far as the eye can see in every direction. And I won’t have any memory of trees on Mars, so the view won’t bother me so. It’s better than waiting, at least, better than having to sit on the sidelines of the whole damn apocalypse. Take us to Mars, Ray. To Mars!

#2190 – 2018 Book List

Another year, another read list! And a great year it was with a mix of historical fiction, nonfiction, and a lot of revisiting books (mostly of the comic or fantasy persuasion) from my shelves that haven’t gotten any love in a long while. I didn’t read as much queer fiction as I usually do, but I made up for that with a good haul of queer comics. The highlight of the year was obviously Patrick O’Brian’s age of sail series lovingly dubbed by fans as the “Aubreyad” or the “Aubrey/Maturin novels”, which I already gushed about here.

  1. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian
  2. Desolation Island – Patrick O’Brian
  3. One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns Series #2) – Kendare Blake
  4. The Fortune of War – Patrick O’Brian
  5. The Surgeon’s Mate – Patrick O’Brian
  6. It Devours! A Welcome to Night Vale novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  7. The Young Queens (Three Dark Crowns Novella) – Kendare Blake
  8. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 – Gillen McKelvie
  9. The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 2 – Bryan Konietzko
  10. The Ionian Mission – Patrick O’Brian
  11. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
  12. Treason’s Harbour – Patrick O’Brian
  13. The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian
  14. They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
  15. Meditation for Beginners: Techniques for Awareness, Mindfulness, & Relaxation – Stephanie Clement
  16. Tarot Spreads and Layouts- Jeanne Fiorini
  17. The Reverse of the Medal – Patrick O’Brian
  18. Bingo Love – Tee Franklin and Jenn St-onge
  19. The Letter of Marque – Patrick O’Brian
  20. Heathen: Volume One – Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering
  21. Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan – Zack Davisson
  22. I Was the Cat – Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey
  23. Love is Love – IDW Publishing
  24. Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Burman
  25. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Nagata Kabi
  26. The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth, and Almost Everything – Sandra Bart Heimann
  27. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages – Saundra Mitchell et. al.
  28. Nagasaki: The Massacre of the Innocent and Unknowing – Craig Collie
  29. The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian
  30. Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eichar
  31. The Oracle Queen: A Three Dark Crowns Novella – Kendare Blake
  32. Circe: A Novel – Madeline Miller
  33. The Nutmeg of ConsolationPatrick O’Brian
  34. The TruelovePatrick O’Brian
  35. The Wine-Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian
  36. The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian
  37. Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night – Tim Maltin
  38. The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian
  39. The Hundred Days – Patrick O’Brian
  40. Yurei: The Japanese Ghost – Zack Davisson
  41. Band vs Band: Volume 1 – Kathleen Jacques
  42. Band vs Band: Volume 2 – Kathleen Jacques
  43. The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens – Morgan Daimler
  44. The Runes – Horik Svensson
  45. I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume
  46. Blue at the Mizzen – Patrick O’Brian
  47. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 1: The Faust ActKieron Gillen
  48. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 2: Fandemonium Kieron Gillen
  49. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 3: Commercial SuicideKieron Gillen
  50. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 4: Rising ActionKieron Gillen
  51. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 5: Imperial Phase Part 1Kieron Gillen
  52. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2Kieron Gillen
  53. Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk – Morgan Daimler
  54. Black Sun Rising – C.S. Friedman
  55. Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  56. Locke and Key Vol. 2: Head Games – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  57. Locke and Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  58. Locke and Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  59. Locke and Key Vol. 5: Clockworks – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  60. Locke and Key Vol. 6: Alpha and Omega – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  61. Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt – Yekaterina Barbash
  62. When True Night Falls – C.S. Friedman
  63. Crown of Shadows – C.S Friedman
  64. Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist – Katie West
  65. Flesh and Spirit – Carol Berg
  66. Breath and Bone – Carol Berg
  67. The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 1: Book of Saturn – Coby Michael Ward
  68. Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns Series #3) – Kendare Blake
  69. Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber Book 1) – Roger Zelazny
  70. The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 2: Book of Mercury – Coby Michael Ward
  71. The Guns of Avalon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 2) – Roger Zelazny
  72. Sign of the Unicorn (The Chronicles of Amber Book 3) – Roger Zelazny
  73. The Hand of Oberon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 4) – Roger Zelazny
  74. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 7: Mothering Invention – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie 
  75. The Courts of Chaos (The Chronicles of Amber Book 5) – Roger Zelazny
  76. Sister Light, Sister Dark (Book 1 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  77. Transformation (Rai Kirah Book 1) – Carol Berg
  78. Revelation (Rai Kirah Book 2) – Carol Berg
  79. White Jenna (Book 2 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  80. Restoration (Rai Kirah Book 3) – Carol Berg
  81. Creatures of Light and Darkness – Roger Zelazny
  82. Eye of Cat – Roger Zelazny
  83. The Dream Master – Roger Zelazny
  84. The One-Armed Queen (Book 3 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  85. Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
  86. Unicorn Variations – Roger Zelazny
  87. A Night in the Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny
  88. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  89. A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories – Ray Bradbury

