She leaned her head against the window and almost reflexively touched her sunglasses. Almost. She closed her eyes and said to the little boy sitting behind her on the train, "Don't tease my hair." She didn't turn around to look at him. "They don't like it."
There were quiet whispers from the boy's mother and father. She couldn't hear them. But her hair could taste their words with flickering tongues.
She sighed and opened a piece of tiny piece of chocolate. The shiny blue foil wrapper told her, "Do what feels right." She laughed and carefully flattened it with her thumb over the cover of her book. It fluttered like a heartbeat as she made a marker of it. The train slid into the wide steel arched station. She checked her sunglasses and pulled down her black patent bag from the overhead compartment. Her bag matched her shoes. Her dress. Her sunglasses. She let the others leave the train first. She checked her lipstick for chocolate streaks. She wasn't quite ready yet. Now that she was finally here, she wasn't sure. Still, finally, she walked out. Let the conductor help her down. Thanked him with a red lipped smile. Walked through the pulse of people and no one turned to look at her as she went by.
Well, the Minotaur in a crisp tailored blue suit with a chocolate brown tie that matched his eyes. He watched her. She walked a slow swing in her step. He didn't follow her or ask for her number. Which made her smile widen further yet.
Out into the rushing streets. Surrounded by people at crosswalks. Waiting for lights. If she'd had a hat, she'd have tossed it. She didn't toss her sunglasses. But she did smile at the city's beat around her.
And when a thief snatched at her bag as she stood marveling at the corner, she let her glasses slip and looked at him over the top to let him know it was a thing not to be done.
Well, old habits die hard.
Luanda's shadow winked shyly at the girl. She picked up her needle and thread and sewed it back to his foot. The shadow bled, while the flesh, being stone, did not.
She paused. Stitch picked the shadow back off and took the shadow’s hand as the moon set over the hills.
Bacchus stepped into the Opera house armed with a bottle of mineral water and a plastic tray. He handed over his print out and received a plastic wrist band in return. And a wine glass stamped with the logo, "City Annual Wine and Food Extravaganza." He slid the wine logo wine glass into the slot in the plastic tray. He grinned at the list of participating wineries and made his way to the marble staircase. He snapped his fingers and a dozen maenads spread out behind him armed with glasses of their own. He'd already planned his attack.
He winked at the matching booth babe and bronze at the first floor vodka booth. He said, "Strategy never survives an encounter with the battlefield, don't you think." And took a shot.
The rest was laughter.
Innana checked her inbox. "Oh, I don't think so!" Her exit would have been more dra(g)matic if the crank on her window hadn't stuck. She cursed it to stars and flew out the wind(ow). Once she'd gathered her posse of armed love gods (Eros, Freya - the usual crew), she headed to the Circle park for the demonstration.
Afterwards, all she'd say at the police stat(e)ion was, "We were making love and not war."
Sky-father came with bail a few hours later, but by then the damage was done.
The mall was full of Sumerian zombies and Cindy Lu didn't have a dress for the prom or a date or like everything sucked. Which is how she ended up at Starbucks pouring our her life story to a Kitsune in this awesome hand painted printed T.
The dress was awesome and if it disappeared at midnight, well, she'd brought a robe. Seriously, he was a Kitsune. Went with the territory. Glass slippers though. They drank plum wine out of those when they snuck into the annual opera wine brawl later.
Getting a fox tattoo hadn't been the plan. But hey, if she hadn't wanted it, she wouldn't have accepted the first macchiato.
Oya tilted her head and tilted the horsetail between her hands and tilted the world. Well, truth be said, it tilted. She shook it right. She shook it left. She spun on one foot and there may have been a tornado. She was going all out today.
The doors to the mall opened and the crowds rushed in. Oya laughed a breeze of air conditioned blast and castanetted her fingers. There was change in the air. And lightening. And tornadoes. She narrowed her eyes. Sumerian zombies.
She sent Innana an unfriendly text, because it wasn’t all love and war, and got down to business.
The butterfly house at the center of the Museum of Science at the center of the Botanical gardens had finally been finished and what happened? Horny or was that horned gods trashed the place. Itzpapalotl scowled and drank some blood from her thermos. She snapped her wings and snapped her bone fingers and snapped her butterfly net.
Goat boy was going down.
The Fox looked at the Wolf.
The Wolf looked at the Eagle.
The Eagle/Zeus king of the Gods slid between them and said to the Fox, "Hey, baby. What's your sign?"
The Fox solemnly nodded at the Wolf.
The next morning, Hera received a box in the mail. She opened it and scowled. She refused to lend the Eagle her peacock feathers. Even when he begged.
Red Riding hood did a slow grind with the Wolf in the dark club. She had a butcher knife to his heart and his teeth were at her neck. Nothing for it, but to listen to the driving beat of the music in the dark and dance.
Snow looked at the ripe red apple and she looked at Red. "You're kidding me, right?"
Red smiled a charming smile and twirled the evil queen's crown around her index finger. "It is my birthday."
Snow sighed and bit into the apple. Yawned and lay back on the hard bed. As she fell asleep, she wondered what sort of kiss Red would wake her with this year.
Pippi Longstocking picked up the car and moved it so it wasn't straddling over the line into the next space. It wasn't like she needed to park. She didn’t even own a car. She had a flying pirate ship. She just hated jerks.
Maleficent was having a bad hair day. One horn was turned left. The other was turned right and her ravens were laughing at her.
She ate three fairies and picked her teeth with a sword and felt infinitely better. Until the fairies gave her indigestion.
She went back to bed and tried again.
Abu Saber looked out the window and smiled to see that the sun still rose.
It was a slow night at Caritas. (Jesus hadn't named it after the bar on Angel. Kind of the reverse.)
A trio of tired tourists (and wasn't that a footful) were tossed up by the City and heaved up to the bar. Iced marble. So hot outside, one embraced it. The bar often got that reaction.
Jesus went to the tap and poured water into three wine glasses and gave them what refreshment they needed.
Marici roared down the highway on her hog. Difficult, because no one else could see her. But not impossible. She sheared through the fog that clung to the West Side. She twisted down the long road that led along the sea. The road made a figure six. She put a cloverleaf in her hair and winked at the Weekend Warriors who couldn't see her as they rode along the sea.
The one at the end might have heard her rumble. She speared a lotus through his saddlebags as she went by. It would bloom as he rode. Road.
