The colonnade stretched into the gauzy blur of rapid movement, as if the air were a dimpled whirlpool of glass. It oozed backward. The stain of it grew ever more slowly, reaching out to the wall as a glacier might stretch the last of its moraine toward milky green hills. The sight of it is awe-striking and cruel: a breathless, soundless, utterly rigid, and perfectly taut moment.

I am nearing the end of the tunnel of blindness. I smell metal. I can hear only my pulse. We are pressed as if deep under water, or buried in compacting sand. Pins and pricks and tickles take over my nerves and the eyes of the room are heavy, glossy, glazed. Dull and dumbed. Slow and mute. Worn. Weary. Weak.

Each moment thrums with the kind of slowness that can only be found in self-restraint over something truly unpleasant. Say, choosing to wait to remove your snowsuit until after you get home. While crossing the desert. And you really have to piss. I consider reviewing the images of my life as they flash before my eyes for the third time. One by one. Year by year. Slow and mute.

I realize I have been counting the boards in my halo of floor that do not line up right (sloppy craftsmanship). I realize it only after the icepicks in my eyes make me lose my place, and I am not sure which part of this angers me more. A chrysanthemum of polychromatic naked ladies dances across my vision and I lose interest. I am emptied to misery and content in apathy. I resolve to think about alerting someone about the boards. Slacken. Stale. Dull and dumbed.

And then it splinters into a wild constellation of bubbles, sidereal petals, ribbons of razored silver, and incandescent feathers: cataclysmic and unceremonious with the glorious sound of sudden silence.

Apparently in a rush to make up for its tardiness, Time decided to make all events occur at once. I collapse, skittering sticks and buttons about. Everyone I can imagine yells something, as do several other people. Windows shatter. (Real ones, as opposed to the analogical filaments still darting about.) A man is sick all over another man, who is busy rolling his eyes back into his head. A child begins screeching. A bird flies out of nowhere, and into a wall. China shatters, trumpets lilt, and the pope blesses himself. Finally, something explodes. I recall quite vividly that all of this smells like ass.

I awake in the courtyard with limbs full of ice and lightning and, at my best count, at least seven heads, each tortured in its own special ring of hell. Hm. Nine? (How many rings are there in hell again?) Some number, at any rate, sufficient to explain why thinking thoughts about as complex as “nine?” and “fuck” induce vertigo and vomiting.

But to say I was nonplussed would be a disservice to June, who appeared to be building a fire with such brilliance and malice that it invoked opposition from no fewer than three different sun gods.

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a magical college zombie story

Some upstanding young men and women, college-age, stood on a lake. Three brace they were, clad in red and black: a young lady with bright blonde hair; three sober, brown young men; a younger girl with auburn hair; and finally a chestnut haired boy with eyes of green.

It was easy enough to see why they stood on the lake. For one, a lake is a rather placid and pleasant place to stand. The surface was lightly rippled from the falls some fifty feet behind them, but otherwise still. Only small perturbations. Perhaps from time to time a fish would flick its tail at them.

Secondmost, the near shore, the far shore, and the left shore were all covered and teeming with Zombies.

The zombies did not look rather pleasant or placid.

Some of the boys were clearly aimed at looking tough. They squared their shoulders and pulled up the cowls from their cloaks.

Julian, the green-eyed boy, said aloud, not really directed at anyone. “Welp. That is too many for me to kill on my own. But I really ought not lead novices against a number I’m not certain I can kill. Lady luck frowns on that, and then I lose my head. I could lead us back up the way we came, but these festerbags have seen us as well, which means something that thinks might have seen us, and a ravine filled with water is about as cheery as it gets for an ambush. And of course since I’ve got a gaggle of novices, no one here has a sending.”

“I uh–”

It was a bit of a hesitant squeak.

“I do.”

“Sorry, what?” He glanced around at the Zombies.

The auburn-colored girl tapped his shoulder.

“Wrong automaton. You want the one with a sending, right? Who WERE you talking to, anyway?”

He turned around. She was smirking.

“You. Are. …Ju? …Ja? …Jubblies? …I’m not close am I.”

The smirk had become a raised eyebrow halfway through the guessing game.

“June. You *were* close. You are *not* close to *anything* any more.”

She was rather pretty.

