After binding my wrists with some hemp they took me to an enormous and grotesque white building, all sharp angles and mottled with pebbles and granite chunks. They called it “City Hall.” There was a ring of deep water around it full of piranha and the leftover bones of all their previous meals. The lawmen marched me down a never-ending and windowless corridor, lit only by flickering red torch flames. Just when I’d taken to thinking they really were leading me to the edge of the world, we reached a pair of massive, cherry wood doors, and Lamech and his partner each pushed one open then shoved me inside.
The coppers’ friendly nudge sent me spilling to my knees. Palms pressed against the stone floor, I looked up and around. In an inset nook on the far wall there roared a large fire. In front of that, the skin of a grizzly bear was spread across the ground. Adorning the black onyx walls were the severed heads of a variety of creatures – a lynx, a dire wolf, an eagle.
Just beneath the snarling visage of a decapitated lion was a big granite block covered in clay goblets full of steaming brown liquid, inked-up reeds and blank cuneiform tablets. Behind it was a wooden chair, and standing beyond that was a man with his back to us, dressed in a fancy maroon silk robe. He had his hands linked just above his rear-end, staring out the wide opening that looked onto the city.
If I’d been a sap, I’d have found all this inspiring. Continue reading “The Good-Bye Garden: Part Six”
I had to wash the taste of Sephura out of my mouth, so I found the nearest saturnalia and bummed as much wine as I could from the men and women there. About a hundred depraved and randy partygoers danced around this big bonfire and pulled each other into the shadows to commit carnal acts I wouldn’t care to describe. They were a friendly bunch, and I was wasted in record time.
The air reeked of alcohol and sweat and smoke. Some naked guys were banging on bongos, a few others blowing into flutes and strumming on little harps. I wondered if they’d bought all that gear off of old Jubal, wondered where he and his brother and my ass and my toe were, and found myself getting angry. I grabbed an ewer of mead out of somebody’s hands and drank harder; I didn’t want to be angry. I didn’t want to be anything. Continue reading “The Good-Bye Garden: Part Five”
“You horse’s arse!”
For the first time in two years this pretty little thing and I were standing face-to-face, and she wasted no time making with the insults. There wasn’t much delay, either, in the way her cupped hand drew back, like a reflex, and slapped holy hell out of my gob. Got me right in the tender spot, too, where my tooth had fallen out.
“Damn,” I said. “You been practicing that or what?”
“Yeah, smart-aleck,” she said, her sleek black hair drooping over one eye. “Every night before bed I’ve been smacking the snot out of a dumb, fat pig looks just like you. I can hardly tell the difference.” She reached back for another good wallop and I snatched her wrist just in time to stop it.
“Now, sweetheart,” I said, “I don’t think you really wanna do that.” Continue reading “The Good-Bye Garden: Part Four”
When I came to, some time later, it was to the tune of horse hooves on stone, and my throbbing head bumping against wood, and the giddy whispers of children. My eyelids were glued shut so when I pried them apart, half my lashes ripped out. I lay on my side, rocking, woven baskets stacked in high, leaning towers all around me.
I sat up and leaned into the columns of hampers. The purple welts and bruises all down my arms were not lost on me. A quick scan downward confirmed more of the same on my legs. But the kicker: one foot wrapped in textile, soaked in blood and – I drew it up, painfully, to confirm – missing the big toe. Just gone.
So. Old Jabal must’ve really worked me over. Shame I was unconscious for all that.
Toe aside, the immediate concern was my current predicament. Shedding the initial shock of post-waking panic, I recognized that I was in a horse-drawn cart. Headed back toward the innards of Nod, judging by the sun’s position and by common sense. (Carts full of product don’t leave Nod.) I plunged a scraped-up hand into one of the baskets and rummaged, coming up with a handful of sun-shriveled dates. I sniffed one, took a bite. Realized I was missing a tooth or two. And I thought, Wait a minute. Dates. Continue reading “The Good-Bye Garden: Part Three”
Nod was and always will be a cesspool. Dingy, humid, smelly. And that’s just the citizens. A few bad apples, kids and grandkids and so forth of Mom and Dad’s, got it in their heads they’d relocate to Nod a long, long time ago. All these years later and the apples only got more rotten and more numerous. Blink in Nod and they’ll rob you blind. Fall asleep there and you might wake up one kidney, tongue, or ball short.
And these monsters are family, mind you.
But all that was secondary to number one on the Reasons to Steer Clear of Nod list: Sephura moved out there about a year ago. Sephura’s my sister.
We had a thing for a while. It ended badly. Continue reading “The Good-Bye Garden: Part Two”