Plugs

Read Daniel Braum’s story Mystic Tryst at Farrgo’s Wainscot #8.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Long Live the Dead

by Trent Walters

In terms of continuity–although it should stand on its own–this is the last of the Pandora series. The order is 1) “Meet the Extraordinary Ordinaire,” 2) “The Bug-a-Boo Bear,” 3) “Chop Chop,” 4) “Byzantine,” and 5) “Long Live the Dead.”

Pandora scaled Olympus. Oblivious to the world, she snagged her skirt on prickly shrubs and scraped her palms each time a stone slipped out from under. In her right, she carried a knife, gripped blade down. When the climbing grew too steep, she held the hilt between her teeth.

Finally, she reached the Hall of Gods. Apollo, Hera, Zeus, and others lined the jagged walls in colorful repose inside their mile-high, mahogany-framed portraits. Towering above, the statue of Athena was so life-like that Pandora’s footfall stuttered. Should she give obeisance? Only when Athena stood serene as death’s box, did Pandora pass.

Swift-winged Mercury caught up with her and, glancing at the knife, inquired of her business on Olympus, but she sprinted up an unobtrusive spiral staircase built of pearl bricks and silver mortar. Mercury pursued her not. Pandora grabbed a flaming torch from the wall and hastened on.

She paused at a landing to catch her breath and lean out a window. Old Olympus, below, sparkled with the gleam of emeralds and rubies. High above, the tower’s pinnacle was, to the naked eye, invisible. She soldiered on.

Her legs nigh quaked with rubbery fatigue as she reached the topmost stair. Without hesitation, she approached the sleeping figure on the cot–his hair a flowing golden mane–and plunged the knife hilt-deep into his chest.

***

Pandora jerked the torch from the wall and hurried up. On the landing, she caught her breath and, shaking off her deja-vu, continued.

At the top, she tiptoed to the sleeping shape and plunged the knife into his chest. He raised a feeble hand as if in whisper, but she wasn’t interested in listening to this jerk.

***

Pandora’s fingers lingered on the torch before removing it. She cautiously ascended.

At a landing, she saw the Hall wink brightly, sighed and clambered up.

Her legs were spry as she arrived upon the height. She approached the figure on the cot, plunged the knife toward his chest.

A firm hand gripped her wrist before it touched the man. A voice from nowhere and everywhere asked, “Have you learned naught?”

“That you’re cruel? Yes. All blame me if something goes awry, but blesses you if right.”

“Because you lack capacity, you look and think you see.” The figure, whose vague features grew more featureless as she watched them, pointed. “The window.”

Pandora glanced at the floor-to-ceiling window, then the figure–which became a child’s thin rendering of a man–now slept as if it never stirred.

She crossed the chamber to stand inside the window–its frame a cheap, pressed wood-pulp–saw the Hall below; above, the tower rose–if she could believe her eyes–beyond the stars.

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