Never let people do favors for you. You just end up owning them in return. Owing people favors is what gets you saddled with an assistant, which leads straight to hell. Or in my case, to standing in the parlor of a country manor, debating the best strategy for emptying my seasick stomach. The planet we had followed good money to, New Victoria, was all islands. Colonists–no advanced life preexisted on it–thought boats were a fine solution to the inconvenient topography. In the house, the floral curtains made my spinning head dizzier and reminded me of nothing so much as the dresses I had to wear at the orphanage. Meanwhile my damn assistant made small talk with our client. After spending the morning on a ferry and a glorified dinghy, I defy you to come up with a better definition of hell.
Flynn curled his arm across his chest, hand tight around the strap of his bag, and shoved his way through the crowd. Behind him, Laura grabbed a handful of his shirt and held on tight. The bodies around them were fresh, newly arrived and, probably, recently showered, so the crush was merely claustrophobic, jarring, and slightly damp, but not rank. Not yet.
It cost Flynn a bruise to the ribs (paid, in turn, to whatever bastard thought it was smart to stop dead in the aisle), but he got the last two chairs on the end of a row, just right of center and close to the stage. Somewhere above their heads, air conditioning vents churned at full tilt. He swiped at the line of sweat quickly freezing on his forehead. “Well, we made it,” he said.
I woke up some place warm and bright, and that was the first wrong thing of the day. Campus housing was notoriously cold and dark, all those little huts stacked side by side on the edge of the island, the wind blasting between them fit to rip your wings right off you. The smell of yeast rose and expanded in my nose. Maybe I crashed in someone’s room. I rolled over and groped blindly for the release on the wind sash. Window open, I stuck my head out into the sunlight. It had that too-hot, too-direct feeling from thin air on a high-float sky island. I knew where I was. And I didn’t like it.
I opened my eyes. The grass under the window rippled as burrow rats ran through it, long bodies green on green, chattering in their little rodent voices. At least that was a familiar sight. Ma said they picked up a nest of them the last time the islet converged with one of the big city islands. I craned my head around to look at the domed roof. Smoke billowed out, streaming away as it got caught in the nearest long current. The ovens were on.
by Daifuku Hoyako (惰猪腹ほや子)
The lid of the teapot made the tiniest of rattles as he tipped it. The stream of tea was dark and fragrant, the most solid thing in the whole house. Everything else—curtains, dishes, skinny cat twining around my ankles—was ghost pale, sun bleached, and lacking even the memory of color. I certainly could not recall it ever being different. Uncle placed the first cup in front of me.
by Daifuku Hoyako (惰猪腹 ほや子)
“I’ve changed my mind,” Mari said while she tried to negotiate the curving on-ramp at seventy.
Her shoulder angel, who had sounded like Bridget for the past forty years, told her to slow down before she killed someone and stomped on its imaginary passenger brake. Her shoulder devil told her that only pussies yielded to traffic when merging.