Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Mind of Winter

by McCamy Taylor



"One must have a mind of winter"

From The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

The news is the usual. Famine. Plague. War. And then, the black and white image of an orca flashes across the screen, and the scroll reads "Killer whale pod attacks and devours one of its own." A hush falls over the coffee bar. The patrons want to see blood in the water. Instead, a man in a tweed suit tells the anchor

"Strictly speaking, it isn't cannibalism. There are two species of killer whales, one that eats only cold blooded fish and squid while the other hunts mammals. However, this is the first time that we have seen the second type prey upon the first."

No one says a word. We don't even make eye contact, afraid that someone among us will say aloud what we are all thinking. Adam and Eve invented sin, right? Animals do what is natural. If one orca eats another, that must be nature's way. Nature wants us to devour our own kind.

Nature is a bitch.

####

The night before the first deadly earthquake rattled Lubbock and opened a fissure in the ground that split the state of Texas in half, I dreamed that my mother was still alive. She was cutting a watermelon. As the silver blade divided the smooth, green skin of the fruit, red hot molten lava erupted. She smiled at me knowingly and said something. I wish I could remember her words. They seemed important.

I woke before dawn with a splitting headache and a thirst that no liquid could quench. Water, coffee, orange juice, wine, whiskey -- I tried them all, but still my throat felt parched. Was this an unseasonal flu? I peered into the refrigerator, looking for -- what? Raw steak wrapped in plastic caught my eye. My stomach growled. I tossed a frying pan on the stove, turned up the gas flame and tore open the package, spilling cold bloody liquid on my hands. Without thinking, I raised my red tinged fingers to my lips. So sweet! Who could have guessed that days old, congealed cow's blood could taste so sweet?

The alarm clock in the bedroom went off. The radio was tuned to a 24 hour news station. The announcer's voice was solemn.

"...environmentalists are blaming hydraulic fracking for the nine point two earthquake that has leveled most of Lubbock. And this just in. Helicopters on the scene report volcanic activity, with plumes of black smoke and a fountain of lava..."

I recalled my dream, the split green skin of the watermelon, the gushing red magma. Was it a prophecy or did I feel the tremors in my sleep? According to the news announcer, the quake was felt hundreds of miles away. Hundreds of thousands were dead. Millions homeless. A disaster of Biblical proportions -- except why Lubbock, the city with the largest number of churches per capita in the country? The evangelists called it a terror attack, accused Al Qaeda of planting a "dirty bomb" beneath the city. The conspiracy theorists said it was a government experiment gone horribly wrong at the DOD's nuclear plant near Amarillo. It was a reactor core meltdown. It was Armageddon.

####

I have not introduced myself. My name is Keisha. I run an art gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans. Maybe you have heard of it? The Burning Tyger, after the poem by William Blake. My first husband died in the war. My second marriage ended in divorce, and my husband got custody of our son. I had mental issues, you see. Bad dreams that sometimes came true. I drank to keep the nightmares away, but I ended up an alcoholic.

At thirty-four, I finally got my life back on track. Painting allowed me a way to vent the terror of my increasingly bizarre dreams. A couple of artist friends and I got together and opened a gallery. Our theme was fire. Red was a trendy color the year we opened, and business was good.

Then, Lubbock was destroyed. I was from Lubbock. My ex and my son were living there when the earthquake struck and the earth opened, spewing fire. Our home was a half mile from the epicenter. During the divorce proceedings, one of the most damning pieces of evidence my husband's attorney introduced was a phone call I made one night to the local police.

"Please," I sobbed. "You've got to help. The ground's shaking. And the sky's raining fire."

Three years later to the day, it all came true, just as I had predicted. But no one in Lubbock was left alive to remember, and if anyone who remembered had survived, they would have called it a coincidence.

####

As the newly formed volcanoes of West Texas spewed lava and ash, the sky over North America darkened. New Orleans had its coolest summer in recorded history. Tourism was slow the first week, then it picked up again. People came for the nightlife, sweet rum drinks on Bourbon Street and nude dancers. No one seemed to care if the sky was blue or dirty grey.

The volcanoes continued to erupt, and the cloud of ash moved eastward towards Europe and south to cover much of Central and South America. Asia was the last to be affected. Within a few months, the earth was enveloped in a gritty, grey shroud. Rain turned acid. Crops withered in the ground. Temperatures plunged. Snow was a common occurrence in New England that summer, but that had happened before. People did not start to panic until Atlanta was shut down by an ice storm in mid-September.

