Plugs

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

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

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Arcade Lives

by Rudi Dornemann

Everyone in the arcades knew Suskind. He was the one who made sure everything worked and fixed whatever didn’t. He unclogged the gas jets when the lighting in the panoramas grew dim. He fixed the broken panes in the cabinets of the curiosity shops and wonder-museums. On damp mornings, he directed the flaneurs and other artistic idlers toward the café tables closest to the grates where warm air welled up from the steamworks.

The Landlords’ Association paid his salary and, although they were even more despised as a collective than they were individually, this animosity wasn’t transferred in Suskind’s direction. Everyone regarded him as a friend. Even the poet, as bitter as he was brilliant, would occasionally share a drink with him (absinthe leached from other peoples’ second-hand sugar cubes was the best he could afford).

Everyone mourned Suskind when he was found dead; everyone wondered what had happened. Only the poet did anything to find out — Suskind’s ghost visited him nightly until he began tracing the repairman’s rounds, asking questions. Had anyone noticed anything in the repairman’s manner that suggested he feared some danger? Had anyone been following him?

The poet learned nothing, but pressed on, week after week. If he re-created the routine of Suskind’s visits, perhaps someone would remember an anomaly in his last days.

In the third week, when the panorama managers asked, he cleaned the gaslights, and the vistas of distant sea battles and blue-towered cities shone vivid again as life. He oiled the pulleys in the reputable theaters and found lime for the lights of the disreputable ones.

He became, as Suskind had been, an arranger of matches between chessplayers in disparate cafes who would otherwise never have met. He gave the secret of the table by the warm grate to a particularly rumpled playwright.

When he finally discovered that it was mere bad luck that killed Suskind, the coincidence of living upstairs from a family of necromancers who’d summoned one malign spirit too many, it was almost an anticlimax.

The poet began accepting the checks mailed by the Landlords’ Association. Although he could afford his own absinthe now, he’d lost his taste for the distraction it offered. He was writing again, every bit as bitter as before, but no longer weighed down by the nagging fear his brilliance was exhausted. It might be, but, poems or lights: his hands got things done.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.