Marici roared down the highway on her hog.
White Tara wrung the grace out of her hair. It flowed into the water temple perched under the gondolas. There was a pure jade statue that looked out at the mist. It looked like solid plastic in the lamp light.
Green Tara wrung the grace out of her dress. It splashed the city streets like viscous rain. It clung to windshields and oozed over umbrellas. A little girl turned her face up and splashed in a puddle by the side of the road.
Obviously, the grail was the cup made of wood. The wooden chimes rustled over the wooden statue of a bear. A garden gnome giggled.
The problem was this was a burlwood shop in a row of burlwood shops along the Old Redwood highway. All the cups were carved of wood.
He wasn't a Mentalist. Well, maybe. He had a clever tongue and he smiled an untruth at his partner. He wasn't a criminal analyst. True enough. He didn't have a degree.
Athena said, "You're Watson to my Holmes." She arched an eyebrow at him. "Or should I tell you where on the plains of fair Illium you got your war injury again?"
Odysseus tapped his fingers on his war revolver and grinned. He knew Watson. He knew Holmes. He whispered, "The games afoot," and followed her as she ran.
The Monkey King swung idly on the jungle gym. Okay, it was a construction site, but he had King Kong in his sites.
He plucked a handful of bottle brush flowers and after a quick conference with the Flying Z Monkeys, he made his approach.
He had some serious apologizing to do.
Rainbow serpent smiled a billabong ring at Jörmungandr, who looked back at Rainbow uncertainly. Unused no doubt to smiles. Or rainbows.
Rainbow arched like a bridge and let the gods journey on his back. He winked at Jormangandr coiled and wrapped at the bottom of the bay. Rainbow cast aside his stick and his stones as islands. She swayed in the wind and was an oil slick on the water's surface.
She floated and sent a Selkie with a love note. "With stick or without?"
The reply was a bubble. "Both." Rainbow gathered up his islands and coiled down.
Osiris flicked at a bent corner on the cover of his glossy travel magazine. It made a repetitious scritch-scritch. He was wearing his "Safari" suit. The one with the one hundred and one hidden pockets.
Nepthys glanced at him and stabbed at her knitting project over the swell of her very pregnant belly. Pearls dropped and bounced from the yarn onto the floor.
Isis smiled at Set across the narrow table with its inlay of gold and electrum. She handed Osiris an envelope and said, "Happy Birthday, Desert Honey."
He ripped it open with rapid fingers. "Bora Bora." He let the envelope fall. "How did you know?"
Isis smiled and handed him a safari hat in green to match his skin. "Because, I love you." But Set was the one she smiled at. She ignored Nepthys and her rain of pearls.
Set really didn't like that smile. He texted his men. "Put away box. Save for next year." At the queen of Ethiopia's returned, "?" He sent back. "Tropical Vacation. Again." He smiled back at the sister that he wasn't married to, who was not pregnant, as he eviscerated a pomegranate with his fingers.
Cu Cuhulain sat in the optometrist's chair and sat very still. He had sixteen eyes.
This was going to take awhile.
Scáthach did not sparkle. She did not live in the redwoods. She did not go to high school even though she was hundreds of years old. She was not full of the eternal angst of being eternally young and pretty. She was not pretty. She was weather scared like a mountain. Her hair was black as the heart of a burnt tree. Her lips were red as old dried blood. Her skin was white as city snow. She was not young. She did not sparkle. Not even a little.
She ran a high school and the students who pissed her off wrote their essays in blood.
This wasn't a curse.
As she did a double back flip, shattered a board and caught an arrow in mid-flight, she grinned at the latest batch.
She winked at the venerable celestial five fingered dragon, who taught poetry not martial arts. He sent her a poem in a paper airplane. She liked his aerodynamics.
It was a four poster bed. A wrought iron four poster bed. With silk lined handcuffs dangling from the frame. Banu Goshasp glanced sidelong at her best beloved husband, Giv. He kissed her cheek and climbed onto the bed. His arms out stretched. She said, "It's not even my birthday."
He smiled. It was their anniversary. She snapped the cuffs in place and began...
Sekmet strolled through the gym and lept on the elliptical. She put on her headphones and dialed it up to 11. Red beer and blood wasn't exactly low cal.
They hadn't started regression testing, the release manifest was three lines on the back of an envelope and the servers were about to croak.
Durga laughed until the office shook. "Why is the rum always gone?" Then she made the sign of "Deal with it".
She dealt it.
The sound of her steps clip-thudded down the walkway. She could have replaced the iron leg years ago, but Vishpala liked the way she sounded as she ran up the stairs.
The men at the convention drew back and she took the stage with a click-clang-thud. She wore a Doc Martin on her other foot and that shoe hadn't yet dropped.
Later as she sat with the Tin Woodsman at a stool in the bar, they had an axe throwing contest. It was a draw. No one lost a limb.
The hero twins looked at the spread of footie scholarships on the bed and grinned. Slapped palms together and said, "Full ride."
Which isn't to say that they weren't still thinking about how to avenge the sad death of their father, One-Hunter, and uncle, Seven-Hunter, but a full ride to college was a full ride.
Percy threw the witches shared glass eye into the bog and laughed.
The eldest witch clicked the clacker that sounded the alarm in the middle of the eye. As they crawled toward the noise, they laughed too.
The sirens went off. The sirens were always going off about something. Never where Persephone had gotten off to, but still.
That's why they had a local cable station. To get out the word to the world.
"Green eggs and ham? Seriously, Sam I am?"
The fox in his socks shrugged at the rabbit in his tar black coat. "It was all I could get after the wolf with his sticks blew the pig's house down with TnT."
The cat in the hat picked up his fork and dug in.
When Maria Rosa raised her right hand, the ground was strewn with white roses. When she raised her left hand, the ground was strewn with very sharp swords.
She put her hands on her hips and smiled at the bank robbers with their bandoliers and considered her choices.
The djinn said, "And then he took my coat of feathers."
The selkie turned up the collar of her fur coat and took her hand. "My sister, tell me about it."
The djinn clasped the lock of her son's hair in the locket around her neck and she did.
The selkie pushed some paperwork across the table. She was a Wolf Seal and the Juris Doctorate on the wall gleamed with shiny gold seals.
