He was smiling as he did it, she thought, anger and disgust flooding her. Through the camera she looked, twisting a dial to change the aperture.
“Bet you never thought anyone would see you doing this,” she said softly, then snapped the picture.
“But who is he?”
“He’s just himself.”
“Come on, a man like that, he must have known command, leadership. Colonel, general, admiral, boss, mayor, king, come on, what?”
“He has no title. None who he leads know that he leads. That is why he is so effective.”
“You may have to improv,” she said, trying not to look down.
“Surely it’s not that strange a situation,” he replied.
“I’ll grant you that you’re probably not the first person to try to cross a border while not wearing pants,” she said. “But completely naked? I’m pretty sure that’s a new one.”
“You don’t think they’ll give me a…[Read more]
The little hollow cube shouldn’t have been so heavy. There was no mechanism to open it, no crack or seam to suggest that it had been assembled. The cube was as natural as the sun, not made but there. It was hollow, but something was inside.
And it wanted out.
The motorcycle stood at the edge of the cliff.
Meanwhile, the guru looked up from his desk in his high tower in London.
The woman took off her helmet and stared north.
The guru shuddered.
The woman started the engine. It’s a long way from Tibet to England, she thought, but I’m coming for you.
She stood on the peaty ground, staring out over the dim, misty morning. It should have been silent. It should have been a peaceful morning, full of tea and a crossword puzzle.
But she stared harder, waited, and at last, she saw it. Plumes rose from the worn dirt track leading to the hostel. The motorcycle sped up.
Great, she thought. So much…[Read more]
There was no sense to it, at least, not after ten pints of black, black stout. The geometric gentleness of the lacy foam fell, clinging to the insides of the glass, but it never went away.
The foam slid down the glass, and across the glass, even up the glass, and finally, at last, it made sense.
The foam had formed letters, and he realized…[Read more]
The shape always baffled her. Cut yet pure, the edges both precise yet so organic they only could have happened over millions of years. The light shone through the blue-green stone, and geometric patterns twinkled on her hand.
“Do you know what it is?” she asked.
He smiled. “Imagine compressing the sun into something so small you could hold…[Read more]
“I’ll have a typhoon,” she said.
He looked up from the glasses and bottles, and smiled.
“What could a woman like you possibly want with a drink like that?”
“It has nothing to do with the drink. It has everything to do with the effect.”
“You know you have to sign a waiver first, right?”
She smiled back. “You may want to sign one too.”
It wasn’t a kitchen. It was the aftermath of a typhoon. Milk pooled on the floor from beneath the toppled fridge. The kettle was stuck on a blade of the ceiling fan. A slice of bread had broken the window.
She shook her head. “No more free kegs,” she said.
I don’t normally buy much. There’s so much to buy, that I could wind up moneyless in a day. But when this bloke came around selling, well, I shouldn’t even tell you what he was selling. Not here, like this. But when he came around, and he showed me what he had, I had a reaction I never expected to have. After I bought everything he had, I paid him…[Read more]
The strangest thing has been the new television. They were unheard of here until a couple of years ago, but now I see them more and more. The people seem listless now, instead of the vibrancy I saw on my first trip here. I don’t yet understand the allure of watching someone else’s life instead of living your own, but I can’t bear to let myself…[Read more]
This city was once a village that was nearly destroyed. Long ago, it’s said. Something that could have ruined the world, all life as we know it, all life at all. The place was barely defended. But they fought it back. They must have, anyway, because we’re all here.
The temples shine in the sun as if they were suns themselves. Though the rest of the place is dirty, and smells like an outhouse that hasn’t been mucked out in centuries. Which in some ways it is. I don’t mean to sound irreverent, this city is everything I thought it would be and more. It’s just that I didn’t come here with my eyes shining. I…[Read more]
“When was the last time you were at the beach?” he said.
“I was nine,” she replied. “My dad and I built a sandcastle.”
“You haven’t been back to the beach in twenty-five years?”
She shook her head. “After the sandcastle, he had a heart attack and fell on it. He died. I can’t stand beaches now.”
“My employees are devoted,” he said.
She stared down from the high windows, so far above the streets of London. The people stood so still, staring up, waiting, hoping. Waiting for him.
“They’re not employees, they’re disciples,” she said.
She flung the blackened squares into the trash and twiddled the dial of the toaster. “Surely one will do it,” she said. “It’ll barely toast.” She popped two slices of bread and the rest of her hope into the slots.
The nutty, warm scent of toasting bread filled her nose. Then it transformed into black, acrid burning. The smoke alarm…[Read more]
The thing about the backpack was the ever-present sense of wearing a house. The straps cinched around him, so tight that breathing was difficult. His shoulders sagged under the weight. And his left knee, that he had popped out of joint when he was thirteen, beckoned to him with a dull, constant ache.
This was a horrible idea, he thought. But…[Read more]
The burning sun blazed at the canopy, angry at not being able to redden the skin of the people beneath. In front of them, the white sand stretched to the deep blue of the sea, where gentle waves approached the shore, gently, quietly, as if approaching a king.
“Bloody tropics,” he said. “Why is it that this place is supposed to be heaven on…[Read more]
A barricade blocked the border. Beyond it, he saw the rolling hills and lush fields of the country beyond. They were identical to the rolling hills and lush fields he now left behind—and yet each was not the same as the other.
All it takes to make two different worlds, he thought, is an imaginary line.