The experts on television stopped talking about 1815's Year Without a Summer and began discussing Toba, the mass extinction of 70,000 BC, when the human race was almost wiped out by one hundred years of volcanic winter --

####

I cannot sleep tonight. When I close my eyes, I see images on the backs of my eyelids. Naked men and women clothed in flame dance. The buds of a rosebush open, revealing petals made of fire. The sea is blood red. Black and white orcas cavort, rising up out of the water and then slamming down, raising scarlet waves. A lion and a lamb are lying together. The lamb lifts its head. The snowy fleece around its laughing mouth is stained crimson. In the shadows, something sleek and deadly circles round and round, a dragon with eyes like jewels and scales the color of rusted iron.

Disturbed by these and other images, I throw off my blankets and find my boots and shrug on my coat. The snow outside is ankle deep. Snow in New Orleans! When I first arrived in the city two years ago, the cab driver, a guy from New York told a story about how it only snowed once a decade in the Big Easy, and when it did, the natives panicked.

"On the radio, they were saying 'Don't look up! If a snowflake touches your eye, it can blind you.'" He laughed himself silly, and in the backseat of the cab, I chuckled, my first good laugh since the divorce. Imagine being afraid of snow!

New Orleans got over its fear pretty fast. Now, people go on about how pretty the city is under its dusting of white. Fur coats that saw use only once or twice a year are now paying for themselves. The buses have snow tires, and children are back in school. At recess, they wear mittens and make snowballs and snowmen.

The city by night is less idyllic. The homeless huddle around open fires burning in trashcans. I overhear a bit of their conversation. They are talking about moving south for the winter. This city used to be part of the South. How far will they have to go to escape the snow? Miami? Havana? Panama?

A car passes, going too fast on the icy road. When a cat darts into the street, the driver slams on the brakes, and the vehicle does a three hundred-sixty degree turn. The cat escapes unharmed. The little old man standing on the corner is not so lucky. The fender clips him, and he is thrown ten feet, into the trunk of a frost covered sweet olive tree. Icicles and leaves rain down on him. By the time I reach his side, his heart has already stopped. The snow around him is stained bright red with his blood.

I stay beside him while someone calls for an ambulance. The police get my story and that of the driver. He is shaken but sober. No sign of the cat that caused the accident. The paramedics take the body. A wrecker hauls away the car. The gawkers move on. Eventually, I am the only one there. The snow beneath the tree is still crimson. I lean over and scoop up a handful, expecting it to be warm, like blood, but it is freezing cold. It numbs my lips and tongue, but once the blood stained snow melts in my mouth, it lights a fire within me. For a moment, I am a different person, older, male. Someone else's memories crowd my mind --

Alarmed, I grab fresh, clean snow and scrub out my mouth. The sound of rustling leaves causes me to glance up. The cat is sitting on a low branch. Its eyes glow green in the near darkness. It knows.

####

Due to the unseasonably cold weather and cloudy skies, the nation's corn crop fails. Faced with rising feed prices, ranchers start slaughtering their stock. For a brief time, the price of meat is low, and I am able to slake my thirst for uncooked beef. I search the bins for the bloodiest cuts I can find. Eventually, the price of red meat rises, so I switch to chicken. At first, I am apprehensive. Undercooked poultry can kill you, and I am eating thighs and legs raw, including the bones which I chew for the marrow. But I don't get salmonella poisoning. I never seem to get sick anymore. Alcohol no longer tempts me.

By winter, even poultry is pricey. The government starts to ration food. We are taught how to match proteins -- beans with rice, nuts with grain. Soy and garbanzos are the most complete vegetable protein source. However, it is not protein that I crave. Desperate, I take in a starving, homeless dog, part Irish wolfhound. Sylvester, as I call him, is taller than me and so thin that his fur seems to hang from his bones. I don't expect him to live long, but he surprises me. The sores that cover his matted fur heal. His breathing becomes easier. He puts on weight.

Sylvester seems perfectly happy with vegetable based dog food, and before long he hardly seems to notice when I make a little nick in his fur in order to drink a few drops of his blood. My dreams become more pleasant. I imagine myself running on four legs through fields of tall grass. The world is black and white, but the smells are so vivid that they form a rainbow of their own, telling stories that few humans have ever heard, about the rats, squirrels, cats, raccoons, possums and birds whose paths have crossed over the same small patch of earth.