The Shen of the Sea were pissed. First they were stuck in a bottle for one hundred and fifty years and then, and then! They sighed and picked up the next issue. The current plot arcs of the new 52 were incredibly inconsistent.
Along the wine road, there are a thousand houses. Each in a different style. French castles over rolling hills. Italian Villas terraced. Ziggurats and Flying S with Windmill to lift you high.
But at the end of the wine road, down by the sea, there is a House of Secrets. Across the way, perches a House of Mystery and the waves rumble below.
In the red lacquer House of Mysteries, Mary will tell you a mystery. Dinner theater, six nights a week and one matinee.
In the bronze House of Secrets, Lilith will serve you salt waves and cream water and will whisper a secret in your ear.
No one ever makes it there. As was mentioned, there are a thousand houses along the way.
On the tallest skyscrapers, where the tips pierce the sky, there are no observation decks. The cries of the wind goes unheard. The sway of steel. What happens there is supposed to stay there. If clouds sometimes burst forth with a rain of god babies, that’s what the flying spider monkeys in their biplanes are for.
Spider said, "Go Fish."
Coyote reached into the fish bowl and pulled out a fish. It was slimy and blue. He ate it.
Raven said, "You're not supposed to eat it."
Coyote lolled his tongue and licked his lips. He waggled his eyebrows. “Go fish.”
Hiawatha was in a street corner band with Childe Roland and a rolling group of guys. They drummed barrels. Blew pipes. Made noise with their toes and hands and feet. He yelled out to the gathering crowd, “I call this one Longfellow,” and clanged two trash can lids together.
"Red rover, red rover, send Fate right over."
She smiled, adjusted her shoes and came right on over.
Time was having a grand time. She'd waltzed. She'd tangoed. She'd been swept back and forth and now she'd let down her hair. The strands coiled damply on her neck. Her heart beat faster than a double time drum.
Death cracked his spine and held out his hand as Danse Macabre began to play.
~Sleeping Beauty (Disney)
13:Abu Sabir, the value of patience
~South American RPF
32:Contestado War and Maria Rosa
31:Cat in Hat, Fox in Sox, Green Eggs and Ham
Chapter 2: Forty From the Mirror [Podcast]
Somewhere, there is a City where all myths and legends mix and stand on street corners to wait for the bus. Where skyscrapers hold secrets and the sirens desperately attempt to tell the truth via local cable. Any story can meet another, even ones that are real.
Length: 24:20, 11.4Mb
Chapter 3: Forty-One
For my forty-first birthday, on my forty-first birthday, a stream of consciousness about the road.
In the Continuum, there is a road. The road goes in. The road leads out. They've all been the scarecrow. They've all been the new. They've all been the old. Q goes and and he goes out. The universe is full of things gross and strange, but it's not for the timid. Trickster tricks himself and sits down to dinner with Loki to cut a deal. They trade in gold that will turn to leaves. The leaves blow along the road, which goes and out of the Continuum. The scarecrow looks up from his perch. The new and the old close their books for a moment. Just a moment. To watch leaves dance on the blacktop under a strong breeze.
The breeze is the passage of a car. Or perhaps its a boat.
In heaven, there's a road. It might be a river. A ladder. A vine wrapped around a column of smoke that leads up into the clouds.
The Axis Mundi appears as we think it might.
Dean drives his car down the road. She's been broken so many times. The car. The road. Rebuilt. Repaved. Home. The headlights of the car are its eyes that see and cast light out into the dark of night. Under the spinning wheel of the sky road. The silver river on which the moon sails.
Her wheels float up the leaves. They spin. The smoke and the vine cannot watch the leaves that were gold turn on the breeze of passage. They have no eyes. They don't need them.
The road goes in. The road leads out. Roots into the earth. Smoke dissipating into the sky.
Like consciousness in search of a direction. The wheels are spinning. The oars dip delicately into the water, which glows at the touch. The Earth is dipping her oars in the water and making stars with the drops of water that fall into the celestial spheres. She's the driver. She selects the music. Ringing celestial spheres.
Forward then. To the soundtrack of stars on a blue boat home.
Chapter 4: 42
Alice fell up a well. Sadly, the ravens who lived there weren't terribly good at math.
On the plus side, waffles and chicken!
Continuing my tradition of writing a little something on my birthday. A terribly stream of consciousness piece with some small blending: Hitchhikers, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the Goddess Oya.
Alice fell head first down the well. The walls were treacle wet and lined with ravens and writing desks and books. She grabbed the one with the cover that said, "Don't Panic." It seemed like good advice just then given that she was falling into a deep well that seemed to have no bottom.
One raven said, "42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything."
Another raven said, "Nevermore, shall I ask you what 7 times something is."
A third raven said, "Caw." Alice respected her choice of remark.
Alice was falling slowly. It seemed to her that she might be falling up. Floating rather than falling. With her hair in a cloud of around her face. She came out the other side of the well and into the sky. She really was floating, because she kept going. Past the glass elevator and the glass ceiling. She called out, "Sorry," as she crashed through it leaving a great gaping Alice shaped hole. Glass ceiling whole no more.
The third raven, who had said, "Caw," had followed her out of the well. Raven said, "I had to leave them behind. When we get together, we are an unkindness. Apart, I can be kind. Would you like some help?"
"Yes, please," said Alice, because she wished to be polite and she really would like some help.
Raven tugged her over to a cloud where they settled down on the soft downy stuff. There was a woman there with a rainbow colored cyclone skirt that whirled at the cloud stuff. She was standing in front of a black metal monster of a grill. She was basting something with a horsehair tail flail. The woman said, "Good morning, Raven."
Raven said, "Good morning, Oya, this is Alice. What are you cooking?"
Oya grinned with lightening teeth. "Raven and Alice." Then she laughed like thunder. "If you could see the looks on your fool faces." She fished in a pocket of her cyclone skirt whirling at the cloud stuff and pulled out a small mirror with a purple stone back. "Here." She tossed it to Alice, who looked at herself.
Alice hardly recognized herself. She said, "Am I really that old? I don't feel that old. But I suppose I have done rather a lot of things. So I must be."
Raven peered in the mirror over her shoulder. "No. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Yes, but you have it backwards. Mirrors are like that."
Alice held out the mirror so Raven could look at herself. Alice’s belly growled. Oya laughed and it turned out she was smoking a chicken on the grill. They were standing on the smoke of her fire. There were also waffles. Oya served up breakfast and dinner in one. It all tasted very good.
