Smaran lingers here in this old home, gnawing on names and the stories that go with them. She is as I left her, which is more than I can say about myself. Her long dark hair coiled around her in swathes, she’s sitting in the spare room, suckling on a thumb, one ear pressed to the wall as if hungry for company.
Sometimes, I’d dance with these pontianak sisters with their long black hair floating to the ground, sanguine-tipped and luminescent. I have watched them drink from the split throats of the men whom they lure from the streets and the back-alleys. They do not harm me, they never have.
The wall of screens in front of us showed projected death tolls and ecological changes, with a lot of graphs that dropped sharply right at the end. “Earth is, uh … not to be melodramatic about it, but, absolutely doomed.”
Tonight they were princelings. Tomorrow they’d return to hiding in sea caves and under the floorboards of rotting inns. They’d return to their true forms, too. I’ve always thought that skinwalkers look like peeled eels in their true forms. I suspect they think the same.
From the second-floor window of the abandoned building, Ezra could see something he thought impossible. Behind the wall of the derelict structure that was once a textile factory, a sort of wild garden had sprouted. Ezra could see tomato bushes and dandelions, bluebells and blackberry bushes leaning to against the muddy pools that collected on the ground. And there, in a sort of enclosure of rusted barbed wire and crude sharpened sticks nailed to the ground, the impossible: a wild apple tree, sprouting with fruit.
It storms for three days but the king is safe. He lies propped on a divan of lustrous, dark damask in an anteroom and looks out on his splendid dining hall with its swags and pilasters. They keep it quiet for him. He is too weak to rise.
The calendar indicates that it is the tail end of this interminable winter. The snow—up to the woman’s iridescent, striped knee socks—blocking her old school’s gym entrance says otherwise. The ritual will have to be held.
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