Starting this week, the Daily Cabal will be shifting to a slightly less than daily schedule, with stories guaranteed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the possibility of occasional stories thrown in a Tuesday or Thursday for special occasions or when the whim takes us.
Think of us as the every-other-daily-cabal…
Papa and mama took Lara and me to the Zoo today. We saw the harpies and the bigfoots and the poor old mermaid and the scary dragons that live under the hippo pool. We looked up at the dragons from underneath through a glass bottom. They coiled and swam and looked back at us in a hungry way. They’ don’t want meat said mama. They just hate us all for putting them here. She wasn’t so happy as we were to be at the zoo.
We ate at Crunchy Burger on the way home and it’s the first time Lara didn’t whine for sweet stuff. She ate her hamburger and tried to sneak parts of mine. I’m a dragon she said, and I need meat. Mama and papa told her that wasn’t funny so I didn’t play along. She kept it up the rest of the way home, putting her hand out the window into the breeze and saying she was flying until mama said to stop that she was getting a headache.
When we got home Lara took me away upstairs and said we’re going to play at dragons and treasure. She went and got all of mama’s jewelry and put it on the bunk bed in our room and said this is my cave. She said Allie you are a brave night and mother will be the lure to catch you.
We played and played. I had the most funnest time in almost ever, because Lara doesn’t play with me much. She says I’m a good night which is funny because I’m not sleepy.
She says soon mama will wonder where her stuff is. When I say she could get in trouble she just laughs. She says if I play really well she’ll show me how she makes the smoke come out of her mouth.
Susannah Mandel’s columns in Strange Horizons on the fantastic in classic literature can be found here.
The Coelacanth Coat
A coat of coelacanth skin, royal blue with milky patches. Vat-grown to order and seamless. Lost tech out of the lost time. The fit always reminded Aurelia the coat was tailored for someone centuries dead: shoulders loose, waist tight, arms a little long.
When she got it, she emptied the pockets, kept the contents in a box in a desk drawer.
Take things there to recharge. Leave them overnight. Come back.
Lingering’s said to be unhealthy. There’s a shivering you feel in the air, and you can tell it’s coming from outside you, not inside.
They’re big, multitiered platforms like circular parking garages.
Drive your car in on the pad of the lowest level or climb the stairs in the central column to charge smaller objects on the upper levels. Set them on the concrete, or on the wooden shelves that seem to decay too quickly. No metal shelves, and you’ll want to leave coins and belt buckles outside.
What Was in the Coat Pockets
Coins with geometric designs, a scrap of scarlet paper. A metal cylinder, the segments of which could be twisted so that the lines etched on it connected in different ways. It didn’t do anything else.
The Powerhouse at the Foot of the Mountain
Powerhouses nearer to the reinhabited cities had managers and waiting lists; this one had nothing but a few pilgrims and the occasional curious visitor. So the Walking City stopped there twice a year to unload its powercells and recharge.
The first years after she came to the future, Aurelia travelled with the Walking City. One time they stopped there, she climbed the spiral stair to the top floor and left that metal cylinder on a shelf between a straylight mirror and a couple of moon keys.
Powerhouse By Night
She reconsidered, went back just after sunset.
Her fillings tingled. The ring she’d forgotten to remove ached. The night spooky with all the charging objects glowing. A sound like rushing wind, but the air utterly still.
Her coat’s scales were dull dead brown.
The metal tube was now a telescope that showed a world that didn’t exist anymore, a world of crystal towers and floating bubblecars. The future that had come and gone while she’d been in suspension. Looking through, she felt a sort of sunset sadness.
She gave it to a friend, someone future-born. He loved it.
“Get off the counter!” The chicken fluttered onto the dining-room table. I shooed it toward the outside door, but it flew back to the pass-thru. It pecked at the formica. Then it looked at me.
“These pastel boomerangs are so 50′s.”
“Shut up!” I pulled the cleaver off the magnet bar beside the sink. Me and the chicken, we had a history.
“Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” it asked.
“I think so,” I replied, “but you need two witnesses for a legal will, and we’re alone here.”
An echidna wearing a magenta cape leaped from behind the fridge. “That’s where you’re wrong!” it shrieked.
I jumped. I hadn’t expected the echidna. But then, nobody does. I advanced on the chicken, keeping one eye on the echidna, which made menacing gestures with its forepaws. The wind was picking up, and there was a lot of trash in the air. Wind? Indoors? The anteater laughed crazily.
“Kinda slow on the uptake,” the chicken remarked. “Your housekeeping leaves a lot to be desired,” it added. “And your leap was more a stumble” it said to the echidna. At this point paper was knee deep on the kitchen floor and I couldn’t get into the dining room. I backed out into the hall and went around the other way. However, the dining room doorway was stuffed to the top with shredded paper. I could hear the chicken ranting about clashing paint colors and crooked paintings.
I went outside to call 911.
Darrell Crosby answered. We went to high school together. He married Melissa Echols, a girl I’d had a crush on for years. But I didn’t hold it against him. Not considering how things turned out. I mean, I knew she was an animal lover, but that girl went way too far. There should’ve been a law. Heck, there used to be a law. Bottom line, I knew Darrell would be on my side.
“I’d love to help you, Ted. You know how I feel about them. But my hands are tied as long as they don’t hurt anyone. They didn’t hurt you, did they,” he asked hopefully.
“Couple paper cuts. But they’re occupying my house! At least my dining room. Am I supposed to eat standing up?”
“What part of ‘I can’t freaking arrest them’ don’t you get?”
“You won’t do anything.”
“Can’t.” He hung up.
I hate these stupid animal superheroes, but I hate Critical Chicken the most.