Alice thanked Oya for breakfast. Oya tapped her nose three times with the handle of the beaded horsehair tail.
Raven asked, "Are you ready?"
Alice wasn't sure, but felt it was better to do anything rather than nothing, so she said, "I'm not going to panic." She held up her book.
Oya laughed and tossed Alice up in the air as if she were light as a feather. Alice felt like a feather as she floated up and up.
Alice passed some children who were flying to the third star on the right. She waved at them and they waved at her. It was morning, so they were almost there.
She asked Raven, "When will I stop floating?"
Raven said, "When you get where you're going." Raven circled her three times. "Do you really want to get there?"
Alice thought about this. "Not really. I'm having a lot of fun going there though."
"Well, then," said Raven. "Caw."
"Caw," said Alice. At which point, Alice was really quite stuck for how to end a story that was in the middle. She shrugged and decided not to bother and opened her book. It was about traveling everywhere and had advice for everything and she wanted to be prepared for what she'd find.
Chapter 5: 43
In which variously gendered dieties and powerful beings play Monopoly and discuss (briefly) Omegaverse.
Huh, forty-three already. My how a year passes. This year for my birthday, since I've been writing so much Omegaverse, I thought I'd add a brief entry reflecting if not necessarily the year to come, certainly something that's taken up a great deal of my creative energy this last year.
Hemaphrodite rolled the dice and moved the boot to Park Lane. Herm couldn't afford it, but no one owned it either. "I'm so silly and I know you've explained this before," herm twirled a long black tress around a finger, "but explain this to me again."
Coyote laughed. He rolled the dice. His roll landed him on Income Tax. His lip curled and he reached down and snapped off his dick and put it in the mush pile. She said, "Not that complicated, Beautiful."
Loki who felt like he was ninety years - it was only eight months - pregnant by such a well hung horse said, "Get that off of there! No one wants that." He wanted it. He coveted it. He lusted after it. He was already plotting how to roll the dice and land on Free Parking.
Coyote hung her tongue out of her long mouth and laughed. She said, "Like I was saying. Not that complicated."
Rainbow Serpent blinked dreamily. Irs couldn't remember what gender irs was being today. Or that it was irs turn. Or that the dice weren't bees, buzzing happily about the yard and landing on brightly colored money that became brilliant flowers.
"Instead of there being two genders," said Coyote, scratching her right breast's nipple, "Omegavese is where you've got your four genders: MaleAlpha, Male Omega, Male Beta, and Women."
The bees, who hadn't existed on the last roll buzzed around looking for their hive. It was November. The sun was high in the air and the day was warm, but underneath that warmth there was the cold that rolled the carpet in each night.
Coyote leaned back in her chair. "Then you got your six gender Omegaverse. Male or Female with Alphas, Omegas, Betas."
"I don't get it," said Hermaphrodite. Herm tossed luxuriant black tresses inherited from Aphrodite and did not reach down to stroke the cock inherited from Hermes to emphasize the point, because herm genuinely didn't get it.
Coyote laughed, because she thought that Hermaphrodite was hot, but not that bright. "It's not that complicated."
Ayelah the jinn stretched massive wings, if as unsubstantial as a warm breeze that tumbled the bees, said, "Could we focus on the game?" Zie looked up at the sun in the sky. "At this rate, the sun will die in the west long before we're done. Anyway, you're missing the point of Omegaverse."
"Here, here," said Loki stroking the curve of his very pregnant belly and twisting his fingers just so, which had the bees landing just so. "Look Rainbow, you landed on Chance."
"Hmmm…" said Rainbow, moving irs racecar to Chance and pulling a card. The card hadn't always read, "Smile before bed and you'll sleep better," but it did then. Irs said, "That's nice."
Loki rolled the dice, which were now weighted and had sixty-four sides and landed on Free Parking. He plucked Coyote's phallus out of the mush pile and started doing something with it under the table and under his maternity dress. "The point, oh, that just hits Mama's spot, is that in Omegaverse there is lots of hot, steamy sex between hot Omegas who go into heat and can't keep themselves from begging for sex…"
"Dubious consent is the point," muttered Ayelah the jinn, who glared at zirs lamp, which was currently a thousand miles away on the Vizier Jaffar's shelf and who knew what that relentlessly tacky son of a buzzard would wish for next.
Loki waved Ayelah the jinn off, "Like I was saying, begging for sexing from Alphas who are hung…like… horses, who rut and knot the Omegas and breed them."
Everyone exchanged looks. It was no secret Loki had a kink for that sort of thing, but none of them were the sort to judge anyone for that sort of thing.
Coyote laughed. "It's not the size, its," she jostled Loki's elbow in such a way as to making him moan, "how you use it."
"Oh," said Hermaphrodite, who as the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, and importantly the sibling of Priapus, did very much understand the idea of hot steamy sex. "Oh, would you look at that," Herm sent a quick text to herms sibling. "Booty call!" and got an immediate, "Yes!!!" Herm smiled brightly at the group. "I've had an emergency. I've got to go." Herm waved goodbye and left.
"Sexurgency," coughed Loki.
Coyote laughed. She'd been hoping to win Hermaphrodite's dress as this was strip Monopoly, but easy come, easy go as it was, she reached under the table and took over from Loki's hand. "You'll be in your bunk." Which both got a laugh and a gasp from Loki.
Ayelah the jinn said, "Isn't anyone going to play the game?"
"We could make vast ancient deserts abandoned by the jungle instead," said Rainbow Serpent.
"Gah!" said Ayelah, who really had gotten a call from the Vizier Jaffar. "It's my day off." Zie picked up zirs phone, "Yes, Your Excellency. A floating palace made of pure electrum and studded with the diamonds of infinite hope. Of course, I can build that." Zie clicked off. "On my day off you weasel faced son of a wombat." Zie looked at the group. "Lame duty calls. We were never going to finish anyway."
Rainbow Serpent hummed with the bees while Coyote and Loki moved off stage to negotiate the return of Coyote's phallus. The flowers nodded at the bees advances.
A single butterfly fluttered around the yard and was gone. Rainbow Serpent didn't notice. Iris was dreaming something wonderful and strange.
Chapter 6: 44 from the mirror
I'm not quite sure where this year's story came from. Perhaps all the star gazing I've been doing this summer. Thoroughly random. Hope you enjoy this year's entry.
