Copyright © by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.
“War,” Death says to Famine, “War never changes.” “Sure I do,” says War, turning metallic. “See? Now I’m a robot!” “That’s not—” War’s body folds, contorts, and resizes into a battle tank. “Look! I’m a goddamned TRANSFORMER!” Plague hacks a laugh, petting a virus. We knap flint until evening. The woman makes fine arrowheads, I’m impressed. She smiles at my half-done spearpoint. I set wood. Placing a crystal, she sings a song of flame. Our fire kindles. This woman surprises! I offer my arms. We are no longer strangers. Markhun lifts his torch. “The stalactites are moving.” “Obsidian cave sloths,” Ren says. “Let them be.” The fickle archer puts down his torch and shoots an arrow. “Easy pickings!” A black spike falls from a sloth’s back and impales him. “Idiot,” Ren huffs. “You’re the same guru that told my daughter to stop her meds. She died.” The guru looks up from his meal. “I put a lethal dose of her pills into your food. Need a doctor?” A phone is offered. He dials 9-1-1. “It’s dead. I just wanted to know you’re a fraud.” He bows in the light of festival candles. I laugh. I feel like a draft horse in a dress. My friend insists. He’s all lank to my muscle as his hand finds my hip. Our fingers grasp. We sway. A waltz is not sword fighting. But both are dances. I’m in love. “I thought for sure the inquisitrix had killed me.” “She did,” the witch says. “I gave her no mercy and swapped her soul into your dying body.” The young woman sees the dead black cat. “I’m no longer your familiar?” “Would you like to become my apprentice?” “What am I, Father?” asks the clockwork man. “You are the child of my grief,” answers the artificer. “The soldier to win a war long lost.” A brass hand touches the old man’s tears. “A guardian for a family already in their graves,” he weeps.