####

New Orleans has its first white Christmas since 2004. My business partners and I have dinner together, Hunan tofu with dandelion greens and a chocolate rum fruit cake. I eat sparingly. Food does not hurt me, but it does not seem to nourish me, either, not the way that Sylvester's blood does. And it seems a waste to eat when so many people are now starving.

Trey brings a date, a medical student from LSU, a tall, skinny pasty faced young man with limp black hair and large dark eyes who calls himself Stew. He has plenty of stories to tell. The elderly are dropping dead from hypothermia. Dark skinned children are starting to get rickets from the lack of sunshine. "And the blood bank is practically empty," says Stew as he cuts himself a second slice of cake. "You should go donate. Trey and I already did."

At the word "blood" my mouth starts to water.

Lessa, my other partner at the art gallery asks the question I am thinking. "Why the shortage?"

Stew shrugs. "Lots of anemia going around. People aren't eating enough meat, I guess."

Is that my problem? Anemia? For months, I have resisted the impulse to see a doctor. What if I get bad news? What if it's leukemia or aplastic anemia or some other fatal condition?

It's my first Christmas since the death of my son. I know better than to spend it alone. After supper, Trey and Stew head off for a party. I stay behind to help Lessa with the dishes. A short, skinny white woman, Lessa was once a short buxom white woman. That was before she got breast cancer. Her hair is gone, and so are her breasts. She wears a loose green Christmas sweatshirt decorated with Frosty the Snowman. Her bald head is covered with a red Santa hat. Lessa is gay. I'm not. She has always been sweet on me. Tonight, she is taking the place of the family I no longer have, and I am taking the place of the lover who left her shortly after her surgery.

It is always hard being alone, but since the coming of perpetual winter, I feel the loneliness more. There is something about grey skies and snow that make me want to curl up with friends and family in a snug cave, beside an open fire and tell stories. Lessa and I make do with a portable space heater and a fireplace video. Soon, she is drunk and laughing. While alcohol does not get me high anymore, her presence alone is enough to cheer me. She is so thin and so pale! I can see the spider web of blue veins through the white flesh on the back of her hands. She is like a porcelain doll. The merest touch could break her open, and then her blood would pour out, crimson against the white --

Impulsively, Lessa leans forward to kiss me. The chemotherapy makes her gums bleed, and she tastes of warm iron. That kiss is the most delicious thing I have experienced since the earthquake. I want more. But I know I must not. It is taboo. The blood part, not the gay sex. And Lessa will misunderstand. Reluctantly, I lean back.

"Thanks for supper."

She flushes, her pale cheeks momentarily red. "I got you a present."

It is a disc of William Blake's Jerusalem, with all the color plates. When I get home, I take Sylvester for a walk. Then I curl up with my e-book and study the universe according to Blake. Night dark skies streaked with fire. Men and women with Roman proportions, clothed in flames. The sun is a bloody red disc on the horizon. I know these skies, this world. This is my world, the world of the volcano.

Blake composed his epic, Jerusalem, during the 1810's, when one volcano after another erupted, finally culminating with the explosion of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which sent a cloud of volcanic ash around the globe, blotting out the sun and causing snow to fall in England and the Americas during the summer. Mary Shelley dreamed of her New Prometheus during that long winter. Polidori wrote of the Vampyre. And Blake, a man who claimed to see angels in the sun and the face of God staring through the window spent a decade describing the fall of Albion and its resurrection.

By the time I reach the final plate, I am flushed and the blood is pounding in my head. The artist has been dead two hundred years, but I seem to feel his presence, behind me and a little to the left. The air has a disturbed quality. Something brushes my arm. I almost jump out of my skin, but it is only Sylvester, my dog carrying his food bowl. I pour him a serving of Vegi-Pet. While he is distracted, I feed myself.

####

The year before the earthquake struck and the volcano erupted, North America witnessed the largest mass squirrel migration in over a century. Millions of the rodents moved across country, heading towards the Southeastern states. Trees were stripped clean of acorns and pecans. Farms were looted. Gun enthusiasts started using the animals for target practice, but cars and trucks were their deadliest enemies. The news was full of gruesome pictures. Highways literally covered with small mounds of squashed fur and guts. Scavenger birds -- crows, vultures -- grew fat.

