Ned’s wordwind fluttered in V-formation around her, spilling little white lies in its wake, immediately retracing its path to cross them out. Words swirled through her hair, pale tendrils lifting as paragraphs tornadoed above her head. Ned pinched the slowest phrases between her fingers, popping them into her mouth before they could escape.
A Mori bird waited for him on the railing, its claws wrapped around the wood. The dying light accentuated the patch of red feathers at the base of its slender neck, the only color on an otherwise black bird. A bloody-throated Mori bird, harbinger of death. It smelled like licorice . . .
Mack Day studied the Fun Grabber machine in the corner while he sipped his coffee. One of the toys–a plastic and plush dancer in a green sequined dress–blinked at him. “Help me, please,” mouthed the doll, shivering . . .
The morning was turning out to be a bust. The first client wanted to pay with a personal check, which I’ve learned to not accept. She had no cash, credit card, or ID. The second client had cash but turned out to be a thirteen-year-old kid who wanted a “really sexy picture” for her boyfriend. No way: session cancelled. The third client was late.
Yes, yes, the transport was amazing. Around her now was her husband’s best work. 1947, Tokyo. Dusk in Rikugien Park, north of the city, the pond reflecting the harvest moon, the drooping pines, their branches in the water, and she could walk down to the edge of the lake, hear yama-gare sing tzu…tzu…tzu flitting their chestnut bellies and black caps among the branches of the matsu pines—for a full seven minutes. Peace.
Cyril wanted to dig out a cave to play smugglers in, but the others thought it might bury them alive, so it ended in all spades going to work to dig a hole through the castle to Australia. These children, you see, believed that the world was round, and that on the other side the little Australian boys and girls were really walking wrong way up, like flies on the ceiling, with their heads hanging down into the air.
That Wednesday, the witch found five silver paperclips laid across her doorstep, next to an apple and a sharpened No. 2 pencil. She regarded them gravely as the breeze from the lake swept up through the pine trees and ruffled her upswept black hair. Then she turned to see if she could spot any signs of who had left them.
The sorcery of djinn was like a stalking beast. You had to stay downwind of it, even when you were the hunter. Antar knew, as always, everything depended on him seeing the unseen and forcing his eyes to reveal what lay in the membrane between light and darkness. He drew a deep breath and rolled between his thumb and forefinger the seal that was chained to his neck.
It was the smell which woke me up, insinuating itself between the planks of my coffin: cooked meat mingling with the sweet odour of aromatic rice, and the tangy hint of fruit and spices — a powerful summoning if there ever was one.
When you climbed out of the water, naked and dripping, you saw him standing by the rock where you’d left your skin in the sun, just standing over it with a quizzical look, poking at it with a finger. His eyes slid up along you and down again to it. With your skin in both hands he stared at you . . .