The architect Tir wrote the following footnotes on his submitted designs for the bridges of Ramesh.
1. I appreciate the cost of curtaining the windows of the upper eastern side of the third bridge with woven saffron, but it is essential: this bridge is in honour of those with exquisite tastes. It would be equally diminished if the walkways of cushions were removed. Likewise, the three domed roofs in the centre of the bridge must be constructed (respectively) with silk, gold and the scales of the rarest goldfish.
2. It is critical that the materials used to construct the sixth bridge are not of poor quality. Though the simplicity of the bridge’s design and the crowded dwellings along its length are in honour of (and for use by) the city’s less wealthy people, I do not wish to symbolise a future for them that is bereft of high quality architecture. As Your Highness has indicated, the crushing of our enemy means that the royal and city coffers can be dedicated to the people of the city.
3. The trade bridge will be difficult to build, but it is one of the most important: the flowers and spices, silks and cottons, pottery and jewellery and all the other wares attached to the bamboo lattice of the bridge will remind the people of the city and people from far away what Ramesh offers to the world from its position at the centre of trade.
4. It may be useful to include in the city-wide notices that — except for the carved sandstone memorial walls — the second bridge is exactly like the old bridges. Any people who find the new bridges too extraordinary may use the second bridge until they become more accustomed to the new city.
5. Some people will no doubt protest at the construction of the first bridge from the bones of people and animals fallen in the war, but they should be reminded of the price we pay to live on this land, under this sky.
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.”
Six days ago I rubbed the lamp Jenna brought back from the East. I knew what I was doing. She would tell me at night of the experiments they were running on it and the other munitions left over from the Mana Wars.
Five days ago the Djinn brought me every magical lamp he could find. A few, he says, are hidden even from his senses. Each contained one of his brothers or sisters. He was eager to serve once I explained my goal to him. His laugh was a subsonic rumble.
Four days ago my first aide and two others finished sculpting the Moon into Jenna’s headstone. To say there is panic would be an understatement. I am being sought.
Three days ago my agents fought a new magical war with the world’s remaining mages and magical beings. Battles raged across the globe from the stroke of one midnight to the stroke of the next.
Two days ago we counted our dead. A Djinn can grieve as powerfully as any man or woman.
Yesterday my remaining survivors caused the seas to rise. They melted the glaciers and blew up a rain that will last the weeks it will take to drown a world.
Today I stand on the now-airless Moon in a clever suit of Djinn-design. I look up at a world shrouded in white, clouded from pole to pole.
The surface of the Moon rumbles faintly through my suit’s boots. It is, I imagine, the rumble of laughter. Tomorrows there will be, but tomorrows without Atlantis.
There was a miser who had a cat.
The miser, that is.
The cat was fine.
The miser, who’d hoarded, cheated, and loaned at exorbitant and inflexible rates, left all his wealth to the cat.
Had this been strictly a matter of what was written in his will, his lawyer (whom he’d swindled) and the judge (whom he’d nearly bankrupted) would gladly have mislaid or invalidated anything bearing the miser’s signature.
But the miser had guaranteed his wishes by locking his fortune in a brass-bound trunk he buried beneath the oldest, tallest tree in the forest, and by hanging the trunk key on the cat’s collar.
Now, you’ve heard that cats have nine lives, but that doesn’t mean a string of lives lived one after another. Cats live all nine at once. And only one is a cat life. For instance, the miser’s cat was also a riverboat captain, a seamstress, an itinerant mole, a mathematician, an angel, and several other things.
On a cloudy day, the lawyer and the judge finished decoding clues the miser had left in his will, and dug around the roots of some old, tall trees until they struck the brass-bound trunk with a shovel-bending clang! At the very same moment, in a nearby field, the cat wriggled through an inconvenient fence and snagged its collar there, key and all.
While the lawyer and judge rested from their excavations, a seamstress and a mathematician were crossing a fence-divided field from different sides. These two women spotted the key at the same moment they spotted each other.
Don’t mistake this for coincidence–this kind of thing happens all the time. In that country, there’s an expression, “They’re two lives of the same cat.” So it was with the seamstress and the mathematician.
It began to rain, softly, but as if it weren’t planning to stop, so they took refuge in the forest. Following the map on the inside of the collar, they found the trunk, opened it, and lived happily for many years.
The lawyer and the judge, whose schemes to defraud each other the treasure had given way to fisticuffs and blunt objects, regained consciousness and stumbled back to find the trunk empty. The lawyer was convinced that the judge had taken all the treasure, and vice versa, beginning a feud that would last generations.
The cat, meanwhile, was fine.