You are my prisoner, and it is useless for you to struggle any longer,” said Glinda, in her soft, sweet voice. “Lie still a moment, and rest yourself, and then I will carry you back to my tent.”
There was a smell in the streets, past the storefronts with the children in their beds, their limbs barely moving, their eyes closed (it was late). The smell was intoxicating, vanilla, pineapple, butter, cinnamon and some spice, some spice. The smell caught at the tips of open windows, waving like a cat’s tail, just a little, before going in. Then it coiled along the floor, at the corners, under the doorways, sipping at each room, exhaling a puff of it, a tease.
After their third fight about whose turn it was to switch the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, and therefore whose fault it was that the clothes now smelled faintly of mold, Robert started writing on the walls . . .
Mama had believed enough to sacrifice her savings and emigrate here, all for the sake of her poor, insane, eight-year-old daughter. Mama had found a place on a map, a city that wouldn’t exist without air conditioning and irrigation. A place with no history.
At least it looked like good timber, but everything was deceiving in this hellhole he’d made his home. Winter was dry and hot while summer was wet and gave lie to the promise of rich farms ringing Victoria Settlement like a ring of pearls; crops were planted with the summer rains in mind and winter killed them with its omnipresent, near-windless heat. Trees that grew straight and strong-looking, forged by God for first-rates’ masts and roof beams, splintered at the kiss of the ax. Fish, hooked at risk from a river infested with a bull crocodile and his harem, looked fat and full of flesh, but proved oily, rank, and so full of little bones as to be all but inedible. But they ate them, by damn, they ate all they could, and boiled the fish for its rancid broth.
When Li-huan’s family first arrived at the house near Jenli village, the ghost rattled bowls on their shelves and howled through the house as a rush of wind, stirring up the mats and musty old bed-curtains. The priest told Li-huan’s father that the house’s previous owner, a wealthy merchant, had died with no one to remember him and so sought their attention. The family dedicated a small shrine to the merchant in the corner of the inner hall and, so appeased, he left them unmolested…until Lili came.
It came to me that I should run away from home taking nothing but myself and so I thought I would and so I did. I’d not gone ten turns of the spiral before a small leathery suitcase began to tag along in my invisible wake. “Take me! Use me! Fill me!” it said. “Please, please fill me; I need to be filled.”
The man interlaced his fingers as if he were going to pray. “Can you describe your voices?” I asked him. “Are they malicious or aggressive?” There was a slight abnormality in the man’s look, in his words, gestures, a touch of affectation seen through his otherwise gentle and open manner. It wasn’t mental disorder yet, […]
He suddenly lifted his head, a blaze of gold, over the balcony; he did not appear a yellow dragon then, for his glistening scales reflected the beauty that London puts upon her only at evening and night. She screamed, but to no knight, nor knew what knight to call on…
Later on she told you her favorite story, one you were sure you’d either read or had read to you in childhood. It was the one about the man who wanted to bring a red rose to his lover, but had only white roses in his garden; and when his friend the nightingale heard him lamenting, she crushed her breast against the thorn of a white rose, dyeing the petals with the last of her blood.