#2189

Hand pressed to the thick glass, she watches as beyond the radiation shield the dark sky blooms with bright flowers trailing petals of fire, and though the glass dome seals out all sound she imagines she can still hear the screaming of those trapped outside. How many dead now, since the first bomb fell? Millions, perhaps tens of millions: those too close to the epicenters to escape; those who could not buy their way onto planes and ships and caravans and so perished somewhere along their thousand-mile trek to safety; those who arrived at the safe zones with nothing but the clothes on their backs, exhausted and sick with radiation poisoning, only to be told there was no room for them. “No room,” she scoffs, and tries not to weep. She’s only safe inside this shelter because she’s necessary to its function, as so few of her team remain who can run the machines and reboot civilization when it comes time. That’s why she’s in here, a young black woman among so many old white men, and thousands of equally worthy people are out there awaiting the end. And so she wonders – is there even a point to trying again? Will there be enough humanity left in humanity to make the struggle for civilization worthwhile? Or does this dome just ensure there are sufficient witnesses left to testify to the finality of the apocalypse? She doesn’t even know for sure if the machines will work – and maybe that’s best.

#2188

there’s feedback in your resurrection loop and we’re burning up on reentry, mayday mayday, Lucifer bleeds ichor, Satan weeps starlight, crowned with fire you fall through every universe that shall ever be and leave a trail of prophecies in your meteoric wake, but never fear for your impact craters are my home and I shall find you in every iteration, there is no form you could take in which I would not know you

#2187 – Winter Solstice

It was all there on the table. The candlestick. The rope. The lead pipe. The wrench. The knife. The gun. He trailed his fingertips along each weapon with veneration. Clue had always been his favorite board game. He loved the idea of giving six people unique opportunities to kill one another. When he played the game as a child he often concocted complex scenarios that resulted in the deaths of all six guests. He’d been sent to Sister Reverence’s office more times than he remembered. It was always the same.

“Young man, this is becoming habitual.” 

Habitual. Habit. Like that stupid thing she wears everyday. It would be so easy to grab her by it and pull. Up, up, up. A widening grin. Until she turned purple, like that bitter chalice offered every morning. 

(STOP TELLING IT. YOU’RE TELLING IT WRONG.)

THE HOUSE

Rain falls hard as hail in the night; in the heavy sky above lightning flickers and thunder sends shudders vibrating through the air. The guests enter the mansion beneath an arched front doorway over which is written, “Do not die before your death”. There are six of them, not including their absent host, and each carries a golden envelope in which the mysterious invitation sits.