The migration ended. People forgot about the squirrels' strange behavior -- until Lubbock. Then, a reporter decided to study past migrations. A year or so after each mass exodus, he discovered, a volcano somewhere in the world erupted. In 1811, squirrels fled from Ohio. In 1812, the series of volcanic eruptions that lead to the Year Without a Summer began. In 1842, half a billion squirrels migrated through Wisconsin. In 1843, volcanoes all across the globe erupted, including several in North America.

Biologists called it a coincidence, but the tabloids went wild. Squirrels Predicted Volcano! There was a lot of hand wringing and second guessing. If only we had paid attention, we could have --

Could have what? Stored up food for the long volcanic winter? Bet that the price of heating fuel would go through the roof?

Animals knew. After living and evolving on this planet for tens of millions of years, squirrels understood how fickle it could be. They had contingency plans hardwired into their DNA. Not like us humans. We were taken completely by surprise. If we survived, it would be by the skin of our teeth as they used to say.

####

When I arrive to open the store two days after Christmas, a customer is waiting outside the door. Dressed in a long, cream colored wool coat, he blends into the scenery. His hair is white as snow. His skin is almost as pale, but he does not look sick or frail. His glasses are tinted. Even indoors, the light seems to bother him. He squints at me.

"I am interested in the piece in the window." His accent is European, hard to place. Shading his eyes with his hand, he leads me to the painting in question. It is one of mine. A street corner in Lubbock. I painted it before the earthquake, from a dream in which manhole covers and fire hydrants began shooting gushers of blood. Most people think I did it after the earthquake and they call it "creepy". Or, if they know my history, they say something sympathetic about my son and change the subject. No one has ever wanted to buy it before.

The pale European gentleman does not flinch when I tell him the price. "I'm leaving the city tomorrow. Can you have it packed by then?"

It is a big piece. I have to make the crate myself. Lessa and Trey will be excited. Rent and utilities for the next three months are taken care of, even if we don't sell another picture.

The next day, the buyer returns near sunset. Same off-white coat, same dark glasses. The tip of his nose is slightly pink from the cold. He looks like a snowman. "I'm going to be in the city longer than I thought. Would you like to have a drink with me?"

The corner bar is decorated in a voodoo theme, for the tourists. I no longer get a buzz from alcohol, but I sip my hot toddy. He has an iced Irish coffee in a tall frosted mug. His name is Stephen. He lives in Arkansas now, but he is from eastern Europe. When I ask what he does for a living, he says "I'm a headhunter," with a little smile.

####

Lessa's cancer has gone into remission. The doctors don't know what to make of her miraculous cure. Her hair starts growing again. She puts on weight. Her girlfriend, Ramona comes back. Says she could not bear to watch her lover die. Not much of an excuse, if you ask me, but Lessa is happy.

Six weeks into the New Year, I get a call from someone in the government. I did not fill out my Census form. Can we meet so he can get my information? I tell him I did my Census online. He says something about computer error. I give him directions to the gallery.

The Census worker is a youngish man, part Asian, part Black. The questions start with the usual, name, date of birth, city of birth, number of people in my household. Then, he asks about food. Since feeding the population is a major concern for the government, I do not get suspicious until he looks down at his e-pad and says

"In the last two months, your only food purchases have been dog food."

"How the hell do you know that?" I blurt out.

He blinks, startled by my angry tone. "From your debit card records. Do you have a dog?"

"Yes," I answer defensively. I cross my arms and glare at him. Some people frown upon feeding pets, when so many folks are hungry. But so far, the cat and dog lovers have prevailed. "He's had his shots, and I've got his tags."

"This isn't about your dog. This is about you. What have you been doing for food?"

What can I tell him? I drink my dog's blood? The SPCA would have something to say about that.

Lessa, who is hanging paintings for a new exhibition, pauses. From the tilt of her head, I know she is listening. Even if I tell the Census worker to fuck off, she will badger me with questions once he is gone. So, I come up with a plausible lie.

"I've been eating dog food."

Lessa gasps, but the man from the Census does not seem surprised. "I hear that a lot," he sighs. "You know that pet food is not formulated to meet the nutritional needs of humans."

So that is what this is about. "I take vitamins."

"You need more than vitamins." He types something into his e-pad. "I'm sending you the latest federal nutrition recommendations. You'll be surprised at how cheaply you can buy what your body needs."

