Fate arrives disguised as choice. As if you could actually say, Screw this, I’m out of here, or just get down on your knees like everybody else. But John’s got to shrug and go, “Hmmm.”
That evening, she kills him again. This time, she works slowly, exquisitely slowly, taking frequent stops for food, for wine, for blood. Once or twice she even excuses herself to go to the bathroom, apologizing for leaving him alone.
In the damp bedroom Victor Ripon sat hunched over his desk, making last-minute corrections on the ninth or tenth draft, he couldn’t remember which, of a letter to the one person in the world who might be able to help. Outside, puppies with the voices of children struggled against their leashes for a chance to be let in from the cold. He ignored them and bore down.
The house looked like a sand castle after the tide had come in. Except sand suggested a crumbling grayness, and the tall, narrow house was a fresh white. A front porch was large enough for a swinging bench if I could bear that level of domesticity.
When I see the scorpion curled under a caliche rock I picked up, my first want is to smash it like Daddy would. Daddy’s always killing things—hairy tarantulas in the hall, fat diamondbacks in the field, and my hound pups when they get parvo. Our few patches of grass have the sick, but Daddy won’t treat it. He says it costs too much.
Things always seem closer together on a bad morning. I slept poorly last night, and now the relentless brilliance of the day makes my eyes smart and my face ache with squinting. Just within the station doors I stop to adjust my bag where it is cutting into my shoulder, and I notice at my feet a small piece of black plastic shaped like a capital L, and one end is frayed into a tuft of fibers.
—Don’t go—she said. Leaning on the door frame as if she was about to fall down. I understood that she was worrying about me. She could’ve stopped me, but she didn’t. Only the words: “Don’t go.” A lump in her throat, no strength to say more than this.
Something in the lab smelled like nectarine jam. I looked up from the industrial autoclave, frowning as I sniffed the air. Unusual smells aren’t a good thing when you work in a high-security bio lab. No matter how pleasant the odor may seem, it indicates a deviance from the norm, and deviance is what gets people killed.
Old Sam was dying. He had been dying for approximately twenty-seven years, by Queenie’s account. Exactly the amount of time since hell had frozen over and God had relinquished the title on His throne, if the old man thought she was gonna let him slide by on another number without paying her proper due.
Jin left the last of his life’s concubines sobbing in shallow water. It was sad. He had loved the sweet girl as much as he was capable of loving any woman, which is to say that he had sometimes found himself giving thought to her wishes in the occasional circumstances where that did not conflict with his own.