A low flying star passed under the night folded clouds.
Sying used to be a high flying star, like all the others, but it was boring up in the celestial spheres. Everyone was always playing bells and humming. Sying preferred music with a heavy beat. Something with drums. Up there, it was hard to see what was going on. Below the clouds was wehre the action was.
That's why she became a low flying star.
Everyone said she'd come to no good down there, but it had been fine.
She was flying over a stadium that looked like a giant bird's nest, when someone said, "Excuse me." It was a flying teenage girl in flannel pyjamas covered in pictures of small sheep. She was wearing glittering red slippers. "Are you the first star to the right? My name's Yue and I'm supposed to find the first star to the right. It'll lead me to the Queen of the Milk Road. The Good Luck Unicorn gave me these magic slippers and said I had to find the first star to the right and then turn left and fly straight on till morning."
Sying lied. "Yes, I am the first star to the right." She didn’t mean to lie. It's just she wasn't prepared for a question. The winds were lying liars who lied and she'd gotten into bad habits. Still her inner core was in the right place. Also, hot. She said, "I'll go with you. Otherwise, it'll be hard for you to keep going straight." Then feeling like she should say something else, she said, "Nice sheep."
Yue looked down at her pyjamas and shrugged. "They were on sale."
They flew for a while. Yue told Sying about her school work and the book she was reading.
When they flew over the Great Black Mountain of the Twisted Peak, a flock of Great Moths flew by. They were carnivorous, which meant they were normally harmless. Sying had seen them eat animals and mountaineers time to time, but somehow she forgot that Yue was made of meat.
They swarmed around Yue, who batted at them yelling, "Ow! Go away. Sying, help!" Then she flailed a lot.
Sying wasn't sure what to do. She didn't have arms. She was a star. But she had to do something.
Sying wrinkled her photosphere and glowed as brightly as she could. The Giant Moths spun away from Yue. They swarmed around Sying, who yelled, "Go away." But for a different reason than Yue. Soon she was spinning off Giant Moth ash, and spitting it out of her coronal hole. She could see the Giant Moths continuing to flutter up from the Great Black Mountain of the Twisted Peak. "We need to get out of here."
"Yes!" said Yue. "Let's go higher."
They went higher into the clouds. Yue shivered at first, but after thinking about it flew closer to Sying, who was after all quite warm. What with being a low flying star.
"It was good luck you came with me," said Yue. "I'm glad the first star to the right was so nice."
Sying felt terrible. She'd been caught in a lie of her own making. She didn't want Yue to get mad at her. She didn't say anything. But she couldn't help the dark spots appearing on her surface.
Yue giggled. "Don't be embarrassed."
Sying was not embarrassed. She still didn't correct her lie.
They flew up above the clouds. "Oh," said Yue," looking up at the Milky Way. "Maybe we were supposed to go this way anyway. Yeah that makes sense."
"Maybe." Sying hummed to prevent other words from blurting out. Sometimes, things got a little loud inside her head. Still she told herself, almost mumbling the words, if she did her best to be the first star to the right, it might become true.
"What was that?" said Yue.
"That way," said Sying, waving a prominence at the thick band of stars across the sky.
They flew past the mountain range and didn't have any more trouble with Giant Moths. One Smog monster followed by a dragon, but Sying and Yue waited politely for them to pass, and kept going.
"Where do you think they're going?" asked Yue.
"To a volcano. They're getting married next spring and they're scouting locations," said Sying, who spotted again, because she just couldn't stop lying. She'd never seen those creatures before in her life. She had no idea what was happening. She resolved to tell nothing but the truth, and said, "I hope this one works out. They've been looking for ages. The last volcano they looked at had gone dormant. And the one before that just kept spewing toxic gas, which was fine for the Smog Monster, her name is Xhel, but not at all what Daniel the Dragon wanted." Sying wrinkled her photosphere. "Compromise is important in a marriage."
"My Father says that. Mother says that means not getting what you want, and how she's always the one who has to compromise." Yue turned pink. "They argue a lot. That's what they were doing when I took the shoes and left a note that I was going to visit Grandma. I wish they'd get a divorce already."
"I thought there was the Good Luck Unicorn," said Sying. Who wasn't sure what she was supposed to say about the other thing.
"Oh, there was," said Yue. "There definitely, absolutely was the Good Luck Unicorn, who definitely told me to find you."
Sying felt bad about that, but she didn't say anything.
They kept flying.
The Milky Way faded as the sky grew pale with dawn.
Sying was sure she'd have to say something, when the first ray of the sun glinted off a crystal in a silk draped spire.
"Wow," said Yue. "I… do you think that's… it can't be the Queen of the Milk Road's Palace. I mean, I… well…"
"It's a palace," said Sying glumly. It was sure to be the palace of anyone except the Queen of the Milk Road.
They flew down through the wide glittering arches covered in long pennants of silk. They passed men and women in colourful silk. Yue said, "Um, I'm… I guess… I'm looking for the Queen, but if she'd too busy, I understand and we'll leave."
"Pfff," said the first woman. "Too busy. If you can get her to stop spinning silk, I'd be grateful. We have enough of the stuff."
They made their way in the direction the woman had pointed until they came to a Great Hall. Inside the large ornate room was a massive black spider in a gold silk dress spinning strands of bright green silk. She had a tuft of golden hair that made a sort of crown over her many blinking crystal bright eyes.
"I suppose the Good Luck Unicorn could have actually said Spider Queen of the Silk Road," said Yue, "In fact… oh, I can't anymore. There was no Good Luck Unicorn. I took Grandma's shoes without asking. I lied to you. Please don't be mad at me?"
"As long as you're not mad at me," said Sying, "I'm not the first star to the right and the Great Black Mountain of the Twisted Peak isn't made of brown sugar and I don't know the Smog Monster and that Dragon. I've been lying all night."
"Oh," said Yue. She looked at the giant spider. "Maybe we should leave before the Queen notices us."
"Look at the two of you," said the Spider Queen of the Silk Road." She snapped two legs. "Tailors. Seamstresses. Get in here. There's a child in mass produced flannel and a naked star in my Great Hall. This will not do!" She stomped all eight feet. "Although, a star will present a bit of a sartorial challenge." She spun on her own silk thread. "I've been itching for a challenge for years."
