I’d been on a panel discussion about Noh theater, and the bison girl had caught me on my way out and asked if I wanted to have coffee. I should have gotten out of it, but 1) I couldn’t come up with an excuse and 2) I was distracted by her tight-fitting costume. She had a lithe, beautifully-proportioned body. But it disturbed me that the body had a tail and a bison’s head.

My friend Isaac had tried to explain furries to me before I left for the convention. At one point he’d said, “There are furries, and then there are yiffy furries. The regular furries are just having fun.”

“Then what are the yiffy furries doing?” I’d asked.

He’d just laughed at me.

We were sitting. The bison girl sipped iced coffee through a long straw she’d taken from her purse. “Insurance,” she said, answering my last question. “I’m a field adjuster.”

“I should have guessed you’d work in the field,” I said. She laughed: a beautiful laugh, for a bison. And you had to admire her mask, especially around the eyes. Of course, the expression didn’t change–but then, masks aren’t an extension of your face: they’re a replacement for it, a veil, a barrier, a statement, a simplification, a distraction.

My watch beeped. “Oh, I have to get to my next panel,” I said, relieved.

“What are you doing after? Want to get some dinner?”

Just for a moment, I considered it. I thought of the graceful shape under the fur. Then I thought about Isaac laughing. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said. I waited for her to ask me why. Apparently she didn’t need to.

“Fine,” she said. “That’s funny coming from you–but fine.”

“I just don’t feel very comfortable with … uh, furries.”

“Obviously,” she said. “I just thought, working with masks, you might get what this is about.”

“Artistically? Sure,” I said. “Personally? No clue.”

She stood then and pulled off her mask. Her face glimmered with perspiration, framed by damp tendrils of dark hair. I would have recognized her anywhere: Jessie Rosner, the girl I’d been obsessed with all through high school. I’d never gotten to say more than two words to her, until today.

“You know, just because your face shows,” she said, “doesn’t mean you’re not wearing one.” Then she turned her back on me and left.

The bellhop swung open the door to suite with a grand gesture. On the other side was a vast, cold expanse of stars. “God damn it!” the bellhop said. “They were supposed to fix that!”

“What?” said Claire. She was exhausted beyond belief, having flown to Los Angeles from Paris via Newfoundland, after a marathon 9-hour sales presentation, following three hours of sleep. Why is the … ?” she waved her hand vaguely at the door.

“Dimensional disjunction,” sighed the bellhop, slumping to the floor. “It’s this hallway. It’s been broken since the ’96 Curse War. They said they fixed it!”

The bellhop looked to be about 17, with kinky blonde hair and wide blue eyes that somehow gave him a rabbity look. He was skinny and short, with long, elegant fingers that looked out of place on a person so young. Claire herself was thirty-eight, compact and dark-skinned, curvy, expensively dressed, rumpled from the flight. She thought they probably looked ridiculous together.

“How long?” she said.

“About three years. But don’t worry–they say you don’t remember anything afterward. I never do. I’ve had four of these so far, but it was like blinking when I was done.”

Dimensional disjunctions canceled hunger, thirst, aging, and all biological needs except two. One was sleep.

After the first few awkward hours, they talked–and talked, and kept talking. They played charades. They made up stories, sang camp songs, made up elaborate skits and played them out together. They had lots and lots and lots of sex–increasingly creative, revealing, vulnerable, and acrobatic sex, over time. Whatever Claire’s reservations about Lawrence were, there were advantages, she soon saw, in his being 17. And eventually her reservations about him went away completely, because he wasn’t there for her to accept or reject: he was just there. He was just Lawrence.

They grew to love each other more than either one of them could possibly express. They talked about it for hours, days, weeks on end. They talked about how they would recognize their kinship even when the disjunction was over, how they would be together, what their life would be like.

Claire woke up one “morning” (“morning” was what they called the time when they woke up) with a sudden, cold fear that the three years were over. She put her hand on Lawrence’s shoulder. “Sweetheart?” she said, “Do you think–”


The bellhop swung open the door to suite with a grand gesture. Beautiful furniture, Claire remembered thinking, and then she walked inside and fell face-down on the bed, exhausted. She didn’t even remember to tip.

Susannah Mandel

Another Sunday promenade in spite of the heat, and Lill’s collar rubbed rascant lines in the skin behind her ears.

By the frost-stained fountain, amid the clatter of the icicle chimes, she heard him before she saw him, and he was saying, “Nevermind what he charged, he tensioned up the hopplag and the gears haven’t slipped since.” He had a striped coat, green-tinted googles, and an asymmetrical grin.

She turned to see him astride a blue metal ornithoptopede, chatting with another rider. He tipped his hat as she passed and she resolved to find some pretext for conversation on her next circuit of the slippery tile-walk. But he and his friend were gone by the time she returned. That thurtling in the treetops might have been them.

She got herself a cup of herb-flecked ice so she could loiter and watch. She chipped away with the tiny wooden spoon the vendor had given her. It was stoce. She hated stoce. She ate the whole thing, but he didn’t come back.

She walked home the long way, and found grim amusement in the most neglected corner of the sculpture garden, where the statues of a quartet of primly-posed town fathers were draped with an exuberance of flowering ullivaria. She thought she saw cracks in the stone under the tendrils’ coils.

Back home, she cut silhouettes out of cheap fetzbalk, sigils that would represent the day’s events when she pasted them in her diary.

When the light grew too dim for the fine cutting, she laid the book aside. Out the window, the sky above the courtyard was as widensh as she felt.

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