Daniel Braum

In the way of all archetypal stories, Orpheus didn’t make his trip to the underworld and back just once. As each generation retold and reinvented his story, he relived it, and he never learned: he always looked.

Sisyphus probably didn’t notice anything when his repeated predicament repeated. But Orpheus couldn’t stop himself from hoping any more than he could stop himself from looking.

One day, while amusing his future bride by making boulders jig in time to his lyre, he found himself increasingly depressed with everything that was waiting to happen. He thought he’d visit Daedalus. It was an age of invention, and maybe the spirit of the age even moved in the old tales. He told Eurydice he’d be right back and left her and the stones humming his last tune.

The inventor’s single word suggestion: “Mirrorshades.”

“That’s hardly my style,” said Orpheus. “And how will that help?”

“The underworld isn’t well lit. No one will notice,” said Daedalus. “The trick is to turn one lens backwards. She’ll be in the edge of your vision all the time, no need to turn back yourself, so, technically, you won’t be breaking the rules.”

“Perfect,” said Orpheus.

“I’ve made a sketch,” said Daedalus. “I’ll have the boy build you a pair while I flameproof these wings.”

What Orpheus didn’t realize until he pulled out the glasses at the foot of the stairs out of the underworld was that Icarus never did anything except to excess. Both lenses were mirrored on the inside.

He put them on and played. He’d climbed the stairs so many times that his feet knew the path by feel. The peripheral glimpse-image was enough for him, he kept his eyes steadily ahead, and he made it all the way to the top.

He took off the glasses, expecting sunlight, but saw he hadn’t left the shadowland. Hades and Persephone shook their heads. Eurydice was gone.

“Looking forward is the only way to leave here,” said the king of the dead.

“She’s always behind you now,” said Persephone.

Rabbit sat in the shade, scratching his ear with his hind paw. A strand of grass was stuck between the gears of his head, and it tickled mightily.
In the distance, he heard He Lion roar. Mechanical birds screeched and whirred to safety. Possum played dead, although it should have known by now that its tick-tack gave it away. Even Bear lumbered away. But Rabbit didn’t move. It was getting too old for He Lion’s roaring. It was getting too old to play the same games over and over again. It was getting too old to hop all over the place. Besides, the straw in his ear itched. So Rabbit stayed put and listened to the roaring coming closer.
“Me and Myself! Me and Myself,” roared He Lion when he saw Rabbit.
Rabbit scratched his ear.
“Me and Myself, I said,” said He Lion.
“Yes, I did hear you. I may be old, but I’m not yet deaf.”
He Lion snorted and shook his whitened mane. It wasn’t just Rabbit who’d gotten old.
“Well, aren’t you going to run away?” said He Lion.
Rabbit considered this carefully. He Lion might need his gears oiled and wound more than he needed to eat Rabbit, but he still might crush Rabbit with his foot, just for the fun of it. Rabbit and He Lion went back a long way, but the lion was a stickler for authority.
In the old days, whenever Lion got in a funk like this, Rabbit would trick him into meeting Man. Man always knew how to take care of Lion, what with his guns and all and then Lion would behave for a while. But Rabbit was tired and Lion was old and Man was quite possibly dead by now. Man was the most literal of all the fabled clockwork creatures of the jungle and, as such, one couldn’t expect much from him and certainly not infinite survival.
“Can’t run,” Rabbit said. “Got something in my ear.”
Lion clambered up to Rabbit and sat down, realizing he wasn’t going to get much fun out of the hare today.
“Hmm,” growled Lion, “That sucks.” Lion turned to face the sun, eyes half mast and lay down. He always did like to bask.

This is my last regularly scheduled story for the Daily Cabal.  I have contributed since 2007.  I leave reluctantly—but like Dana I try to do what I say will, and my professional writing commitments are about to increase.  Thank you to all our readers, and thank you to everyone at the Cabal, especially Rudi, for your support and your patience!  Enjoy this last offering, and please visit me at

Mirabelle Hayes discovered early on that Dana Yamamoto would take any dare if Mirabelle looked at her out of the corner of her eye and lifted her chin.  Yet so far from getting Dana in trouble over Samhain, she found she’d raised Dana’s status instead.  Frustrating.

Getting Dana to spook Dr Somerville’s horse helped a bit.  More promising: convincing her to write a dirty poem in Japanese on the doorsill of Dr Fujiwara’s tea house while the Doctor was away.  Mirabelle didn’t accompany her; by now she knew that Dana would do whatever she said she would do.

Dana waited in the dojo until the last light in the teacher’s quarters went out.  She thought of all the dirty poems she knew in Japanese.  She wondered if she would be expelled.  She thought about Hayes.  Samantha MacKinnon had asked Dana, “Why do you let her have such power over you?”  Dana had snapped, “Don’t you think I ask myself that every day?”

If they sent her home, her mother the General would lift her chin and look at her out of the corner of her eye.  Dana remembered a particular look from the day she had told her mother she was afraid to compete in the kendo bouts at school.  She never told her mother she was afraid again, ever.

Suddenly she understood why Hayes had power over her.

Still: the ink was drying on the inkstone, and she always did what she said she would.  She drew back her sleeve, lifted the brush at the correct angle, and began to write.

By the time Dr. Fujiwara returned, everyone had seen the graffiti, though none could read it all.

“I will leave the matter up to you,” said Dr Eire.

Dr Fujiwara read the poem and smiled.

“Do you recognize the handwriting?”  Asked Dr Eire.

“I don’t need to; she put her name in the poem.”

She translated.

After they finished laughing, Dr. Fujiwara looked towards the faces at the door.

“Bring me Yamamoto,” she said.

Everyone else came too, of course.  Dana tried hard not to shake.

Dr. Fujiwara said, “I believe you have defeated your adversary in the most important of bouts.  Please translate your poem for the benefit of the school; no other punishment awaits you.”

Dana read:

Rich soil Fuji gives

From dirt roots

I have grown mountains

Thank you

This ink is


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