Tailors and seamstresses flooded into the room armed with tape measures, scissors and pins. Other servants carried in bolts of fabric.
"This is the price of lying," said Yue in a sad whisper. "To be stuck by pins. Ow!"
"Stop twitching," said the Seamstress currently pinning Yue into a vibrant red silk dress, which suited her coloring, but was a bit floufy for Yue's personality.
"She'd probably prefer a pantsuit," said Sying.
"Oh, she'll be getting an entire wardrobe," said the Seamstress. "We've got a lot a silk to get rid of."
Sying was surprised to find herself wrapped in a complicated gold sarong. She plucked at it with coronal loops and prominences, but it simply gave way, but did not catch fire.
The Spider Queen of the Silk Road laughed. It sounded evil, but possibly wasn't, because she said, "See how the fit gives way." She dropped to the floor next to Sying. "Now show me how it moves when you spin."
"But it's not burning," said Sying.
The Spider Queen of the Silk Road laughed maniacally. "My silk is well-nigh indestructible, not like that cheap worm crap most people wear."
"Don't get her started," said a Tailor around a mouthful of pins.
"Do you know it's actually crap," said the Spider Queen of the Silk Road.
Yue's face got wrinkly. "No, it's not. It's…"
A Tailor waved his hands frantically. So Sying said, "Stars mostly wear elemental fabrics. Burning gases. I did know a star who wore nothing but the purest Hydrogen. She became a black hole." She hadn't, and really saying stars wore burning gasses was a bit like saying a person wore skin.
But the Spider Queen of the Silk Road bopped up and down and scratched her chin with a leg, while rubbing two other legs together. "Tell me more."
Sying sighed on the inside and made up some more, while the Tailors and the Seamstresses looked very relieved.
Yue drooped into a nap and then a full on days sleep, while the Tailors tailored and the Seamstresses sewed.
Eventually, they had many outfits. Many, many outfits, which were folded between pieces of silk paper into two carved teak hope chests that could be fitted with attachments with hundreds of tiny red wings for convenient traveling. "I'm never going to wear all those clothes," said Yue glaring in disbelief at her hope chest.
The Spider Queen of the Silk Road laughed manically. "Now you're ready for the ball. I sent out the invitations when you got here."
"Ball? What ball?" asked Yue.
Musicians began to play sprightly music with a sad resemblance to the music of the spheres. The Tailors and the Seamstresses left to be replaced by various peoples and creatures in fantastical silk garments. Stiff ruffs and embroidered t-tunics and saris and kimonos and things Sying had no clue what they were called. Some floated. Some slithered. Everyone looked fabulous.
"That ball," said the Spider Queen of the Silk Road.
"But I don't," said Yue, but it was too late. She was spun out onto the dance floor by a tall thin birdman in a green and gold silk suit. His suit had gold silk epaulettes that looked like feathers. Yue's dress flared out as she spun.
Sying stood by the wall. A couple of wyverns stopped by, but weren't quite sure how to dance with her, what with her burning hot surface. She was a bit of a wall flower. A wall star. She chatted with the phoenix, while Yue danced miserably.
"You could just say no," said Sying during a break between sets.
Yue rolled her eyes, "Have you read any fiction?"
Sying bobbed, which was how stars shrug. "Stars don't read much."
"Trust me, not the way to go when you're on an adventure," said Yue. "You never know who's a god in disguise or we'll need something from later."
Just then a bird woman ran into the Great Hall, "Your Majesty, it's the Army Ants, they're marching on the Palace from where the Sugar Highway meets the Silk Road." This announcement was followed shortly by enormous Black Ants swarming into the room, waving their antenna and tossing people around.
"You'll never get my silk," screamed the Spider Queen of the Silk Road. She brandished enormous silver needles with three legs, held silk nets with three legs, while rearing up on the other two. She did admittedly look really impressive. Though when she'd had time to change into a silk armor that deflected the Army Ants arrows, Sying couldn't have said.
"Take the silk," said some people. Other people said, "Run!" While still others just screamed.
"We don't want the silk," said the ants all together. "You're palace is on our scent trail and you're between us and sugar mountain."
The Spider Queen of Silk Road fought amazingly, but she was only one spider and there were a lot of really well coordinated Army Ants.
Sying wrung her prominences. She could, of course, have flared, but that would kill everyone in the room. For all her evil laughing, the Spider Queen of the Silk Road was quite nice. Not to mention Yue and the other people.
"Sying, I have an idea," said Yue. She flew up out of the Great Hall's wide windows and headed towards the tallest spire of the palace. The one that had caught their attention when they arrived. It was capped by a large clear piece of crystal. Yue kicked her floaty skirts out of the way and kicked it free of the spire.
This high up, they could clearly see the trail of black ants, wave after wave headed towards the palace. "Float there," said Yue. She pointed to a specific spot. She took off her silk stockings and used them to tie both ends of the crystal. She dangled the crystal in front of Sying. "Now shine."
Sying shone. The crystal directed and intensified Sying's starlight down on the Army Ants marching along the Sugar road into a laser beam of light. They could hear shouts as the Army Ants ran off the road and immediately got lost once they weren't on the scent trail. The Army Ants soon retreated.
Yue tried to tie the crystal back into place, but while silk had many good qualities, it did not make good mortar. She ended up dropping it with a thunk into the middle of the Great Hall.
The Spider Queen of the Silk Road said, "How can I thank you?"
"Not more clothes," said Yue.
But it was already too late. The Spider Queen of the Silk Road was already spinning a special silk embedded with tiny crystals. She sewed a simple shirt and wide pants that appeared midnight blue until Yue moved and then it glowed. Yue kicked her legs to watch the colors shift. "Okay, that might be cool."
Sying got a cape of the darkest night black that seemed to suck the light in as she turned, as if she were a black hole. She'd actually met a black hole once. Nice, but a complete introvert.
The Spider Queen of the Silk Road grinned fanged teeth and laughed maniacally. "I'm glad you like them."
After enduring a celebratory concert, they flew off.
Sying felt as if she was a stealth star in her new cape. Yue spun around yelling, "I'm the moon!" Their luggage flew after them. As they went, Yue said, "So, was the lesson here that lying is bad or lying is good."
Sying didn't answer. She was swooping around.
They swooped around each other as they made their way back to where they'd met. When they got there, Yue said, "I guess this is it."
Sying said, "I guess."
