She is also one of the few authors in the pending anthology Glitter and Madness who hasn’t been featured in the Saturday Storytime feature here, so I thought I’d fix that. Glitter and Madness is a project of John Klima and my friend Michael Thomas, who is part of the editorial staff for Apex Magazine. Apex, in turn, publishes the stories that tend to get the highest click-through rates here. Between the two, I figured it was high time to let y’all know about the Kickstarter for the project, which has less than a week to go.
“I have had a marriage proposal,” she told him.
He folded his paper and set it down, frowning. “From whom?”
“A rat, just now. At breakfast.”
“What does he expect? A dowry of cheese?”
She remembered not liking her father very much when she was alive.
“I told him no,” she said.
He reached for his paper again. “Of course you did. You’ve never been in love and never will be. There is no change in this city. Indeed, it would be the destruction of us all. Shut the door when you go out.”
* * *
She went shopping, carrying a basket woven from the white reeds that line the river’s banks.
Passing through a clutter of stalls, she fingered fabrics lying in drifts: sleepy soft velvet, watery charmeuse, suedes as tender as a mouse’s ear. All in shades of black and gray, whites lying among them like discarded moonlight.
The rat sat on the table’s edge.
“I can provide well for you,” it said. “Fish guts from the docks of Tabat and spoiled meat from its alleyways. I would bring you the orchard’s gleanings: squishy apricot and rotted peaches, apples brown as bone and flat as the withered breasts of a crone. I would bring you bits of ripe leather from the tannery, soaked in a soup of pigeon shit and water until it is soft as flesh.”
“Why me?” she asked. “Have I given you reason to suspect I would accept your advances?”
It stroked its whiskers in embarrassment. “No,” it admitted. “I witnessed you bathing in the river, and saw the touch of iridescence that gilds your limbs, like plump white cheeses floating in the water. I felt desire so strong that I pissed myself, as though my bones had turned to liquid and were flowing out of me. I must have you for my wife.”
She looked around at the market she had visited each third day for as long as she had been dead. At the tables of wares that never changed but only endlessly rearranged their elements. Then back at the rat.
“You may walk with me,” she said.