Plugs

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Archive for the ‘The Diplomat’ Category

The Diplomat

Friday, October 19th, 2007

I had to kill the Diplomat. The elders said so, and nobody argues with them. He agreed to have breakfast with me.

I took him to the orchard, and he helped me make a fire pit. He talked about his home planet, Gaia, but he called her “Earth.” I said I thought that was a plain name for such a beautiful-looking planet. “I like it,” he said, “plain, yes, but there’s a lot going on under the surface there—like here,” he added, and patted the earth beside him with one wrinkled brown hand.

After I served him, I slipped my knife out. They said they chose me because I was the best rat hunter. The first ships from Gaia brought rats with them, and we lost a lot of harvests. “Gaia rat,” they called him. I thought rats never looked so peaceful.

“But won’t his people come with big ships and guns?” I had asked my father (not an elder yet—OK to argue).
My father said, “He came on foot. No big ships. Just a little old guy in a robe. His badge is faded, and the plastic on his communicator is yellowed. What do you think?”

I looked at the Diplomat peacefully eating. A film of grief started to form over my eyes but I wiped it away.
He looked at me and smiled.

“You were going to stab me with that, weren’t you,” he said.

I saw I had wiped my eyes with the back of my knife hand. I stared the blade.

After a moment I said sadly, “It’s still too late.”

He looked down at his bowl, then up at me. “Ah?” he asked, holding it up.

I nodded. His grin seemed to embrace me.

“I forgive you for killing me,” he said.

I did not wipe the film away this time, and I buried my face in my hands and howled.

After a moment he tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up, rubbing my eyes.

“My dear friend,” he said, laughing, “Did you think I prepared for this journey without defending myself? Did you think I had no protections?”

“I know you disarmed me somehow,” I said hoarsely.

“Well learned. And if you want to poison a human, galangal doesn’t really work. We use it in cooking.”

That’s when I laughed too.

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