Wishes fluttered around us with the snow. I held out my hands, cup-curved, and tried to catch one. Throughout the square, men, women and children did the same–hoping they would catch their own, which was the best luck of all, or that theirs would fall into the hands of someone who would understand, someone who would say Yes and grant it.

I had little to wish for this year. My son grew strong, my husband’s back had recovered and when the ground thawed he would return to our spice fields. War had not come to our province in five years. Perhaps I should have wished for my sister to fall pregnant again with a baby that would not die only days out of the womb; but no, that was her wish to make.

War would come and go regardless of wishes. We all knew that.

Looking down at my snow-flecked and spice-stained hands–red and orange and yellow between the grooves in my palms, and the colours would not fade no matter how hard I scrubbed–I saw a wish. Black letters in the curves and dots of our script covered the paper-scrap.

A final kiss, before I depart for Aratavi.

My hand shook, a little.

I imagined the person who might have stood in line earlier in the day, waiting to write his or her wish so that it could be scattered by our town’s priest. Knowing that soon the journey to Aratavi must be begun–a journey to search for the remains of a loved one. People went to Aratavi during peace-time for no other reason. And in the marshes and pools, rife with the stream-women and algae-men who had killed so many of us, many found only their own grave.

Yes, I thought.

I rubbed paprika on my lips.

One by one, I kissed every person in the square. I left red marks in my wake. That way, I knew who I had yet to step up to, smiling kindly before I pressed my lips against their cheek, their brow.

An hour after the priest scattered our wishes, the bell tolled again, signifying that the previous year had transitioned into the current. I had kissed every man, woman and child.

I would never know whose wish landed in my hands. There was the man who touched my hair, briefly, before I moved on; the woman who whispered Thank you when I kissed the fist-shaped bruise on her chin; the man who wept silently through the hour. Perhaps it was one of them, but perhaps not. It doesn’t matter. I granted the wish.

And my own wish, also: Happiness, in whatever dose possible.

The disaster plan for a Giant Monster attack is much more similar to the severe weather plan (#2) than to the regular monster attack plan (#23). Read carefully.

When a Giant Monster Warning has been given (meaning that a Giant Monster has been spotted in the vicinity), you should immediately:

  • Evacuate to the lowest level of the building. Giant Monsters are prone to smashing the upper levels of buildings as they are closest within reach. Floor wardens should do a quick sweep of their floor to notify people to leave, but do not spend too much time on this. Your safety is important as well.
  • Stay away from windows. If you are near a window, you are likely visible from the outside and may attract the monster’s attention. Even if the monster is blind or does not see by terrestial methods, flying and broken glass remains a serious hazard. Some floor wardens have reported that occasionally a person will not move away from a window because “they’ve never seen a giant monster before.” There is nothing you can do for these people except ask them to write their name somewhere on their torso.
  • Monitor media outlets (radio, tv, internet) as much as possible to keep track of the monster’s movements in the area. Live feeds are preferable to written reports as they are more likely to provide current information.
  • If you are outdoors when a Giant Monster is sighted, you should immediately go inside the nearest building. Failing that, hide under or inside the largest object you can find. If there is no cover nearby, drop to the ground and curl up into as tight a ball as you can, then do not move. Do not make any noise. Try and minimize your breathing. Even if you think you have been seen, hold still. Many Giant Monsters rely on movement to track their prey. Get up and run only if you have no other choice.

Other emergency situations may arise as the result of a Giant Monster attack. Please refer to the appropriate plan as needed:

#1 (fire)
#4 (chemical spill)
#4a (poison gas)
#5 (earthquake)
#8 (flooding)
#13 (radiation leak)
#15 (virus/disease)
#19 (zombies/undead)
#20 (lycanthropy)
#23 (monster attack)
#27 (alien invasion)


I once loved a man who changed into a tiger by day. It didn’t work out. Among other things… well, there is no way to put it delicately… Tigers, you may know, get quite a bit of carrion caught in the sheaths of their claws, and even as a man he could never quite rid his nails of the stink of sambhur-flesh. But I shall always remember the way the moon, shining through the lattice, made stripes across his back as he crept over the bed.

Karl pulled one drawer clean out. Bolts, a small screwdriver, wing nuts that should have been in the wing nut drawer, a ball bearing, and some tacks left over from paneling the den hit the floor. The ball bearing rolled under Madge’s Pinto. Something flashed from the empty slot where the drawer had been.

Karl set the drawer on the floor and bent down, hands on thighs, to peer into the hole. He moved a little to one side and again saw a flash. Could it be a broken piece of mirror? He reached in. His hand touched a cold smooth plane. Aha, he thought: it’s a mirror or piece of glass. Before he even finished the thought, he began to feel quite peculiar. His skin buzzed like the time he stuck his finger in the electrical outlet, then he was falling fast and headfirst, but after a moment of panic (during which he shut his eyes) he seemed to be at rest, on his feet, and unharmed. He opened his eyes.

Something stood or crouched in front of him. Its face reminded him of a fish, although the texture of its skin said lobster, and tufts of tendrils around its mouth called to mind a sea anemone. The body gave a similarly chimeric impression; it had elements of arthropod, mammal, and reptile, although in places the shapes and textures were more reminiscent of the inorganic. Karl laughed weakly.

“This sculpture is the most far out I’ve ever seen!” he said, looking around for the artist.

The thing spoke, its voice a bubbling hiss. Karl screamed and turned to run, only to discover another of the creatures right behind him. It seized his arms and, after a while, he stopped screaming.

“You are most honored,” it burbled. “You are the human chosen to rule the earthly portion of the coming Eternal Empire. All others of your ilk will serve as your abject slaves. Rejoice!”

“Rule? Me? Empire?” Patiently it was explained again. And again. It finally sank in. He wiped drool off his chin. Then he pumped his fist in the air.

“Yes! Karl Johnson will rule the WOOOORLD!!”

“Excuse me, Karl Johnson? Karl Johnson?” The thing let go of his arms.

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out. Let’s see…Emperor Karl Johnson? No. Potentate Karl … what?”

“Sorry, we were looking for Carl Sandstroem.”

“Oh, uh, his house is the white one on the corner.”


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