"Oh, this is stupid, do you have a phone or something?" asked Yue.
Sying didn't exactly have a phone, but she had a star pager. They exchanged numbers. Sying looked at the trunk. "What are you going to tell your parents about the spider silk clothes?"
Yue waved a hand. "I'll tell them something." Sying looked at her. Yue said, "I'm a teenager. They'll ground me till forever if I tell them the truth."
"True," said Sying, "tomorrow night?"
Yue shrugged yes, and said her goodbyes, because really what else was there to say.
Though as she flew along, Sying thought about telling the story to the North wind, but decided not to.
There was no way he'd believe her.
Chapter 7: Forty-Five
Liberty and Justice walked along the street towards the next bridge.
A little something to pick me up on this pre-election birthday. Maybe pick you up too. Hope. She's around the bend in this story.
Justice tapped her guide cane on the pavement. She could hear the rush of cars on the street. The bustle of the City. Most importantly, she could hear her girlfriend, Liberty, talking.
Justice's left hand was free. Her scales were comfortably settled into a bag slung on one shoulder. Her sword in its sheath. She reached out and took Liberty's hand. Squeezed. "It will get better."
Liberty sighed. "You're, how do you say, an optimiste."
"The arc of history is long."
That earned her a brief soft kiss. A laugh. "But it bends so sweet to you."
"Towards both of us." Justice tilted her head up to where Liberty was a warm barrier to the cold autumn wind. "We're a package deal. You can't have one of us without the other." Liberty slid her arm around Justice's shoulders. They bumped along the street together.
Justice could hear people talking about them. Two women brushing hips. It would have been nice to run into Love, but Justice was used to finding Fear, Anger, and Hatred instead. They lived in the stooped houses near the river.
Fear laughed his high rolling laugh. "Not getting across the river, little girls."
Justice almost stopped, but Liberty squeezed her shoulder, "We need to get to the bridge." So, Justice didn't say anything. They walked faster. Liberty shifting her arm to help Justice from stumbling on the increasingly cracked and rutted pavement. The increasing roar of cars honking. People yelling. Screaming. Fighting.
"Not the bridge again." Liberty came to a stop.
"What?" asked Justice. She knew the answer. It was always the bridge.
Hatred, with his sharp sickly cologne, brushed by them. "Weren't never no bridge, crazies. Was always just a wall. Go back. This is our town."
"Oh, for," Justice snapped up her guide stick and put it away. She pulled out her scales.
Liberty sighed. She pulled her book out of Justice's bag. Justice could feel the shining light of her torch. Hear her looking through her book until she found the right page. Liberty read the spell written there.
That was when Justice drew her sword. Listened for Fear. Hatred. Anger. Really listened. She didn't fight by rushing in. She couldn't see their shapes in the sound of their steps. Her sword was just another guide, but her scales were the level.
Next to her, she could hear Liberty lowering the drawbridge word by word. Felt it as much as heard it as the cars surged forward. People walking. Everyone rumbling across.
It wasn't that Fear, Anger and Hatred were defeated. Just that traffic was moving.
There was, of course, also the obnoxious troll, who threw isms from under the next bridge up to bust tires and slash shoes. But as Liberty bent Justice back in a sweet kiss, Justice was optimistic. How could she be anything else when the love of her life was fighting beside her to keep the bridges open.
Chapter 8: 46
Aurora woke up, weeping, to the knowledge of hatred and fear in the world.
I'd certainly hoped for something else when I wrote 45's birthday fic. We'll see what we get from this year. Although, to a degree, this fic is more about the year of being 45. Tip down then towards 46. Reclaim time.
I'll note that there is implied non-con, given we're talking Sleeping Beauty.
Aurora woke up. It felt like a punch to the gut. A stab to the kidneys. She woke up crying when she awoke to the knowledge of hatred. That there was that much anger and hate in the world. It had been somewhat easy to ignore, what with living in a rose bedecked cottage in the woods with three fairies, who pretended to be old women. Actually, she'd known. She'd been half awake, half sleeping for a long time. She had her own curses to bear. She'd woken up pregnant by a stranger. To find that this called romantic. Now, well and truly woke up, she looked out at the countryside and felt the knowledge of hatred sink in her skin like acid rain. She cried. Cried and held her belly. Did what she had to break this curse too. Awake. Tired.
Unblinking eyes and constant gaze, Xi Wangmu, Queen Mother of the West, hadn't been sleeping. Her children had made themselves into paper dolls for the privilege of being ignored. ("Made themselves?" asked Lady Meng Jiang, weeping over her husband's bones buried inside the Great Wall) Xi Wangmu swished her dragon's tale. "Complicated." Nevertheless, she had not been sleeping. Nevertheless, she persisted in her constant gaze.
Oya, Orisha of the Winds, hadn't been sleeping either. She whipped the winds. She strode in the storms. She wasn't waiting for change. She'd been working for it since the tiny coffin box into which she'd been locked had been carried to shore. She marched by the light over the northern star. She'd marched over bridges. She wept over her sons. Fallen. "The problem is, you haven't been listening to the women of color. It's great you're all woke, but what do you plan on doing?" She reclaimed her time with a flick of the wrist.
Ixcel, goddess of childbirth and war, flicked monarch butterfly wings, struggling against the cold. "I'd be curious to know the answer to that myself.
Aurora wiped at tears on her cheeks. "I thought my name was Briar Rose."
"I shall note," said Xi Wangmu, "That wasn't an answer."
The million princess march was nice. More princesses and queens than had ever been assembled in the City streets. Marching. In pink hats hand crafted by women in woods and by wharf and the weald of time.
Xi Wangmu steamed the air. "What was that meant to be?"
"What she said," said Oya whipping the air towards change. It was hard going. Red lines in the sand. Blood.
Ixcel flipped through a law book. She needed to understand the rights of her sons and daughters. "It was a very nice princess march. Will you be there when I need this?" She held up the book.
"It was my promise to try and stay awake," said Aurora. She was writing a postcard to voters(.org) with one hand. Making phone calls for her DailyAction(.org) with the other. Making 5Calls(.org) for that matter too when she could. Leaning Left. Trying to wedge a crowbar under a sister district.
"There is no try," said Xi Wangmu.
Aurora put on her Princess Leia as a Punk t-shirt. She said, "Resistance isn't futile." She spun a spindle, not idly, but with the purpose of someone free of a curse. With persistence, she might make something of it. With some help. She'd been asleep for a long time. Her knitting skills left something to be desired.