“Roight. I think best by talking. They don’t listen anyhow.” He gestured at the shore. “You can send back to the University? To a master?”

She nodded. “I can.”

Julian exhaled. “Okay. That’s, well, that simplifies things considerably. Could you tell someone with letters to come meet us at the bottom of Buttermilk Falls? I’ve got, oh, say, three dozen milquetoast zombies, some sort of animate contraption out of Lawnmower Man, and what smells like a Flesh Golem.”

It was autumn. A leaf wheeled past his face and settled on the water at his feet. It sent tiny ripples out in every direction, colliding with the lines from the rest of the group. June had watched it carom to the surface, and some background part of her mind wondered at how he wasn’t making any lines.

“And as a post-script, tell them I’m going to engage in 5 minutes.”

She looked up quickly, eyes a little wide.

“Don’t worry,” he grinned, “I’m not actually. But I’m also not going to stand here babysitting you kids for an hour. Are you actually a freshman? How do you know a sending?”

She brushed a loose strand of hair back behind her ear. While it was short all around, barely neck-length, this seemed to simply give it special fire to fight its guerrilla war against her eyebrows and nose.

“Well, I can just pretend if you’d like that better.” She closed her eyes and felt the message leave her. In her mind’s eye, it was a bright bird of luminescent blue, a pure concept darting along well worn paths between her and her best friend, from who, in turn she knew a way she could carefully pick, thought to thought, to one of the masters.

He made a face at her, which he assumed she didn’t see, as she appeared to be tranced. The lake under her feet rippled and puckered. He looked back at the shore, and squinted at a dark shape moving from the trees toward then.

June opened her eyes and a moment later she heard Julian cursing. “Well maybe now I wasn’t fibbing.”

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adventure dispenser

Rachel was a young girl of nine and an explorer.

She had donned a hard cap and affixed to it a reflective circle of foil. In the sun, it shown like a bright lamp. She needed such a lamp that would carry with it a piece of the sun because she was exploring the dark parts of her side yard, and among the willow near the rocks she found what she was sure was an old tunnel to a magic land.

She gathered together the other things she knew she’d need, her well-worn adventuring gear. She shouldered her gear and made off.

She took the garden spade and the small shovel from the shed and made to reopen the tunnel. She found it had wooden rafters like the ceiling of her attic, and after crawling a bit, she found it had the same musty dusty smell. As she crawled carefully, knowing old tunnels to be Dangerous Places, she came across boxes baring strange runes, bricks and bracks, a left-handed tea kettle, and an upsidedown candelabra. When she dusted them aside, she found three spider’s webs met at the center of the candelabra.

The spiders had not seen the sun in many years. When Rachel brought that piece of it with her on her hat, they had blinked and muttered at first, but now with three eyes undazzled, they looked again and found it quite to their liking. Their world was all askew, and it seemed there was much more of it, wider and taller, than they remembered. The sun made things wholer and stouter.

A spider doffed its tophat to Rachel.

“Why hello,” she said. “Thank you primly for your manners, friend Spider. I am Exploring. Your tunnel was lost but now it is found!”

The spider blinked at her several times. Eight, by her count.

“I am looking for Adventure. Do you know where she lives?”

The spiders nodded. Adventure was something they had sought in the youth of their long spider-lives; the hatted spider had found her, but she was far abroad, and always moving, and he concluded he was more suited to contemplative peace and quiet rather than tag along. He preferred to wait, and maybe someday, Adventure might come to him. He was an important spider, after all.

He gestured with three legs to the tunnel down which he had found Adventure. It was past the old Hellenistic statue with the natty Lei, but right of the red blinking. He told Rachel he got as far as the City of Levity, a place of balloons and windmills, nestled high in the clouds near the weathervanes and steeples. He had ridden a leaf to get there, but tiny though she was, he did not see any leaf feeling up to the task for her.

“Thank you kindly, friend Spider.” she said. She offered them each a crumb of crumbcake, but they declined, knowing the reopened tunnel would provide, and her road was long. The third spider, more spindly than the rest, offered her a long cloak from behind a box. It smelled of must and dust like the rest of the boxen town, but the spider said it also had a velvety gleam and a loving cuddle sewn into it. Rachel took it in exchange for a pin she had brought.

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