Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Death's Daughter: Corners of the Earth

It let her see so many things. The sentient sheets wailing their way around street corners. The goblin airships and their puppeteers controlling all the cabs. The invisible squid humping the Chrysler building. Oh, and that there was a Chrysler building in the middle of Indianapolis. She was pretty sure no other humans had seen that before.

She kept twisting the base of the scythe until she saw the right thing. The one thing she’d suspected was there.

Spectral dinosaurs. No.

Cars riding on horseback down South Street. No.

Then, there it was. The McDonald’s Mom had always taken her to, and where she’d always gone after classes let out for the summer, to celebrate with a comfortably artificial milkshake. Across the lycra, all the way in the corner at the one booth on the other side of the restrooms. It was still dingy brown, as though stained with plastic feces. In over a decade she had never seen anyone sit there, attempt to clean it, or remove the awful thing. Nobody even left trash on the table.

When she twisted the scythe just right, she saw why. For in the booth sat a bulbous man with four arms and three eyes, two lodged in his left cheek, and a bulbous gut that split like a loaf of unbaked bread against the edge of his booth table. He wouldn’t have looked remotely human if not for his Colts jersey, customized to accommodate his additional limbs. For whatever reason it was a Baltimore Colts jersey, but it was still Colts-branded.

Moffet looked at him and immediately knew he was why this horrible booth was never used and never went away. Maybe it was the scythe, or maybe for the first time in her life women’s intuition was kicking in, but she’d bet this blight had always been here – or at least, since the Colts had moved to Indiana.

“Royalty?” he  asked as she approached. He bowed, waving all four arms in a faint curtsy. “Always knew there was something special about you.”

She pushed her hoodie back and slid into the opposing side. It felt like any other booth. That was disappointing; she’d wanted to sit here since she was three.

“You remember me?”

He waved a hand close to the floor, indicating someone’s height. “Since you were too small to finish a six-piece. You threw your leftovers under me to make your mother think you were finished.”

“I knew you were here.”

He drummed on the tabletop, grinning so much the eyes in his cheek nearly popped out. “I knew you were special. Always knew. Nobody looks in corners like mine unless they’re not quite human.”

“Do you all hide in the unwashed corners of fastfood joints, then?”

They both knew that wasn’t true. After all, they could both still see the squid on top of that Chrysler building. It undulated over the antennae.

“Some. There’s lots of different places. You barely pay any attention to your oceans. There's always a woods with low population. You'd be surprised how many buildings in any major city go utterly untouched. But most of us civilized creatures moved to the four corners of the world ages ago.”

“What four corners? What does that mean?”

“It means just that. I inherited a flat from my mother in the top left corner. Lovely place to summer.”

“There are no corners on earth. It's a sphere.”

“It’s an oblate spheroid.”

“It’s a circle. It doesn’t have corners.”

“Don’t be one of those people. Listen, it being round is exactly why we live on the earth's corners. If it was a flat planet, or a cube, or a cosmic pyramid, human beings would get to the corners all the time. We don't want to be bothered. Goblin children wake up afraid there's a homo sapiens in the closet often enough as it is.”

“What? There are no goblins. You’re not a goblin, are you?”

“I’m not a goblin. There are goblins.”

“There are no corners on a round thing. It’s round.”

“You thinking a round thing can't have corners is exactly why we don't socialize with humans often. That and the witch-burnings. Have you ever seen a photo of the earth?”

“Yes, and it's round.”

He brought up his lower two hands, making a sharp-edged shape with his thumbs and forefingers. “The photo is a generally rectangular.”

“The planet on the photo is a circle. Everything else is black because it's nothing.”

“We live in those black bits.” He wiggled his middle fingers in the edges of his hand-shape diagram. “Those are the corners. If they look like nothing to you, then the community is still comfortably gated.”

“You can't live in the corner of a photo.”

“I took a photography class once. Lots of still-life photos. People being alive in the middle, on the sides, or just on the edge of the frame of pictures. There's no reason you couldn't live off in the corner of one.”

“You’re not going to make this easy on me.”

“Why would I? I don’t want you to come live there. God, the witch-burnings.”

“Stop that. We don’t burn witches anymore. One was my roommate freshman year.”

“No, I mean you don’t burn enough of them. They get wise to magical stuff and then suddenly there are people roaming the astral plane. Why would a race of creatures that witches enslave want to stop witch-burnings? If I can give you one piece of advice, miss, don’t grow up to be a witch.”

She chewed her cheek. “What if I pay you?”

“With what?”

Moffett tapped the scythe against the windowsill. It went stark clean, from all the mildew that suddenly died.

“Well. What do you want?”


  1. This is such a fascinating piece. I was riveted. I want one of these scythes. Er... or I don't. But you've created an amazing world with a bit of a description and some bloody fantastic dialogue. I love it. I want to read the next bit.

    One part stopped me: "Across the lycra, all the way in the corner at the one booth on the other side of the restrooms." I don't understand lycra. Do you mean linoleum? Or have I totally misread it?

  2. I loved the idea that they lived in the corners, and the whole dialogue about it. You have a very strange mind Mr. Wiswell, fascinating, but strange ^__^


  3. I'm enjoying this, John. I love the "you can't fathom it but it's there" aspect of their conversation.


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