I glare at him. He knows nothing about what my body needs.

Once he is gone, Lessa starts apologizing. "I had no idea you were hurting for money. You should have told me -- "

"I'm not hurting for money, and I'm not eating dog food," I assure her. "I'm buying meat and veggies from a guy who lives downstairs at my apartment complex." Now that food is in short supply, rationing has begun. Where there is food rationing, there will always be a black market.

I have been careless. I resolve to leave no more clues for nosy Census workers to discover. I still do not understand what is happening to me, but I am pretty sure that it is not something that I want Washington to know about.

####

Two weeks to go until Mardi Gras. The floats are still under construction. This year's theme is winter wonderland. Angels and snowmen, everything silver and white. If it were up to me, I would choose brighter colors. Scarlet to stir up the blood. Gold in honor of the sun we no longer see. Orange for the frozen Florida citrus crops.

Sylvester's blood no longer satisfies me. I want what I had from Lessa on Christmas. I start hanging out at singles' bars. New Orleans is full of drunken tourists. Sometimes, the men pass out before we have sex, and I am able to drink my fill and leave before they wake up. I am not greedy. A few drops of blood sucked from a nipped lower lip are enough to satisfy me. If the men notice what I am doing, they laugh and call me "kinky".

I find myself drawn to the elderly, the frail, the weak. Nothing arouses my desire like a deep, rattling cough, the kind that hints at lung cancer.

I am a sick woman. But I cannot stop.

####

A woman is dead. It happened on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras. The police found her in an alley, her throat cut, her body drained of blood. There are rumors about vampires. Not the Goths who paint their faces white and sip red drinks. Real people who drink real blood. Like me, except that I have never killed anyone. Not yet.

I stop going to bars. I stop luring men home. I adopt another pet, a cat suffering from diabetes and kidney failure. She has short, orange hair and wide golden eyes. At first, she is too weak to move or even protest when I use one of her insulin syringes to draw a small amount of blood. It tastes different from Sylvester's and my dreams are different, full of sounds that I have never heard before, like the way a butterfly's wings slice the air and the thrumming of a bird's heart from twenty feet away. I am a kitten kneading my mother's soft belly as I nurse. I am a hunter stalking a garden snake.

Gradually, Amber starts to put on weight. She grows more active. Her diabetes clears up and I no longer need to give her insulin. Her blood, which seemed so satisfying at first, no longer slakes my thirst. But I dare not prey upon strangers. There have been three more victims of the vampire serial killer. The police have closed down the Goth clubs. They are asking the public for information about anyone with a blood fetish.

Unexpectedly, Trey's boyfriend, Stew comes to my rescue. He mentions that his hospital is looking for volunteers to help in the emergency room. During orientation, I discover that the nurses draw several tubes of blood on everyone who is registered. Many of these specimens are not needed, and so they are discarded. The place is such a madhouse that no one notices if I pocket a glass tube and drink the contents in the staff toilet. Even lukewarm, the blood tastes wonderful. And my dreams are full of memories that are not my own. I walk the streets of Kyoto under boughs heavy with pink cherry blossoms. I sail the canals of Venice in a gondola and watch the sun set over the water. I am on patrol in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I make love to my wife.

####

The clouds thin today, for a few hours, and I can see the sun, a pale, burning disc, tiny and distant. The light makes my eyes itch and water. I have to go back inside and search for sunglasses.

What will become of me once the volcano in West Texas stops spewing ash and smoke? How will I explain my aversion to sunlight to my friends? A medical condition? Lupus? When the world goes back to normal, will I go back to normal, too? I am convinced that the changes in my body have been triggered by the change in climate. There are tales out of Africa about great apes who have started preying upon their own kind, drinking the blood of smaller, weaker animals. Humans are great apes. We have the same imperative to survive. And what better way for an apex predator endowed with reason and creativity to survive a famine than by preying upon its own species?

####

I enjoy my volunteer work at the hospital. It gives me something to take my mind off my own relatively insignificant problems. There is so much suffering in the world, only a small part of it caused by the cold and hunger. People die of heart attacks in the prime of their lives. Young mothers are struck down by cancer. Some Friday and Saturday nights, the victims of stabbing and gunshot wounds are lined up in the hallway, waiting for their turn to be seen.