Xi Wangmu said, "Might makes sweater."
Oya eyed what Aurora was doing. "Start with a scarf."
Ixcel was a goddess of childbirth. "A blanket. Soft for the future. Let's make that."
Together, they made a blanket. The magic was in the making of it.
Chapter 9: Forty-Seven
Given when my birthday falls, and given current events, it would seem I once again went voting themed. If quieter.
Colorful books stood straight soldiers on the blond wooden shelves. In the still of the morning, it was quiet. The dust elephants still snoozed under the comfortable couch. Hestia curled under a soft blanket and reveled in being home.
She'd travelled many miles from that home. Walked many miles. Knocked on many doors canvassing all through the election. Spoken to many strangers. Something she hated doing. Tried to force words of conviction. Vote Urania. Vote for astronomy. Vote for Muses. Vote.
Now it was time to sit. To listen to the quiet of the morning in her home.
She made a cup of tea. Steam curled from it on the table as she stoked her fire. Went back to curl beneath a blanket.
Clio was off somewhere calculating the results of all that walking. All that travel. Making history. Melpomene ready to cry at the tragedy of it. Calliope ready to laugh at the triumph.
Hestia listened to the quiet of the morning. The ringing stillness of a distant plane over head. A bird's call. She yawned into her tea and wondered why she'd woken if only to yawn.
She checked the interwebs again, but Clio was still writing history.
She put away her costume from Halloween. She'd been Cinderella and Cinderella had been Hestia.
The same costumes every year.
She picked up a book. She'd read it many times. She leafed ahead to the part where the heroine wins. To where evil is defeated. She picked up that book she'd been reading before she'd gotten too busy to read, but the heroine's investigation of the mystery lost her eyes once again.
Hestia checked the interwebs again, but Clio was still writing history.
In the quiet of the morning, Hestia snuggled back into the large overstuffed pillows of the couch and watched her own fire dance in her own hearth.
Chapter 10: Forty-Eight
Mwitu the jackal lived near the airport. She’d often see visitors come on little planes that would roar out of the sky and land lightly on the airstrip.
In fact, Mwitu lived in a lovely little burrow near the airport where there were very few lions, but plenty of mice, which was nice. She would hunt the mice and Hope, who ran the little restaurant in the little airport, would leave out a bowl of water for Mwitu to lap at with a long thirsty tongue. Or coffee, which they both liked to drink a cup in the cold mornings before the planes landed with their travelers on their trips. It was a simple life. Quiet. Not like the life Mwitu had lived in ages past, which was fine. It was all fine.
And as it happened, Hope did not like mice, while Mwitu quite liked them. So this arrangement worked out quite well. Now this wasn’t the City’s main airport. Just a little place where little planes lightly took off and landed after a bit of roaring.
So, Mwitu was absolutely not expecting to see Anubis duck his long dark snout out the door of the plane. She was not expecting him to quickly walk - as all jackals do - down the steps onto the tarmac. She was not expecting him to wave off Jeff, the custom’s man, who wanted to see Anubis’ papers, with an airy, “Psychopop here. Not staying long. Here to see a lady about a bird,” and went straight to where Mwitu was sitting.
Jeff was no match for a god of any sort, or really any of the tourist ladies with their big bags stuffed with things that they ought not to have and sharp let me talk to your manager voices.
Mwitu was made of sterner stuff. She sniffed and yipped at Anubis and walked away from him. Walked away. “Anput, you’re as friendly as I remember,” said Anubis.
“Brother, I don’t use that name any more,” said Mwitu, who was not going to turn around. “And whatever you want, whatever father wants, I’m not going to do it.”
“I haven’t asked you to do anything.” Her brother could be wiley. Like a coyote. “I haven’t seen father in ages.”
She did turn around at that. She gave him a long look and sniffed to let him know what she thought of that.
“Remember when we chased off the leopard who attacked the prince visiting pharaoh's tomb. Barking and yipping and letting that leopard know what for.”
Mwitu did remember. She didn’t remember the name of the prince, but that would have been impossible. It had been three thousand years and quite a few princes ago. She didn’t do that sort of thing anymore. She lived near the airport and kept mice away from Hope’s kitchen cabinets. But she smiled at the memory and immediately knew that had been a mistake, because Anubis smiled back. A wide white smile out of ancient mischief.
She said, “You haven’t changed.”
He looked down at his black suit with its black shirt and red tie like a long tongue. “I have changed. I’m not wearing linen and a pectoral. I’m not guarding tombs.” He stood there like a lump. A guarding lump, who had taken their father Set’s side, which really had been the last straw when he was supposed to be on her side.
She was about to ask what Annubis wanted when Hope’s voice rang out. “Hey, you. What are you doing back here skulking about? Leave Mwitu alone.”
“Good Lady, I’m a Psychopop, and I’m here on…”
“I do not care if you are the Queen of England, visitors are not supposed to be back here. This is an airport. Not a lounge for…” Hope looked Anubis up and down in his rich man’s suit, “pop stars.”
Mwitu yipped and went to stand next to Hope, who set down Mwitu’s morning cup of coffee to steam in the morning light.
“I make my own pepper spray,” said Hope. “You should know that I do that.” She didn’t say it in any sort of deep menacing voice. Hope was a short and jolly woman who liked her own cooking. She said it was a smile.
Anubis took a step back. He said, “It’s Thoth. He’s gotten stuck in an inbetween place.” He gave a sidelong glance at Hope, “The moon holds grudges.”
Which was true as far as it went. It was also true that Thoth and Khonsu liked to play games together, which she really didn’t want to get involved in. When she told him that, he said, “I miss you. The scorpion demons were asking about you the other day and I realized it had been ages.”
It had been ages.
“Do you want him here?” asked Hope.
It was a good question. An excellent question. The kind of question that had led to adventures long ago.
Mwitu had a nice burrow by the airport. She kept mice out of Hope’s kitchen, but as she took a sip of coffee, she thought maybe she was ready for an adventure. “Yes.”
“Then come in,” said Hope. She looked Anubis up and down, “but you’re paying for the coffee.”
“Good lady, I can afford it.” Her brother bowed, because he could be silly like that.
Which wasn’t exactly the start of an adventure, but it did lead to breakfast.