THE STUDY

Tanim arrives first, of course, in a navy blue suit over which he has draped a pale blue scarf with gold tassels. He bides his time by the fireplace, whiskey in hand, staring into the bright flames until another guest arrives. There are two this time, Bast and Wepwawet, both dressed in layers of desert silks and gold adornments. Wepwawet introduces himself as Anubis; Tanim does not comment on the deception. The three trade amicable conversation until Inanna arrives, her spools of red-gold hair commanding attention as they capture the firelight. Tanim nods to her in greeting and steps to the side, continuing his conversation with Wepwawet as the goddesses greet each other. Soon they are joined by the Morrigan, her blood-red dress offset by a gold collar draped across her clavicles. She is polite yet aloof until Mage swaggers in, almost unfashionably late though highly fashionable in her black leather and gold piercings, and then the two fall to discussing something gruesome. They could be sisters with their pale skin, black hair, and cold eyes.

Their host enters last of all, dressed in his customary black. Daren’s only concession to the formality of the occasion is a single gold ring on his left hand. He looks to each of the guests in turn, noting their placement in the room, their dress, their body language both before and after they notice him. “Now that you have all arrived,” he says once the conversations have ceased, “shall we begin? Come this way.” He turns and leads them across the wide marble-tiled hall and into the dining room. Exchanging glances that communicate a variety of emotions, his guests follow in silence.

THE DINING ROOM

The long table is set for seven, three seats on each long side and the seventh at the head. Crystal and polished silver gleam amid candlelight, the china white as bone. Upon each dinnerplate is a weapon: a candlestick; a rope tied into a noose; a lead pipe; a wrench; a knife; and a handgun. The seventh is empty. Daren stands behind the empty seventh seat and rests his hands on the back of the chair. “I assume you know why I’ve called you all here,” he begins, “and thus will not waste time with explanations. Every window and exterior door in the house is locked, save for a single window – though I would be careful, I imagine the roof is quite treacherous right now. There are six weapons and seven of us. You have two hours.” He gestures to the table’s deadly spread. “Good luck.”

THE OBSERVATORY

Wepwawet stands in the center of the observatory, watching the raindrops light up in silver strands every time lightning cracks across the sky. Inanna enters, bearing the lead pipe, and approaches him from behind. “Do you know why I’m here?” she asks. Wepwawet smiles, neither surprised nor concerned at her presence. “Because you came,” he replies, turning to face her. He stretches out both of his arms, kneeling down on one knee, and lowers his head reverently. Then he then raises his head again and looks up at her, his dark eyes filled with a humble peace, and says, “As you will, Queen.” Inanna nods once. She strikes him across the jaw with the lead pipe; the sound of his neck cracking echoes through the room. She then kneels down beside the god’s prostrate body and caresses one slack cheek. “The Duat has missed you,” she murmurs. As she walks away, his body turns to gold and drifts away on a wind that does not stir her hair.

THE BALLROOM

The warm glow of antique light bulbs is reflected by a myriad antique mirrors and the polished wood panels in between. In one corner a piano plays Moonlight Sonata, though no one sits at its bench to press the keys. No one dances with Inanna, either, and yet her raised arms and twirling form suggest an unseen partner. So does the way she suddenly stumbles back, a hand clasped to her red cheek as if she’s been struck. She glares up through the hair fallen into her eyes and hisses, “How dare you defy me!” In response, something throws her backward as easily as a discarded toy; she crashes into the piano with a discordant shriek of keys, scattering bits of polished wood and ivory across the marble floor. She lays unconscious in the wreckage of the instrument as red blood trickles along the curls of her fiery hair. Above her the wrench floats for a moment before something brings it crashing down on her temple. Once the golden ashes of her body have drifted away, all that remains in the middle of the broken piano is the rusty wrench.

