Issue Eight (June 2009)
I was perhaps ten feet away from the stage. On it, three performers hung from the ceiling, suspension hooks sunk deep into their flesh. They wore expressions of studied concentration, their eyes focused and far away. Their outflung limbs trembled slightly, and they swayed gently on their chains. Beneath them, two other participants engaged in a grisly tug of war, bodies pitched forward as they strained against the hooks in their backs. The blood flowed freely, but they gritted their teeth and continued to struggle forward in opposing directions.
In the beginning, all was dark. Night was alone, and walked the black expanse of the heavens, searching for someone to walk with. He found no one, and over time, the depth of his loneliness overwhelmed him, and he wept with sorrow. His first tear became the sun. This second, the moon, and the third, the most beautiful tear ever wept, became his daughter, the Princess of the Stars, who danced through the heavens and was Night’s greatest joy.
He stood at the edge of the beach and leaned forward trying to spy beneath the water a kraken or a two-tailed mermaid. Only there were no mermaids today, no terrible krakens or glimmering serpents. Just Lysander, alone, under a light drizzle.
They are sitting on the front steps of the Puso Theater, he in a black jacket, a blue tee, pants; Nalla in a sleeveless pink top, a red sarong, a pair of flip-flops. Has to be my age, Nalla thinks, studying him closely. She sees him often enough on the same sidewalks, waiting the night out in the same places with her fellow Fleshies. He works alone, without a Caller, a trick that is hard to pull even if you’re extremely likeable. She has dumped her own Caller just recently, after she caught him cheating on the commissions, and now she is having a hard time, customers just plain ignoring her like she has WD. Too damn many Fleshies, Nalla thinks.
He was rare, desired, and blessed; he was white. Scores of revering eyes peered at him as he sat on Bhima’s left shoulder, his own small beady eyes fixed on his paws as he gnawed at them furiously, his long grubby tail twitching and snapping around Bhima’s neck. He was no ordinary rat but the auspicious one whose occasional sighting evoked celebrity attention, who wasn’t overtly concerned at ogling humans moving in excited circles around him. It was a relatively quiet day at the rat temple in North India where hundreds of freely roaming sacred rats, in jumbled shades of gray and brown, scampered across marble squares, spied through tiny holes in the walls designed specifically to let them crisscross the temple grounds, and nibbled at sweets and grains placed in metal saucers.