One Wednesday, early in April, the snow melts and then refreezes. This is the most dangerous time for road travel. A bus full of middle school band students going to a tournament skids off the road into a bayou. Three children are DOA. Four more have serious injuries. I am assigned to a thirteen year old boy who looks like my son, tall and slender, with caramel brown skin and short, nappy hair. He is bleeding internally. His blood pressure is dropping. His eyes are shut -- mercifully, he is unconscious. A trickle of blood on his forehead from a scalp wound. All the children have lacerations from broken glass. Impulsively, I kiss him on the brow.

"Careful," says the nurse. "Universal precautions." Meaning, no matter how young or innocent the patient, you can never assume that he or she does not have hepatitis or HIV.

Surreptitiously, I lick my lips. I taste the boy's death. It is sweet. Sweeter even than Lessa's kiss. The sweetness fills me like warm mulled wine --

The boy's eye flutter open. His lips form aword. "Mama."

"Thank God," murmur the nurse. "I thought we'd lost this one for sure."

Why didn't I realize before? I am not a monster. Not that kind of monster, the blood suckers of Hammer horror movies. I don't steal life. I steal death. And lately, there is more than enough death to go around.

####

Now that I know what I am, I can spot others of my kind. When Stephen, my eastern European art patron comes back to New Orleans, I have my questions ready, starting with "Why didn't you tell me?"

It is late at night. Except for street lamps, the city is dark, but we both wear tinted glasses. The asphalt underfoot is shiny and slick with ice. A pair of small, brown tree rats watch from a dying magnolia. I place a couple of cheese crackers on one of the lower branches. The food which I buy in order to fool the government ends up in the bellies of homeless humans and stray animals. I know these rats well, since their tree is right outside my front door. Every night, I leave them a treat. Every night, their noses twitch as they smell my familiar scent. If not for Amber, my cat, they would probably move into my house, to be closer to their food supply. Once, I would have been horrified at the thought of sharing my home with rats. Now, the love which they have for each other makes my own life seem brighter.

"Why didn't you tell me?" I ask again.

He pretends not to understand, so I spell it out for him.

"When I taste the blood of dying people, they stop dying. They get better. Don't tell me I'm crazy or mistaken, because I've seen it happen too many times. You knew, didn't you? That's why you bought my painting."

"I bought your painting, because it is good. And because the subject is -- of special interest to me." His voice is cool, calm. No matter what happens, I have never seen him lose his temper.

"Because you're like me? Do you dream about the people whose blood you drink?"

"Sometimes."

It's like trying to get blood from a turnip. A frozen turnip. He is as pale as the snow which covers the city. A snow man perfectly suited for this new world of perpetual winter.

"What happens when the volcanos stop erupting? Do I go back to being what I was?"

He turns. With his hands -- his cool, pale hands on my shoulders, he gazes down into my face. "Keisha, I don't know what will happen to you when -- if the volcanoes stop. The world I was born into was a violent, bloody one. But even when it changed, I stayed the same. Maybe you'll be like me. Maybe you'll be like the others."

"The others? What others?"

"The ones who had visions. The ones who performed miracles. The saints. The dreamers. Some of them died natural deaths. Others lingered on."

"Just how old are you, Stephen?"

He shakes his head. Snow falls from his white hair. "Too old."

"Help me. I'm trying to understand. What about the vampire serial killer? Is he a real vampire? Why does he kill people but I bring them back to life?"

His eyes are the color of glaciers. "When I figure it out for myself, I'll tell you."

Desperately, "Am I still human?"

He leans forward. His lips are close to my ear. Though he looks like a man carved from ice, his breath is warm. "Never doubt that you're still human, Keisha. Your humanity is what keeps you going. But humanity..."

"Humanity?"

"...is a work in progress."

"You mean like evolution?"

A hint of a smile. "Yes, something like that."

In the distance, the lights of Bourbon Street burn red against the dark, starless sky. Despite the cold and the uncertainty, people still come to this city to drink and fornicate and forget for a little while that death waits for all of us. Most all of us. Is it waiting for me? Time will tell. Stephen, if he knows the answer, is keeping it to himself.

The End


© 2012 McCamy Taylor

Bio: McCamy Taylor is, of course, Aphelion's reigning Serials / Novellas (fiction longer than 7,500 words) Editor. She is also the author of many stories and articles that have appeared in Aphelion and various other publications too numerous to list here. Her most recent fiction contribution to Aphelion was the short story Unmarked By The Malachim in the September 2012 edition.

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