THE BILLIARD ROOM

Daren finds Mage in the billiard room, sitting cross-legged atop the pool table with a drink in hand. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the knife in his hand even though she does not have a weapon herself, unless you count the 8-ball she rolls back and forth across the felt. She cocks her head as he comes to stand in front of her, her green eyes to his black. She asks, “Do you think it will work? Will you learn what it is you wish to learn?” and he nods. “I’m confident I will, yes.” And then he sinks the dagger deep into Mage’s right thigh, moving so fast she doesn’t even have time to retaliate before he pulls away. The dagger stays behind.

“Motherfucker!” Mage bites back a grunt of pain as she grips the dagger’s hilt. “I knew you were going to do that.” Daren only gives her his ghost of a smile and leaves. Mage downs the last of her drink, briefly considers pouring another but decides she doesn’t have the time, then yanks the dagger out and begins cutting strips of cloth from her pants for bandages. When she has staunched the worst of the bleeding and can put at least some weight on the leg she grabs the dagger and goes in search of the single open window. She is just passing into the hallway when every light in the house extinguishes at the same moment, plunging the labyrinth of rooms and hallways into darkness. Her swearing is hushed but prolific.

THE LIBRARY

Bast is in the library, perusing the shelves of leather-bound books, when the lights go out. Firelight catches her eye and she turns to see the Morrigan walking in, a tall white candle set in the candlestick she bears. Its flickering flame is the only light in the room. “What happened to the lights?” she asks. The Morrigan removes the candle from its holder and approaches. “Here,” she offers, proffering the light. Bast accepts it with a nod and returns back to the books. Behind her the Morrigan raises the candlestick and whispers, “The weight of the world,” before striking Bast in the back of the skull. The goddess collapses to the carpet and lays unmoving in a widening pool of blood. Then her body begins to glow, transforming into something like golden ash, and then the ashes blow away as if by a strange wind.

THE CELLAR

The Morrigan never sees her killer. She has found her way through the darkness to the cellar where she searches now along the cool walls for the circuit breaker. She cannot see the two hands which appear out of the darkness behind her, nor are they accompanied by any sound of footsteps or breathing. Between them they hold a length of the untied rope taut. Just as she locates the circuit breaker the hands bring the rope down over her head and pull it tight around her neck. The goddess struggles against her assailant, nails scrabbling at the thick rope, but to no avail; her vision flashes with brilliant fireworks of pain as she runs out of oxygen. Once she ceases fighting and goes limp, the hands let her fall to the cement floor. After a moment her body turns to gold ashes which blow up and away.

THE STUDY

Tanim stands in the doorway to the study, the gun lowered at his side. Across the room Daren stares into the fireplace, his form silhouetted by the red glow of the coals; these shed the only light left in the tomb-like mansion, just as these two men are the only living things left in it. He does not move as Tanim approaches, nor when the man stops a few feet behind him. Instead he merely asks, “Is it done?”

“Yes,” Tanim raises the gun to the back of his lover’s head. “Are you satisfied with the state of things?”

“Almost,” Daren strikes just as lightning illuminates the room for one stark, white second, its attendant thunder a cacophony all around them. With one arm he pushes Tanim’s out of the way so the shot goes wide; with his other he sinks the dagger deep into Tanim’s chest. Darkness reclaims the room and the two men fall still. Then the gun falls from Tanim’s limp hand and with a folding of his knees he follows it soon after, collapsing on his back as a red stain blooms about the hilt of the blade still lodged in his chest. Daren kneels at his side and smooths the hair from his face. “Now I am,” he says softly. “Goodnight, brother.”

Kitten season — Whiskers Syndicate

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If you’re looking for a charity to support during the winter holidays, please consider the gift of a small donation to The Whiskers Syndicate and their 100+ needy kitties. Every dollar helps put food in tiny tummies!

Among many factors that contribute to the estrus cycle of female cats, light (that affect temperature) is one. Cats need at least 10 hours a day to stay fertile, which is why kitty season happens during spring or summer. Cats also breeds faster in temperate climates, and Indonesia is tropical country. We have kitty season…

via Kitten season — Whiskers Syndicate