June 2018


“Honey, it’s just a little spider! Nothing to be afraid of. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Yes he would! He would hurt a fly! Hurting flies is basically what spiders DO! They paralyze them and suck out their still-living juices, and I want it out of my house!”

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“You’ve got to be especially careful of folks who project that kind of field,” Adams said. “They’re bad mojo.”

“Give me an example,” said Calhoun.

“There was this one guy, way back when, who was a private detective–you know, back when that was a thing you could do. Well, his field was especially strong, and it meant that he always found what he expected to find–in this case, murder.”

“He murdered people ith his distortion field?” Calhoun said. “That desn’t sound right.”

“No, no, no, he didn’t murder anyone. His certainty that there would be murder caused murders to happen. Always in a natural organic way, too. Simmering things would come to a head, someone would see something they weren’t supposed to, and then bam!”

“And how would anyone have known this was going on?” Calhoun said. “Murders happen all the time.”

“Yes, but a murder happened literally everywhere this detective went. In boats. In midair. Abroad, in whatever country he visited. At a certain point, someone ran the numbers after he died. The possibility of coincidence was statistically insignificant.”

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Sanctuary began as a simple crossroads, an abandoned farm that became known as a stop on the Underground Railroad. That all changed with the coming of the Civil War, which led to a major Union force encamping there for much of the conflict. A tent city grew up around the camp as former slaves and refugees crowded into the area, and by war’s end the first permanent buildings had been erected.

Though the immediate postwar years were a boomtown, such that it had a stone courthouse and the county seat by 1870, Sanctuary suffered tremendously after the end of Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era, as it was known for being friendly and accepting for all races, colors, and creeds. From a post World War I low of less than 500 people, Sanctuary nevertheless saw its fortunes rebound during the New Deal and the immediate postwar era, with a massive influx of new settlers and residents looking for opportunities denied them elsewhere.

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I have loved you for 1,156 days.
From that moment,
You’ve surprised me,
Captivated me,
Challenged me.
I’ve fallen in love with you countless times,
Without reservation.
And today, I get to marry my best friend.
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and to separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find freedom and comfort.
Together we will be ,
Who we really are – and always were,
In the very core of our being.
I promise to be true to you,
To uplift and support you,
To frustrate and challenge you,
And share with you all the beautiful moments of life.
Someday, if the stars align,
I might even laugh at your puns.
I know that my love for you will not fade,
That we will find strength in one another,
And we will continue to grow,
Side by side.
I believe in the truth of what we are,
And I will love you always,
With every beat of my heart.

I commit myself to you, filled with the love we shared during every night in spent on the couch, all the pixel-perfect worlds we’ve built together, holding your hand in an empty theater, and all the times we wrote together until our hands hurt. I pledge to love you always, with my whole heart and all my flaws, until the end of our days.

Mary’s shaking hand could barely hold her pen, and every few moments she had to hold a cloth up to catch the bloody residue of her coughs. “Have you ever known someone who was dying? Who knew they were dying and had only the last few bitter drops of wax left to their candle?”

“More than you can ever know,” said Neith. “It’s the one experience that, along with birth, unites everyone from commoners to queens.”

“Last I checked, neither of those situations see people at their best,” said Mary, her laugh rapidly turning into a ragged sputtering. “Screaming and crying on the way in as on the way out.”

“It’s true,” said Neith with a smile.

“Let me ask you something, then,” said Mary. “I’m indifferent to any notion of the hereafter. If it is, it is, and if it isn’t it isn’t. No way to know until you’re on the other side of it.”

“That’s not a question.”

“Ha! I’m getting there,” Mary said. “Fair enough. But the only kind of immortality I’ve seen is memory. You live on if people remember you, or your works. I’ve been told that my books…some of them, the earliest ones, maybe…might stand the test of time. But I’ve seen enough forgotten stories in the garbage to wonder if that’s not true. What do you say, Neith? Can I rely on the stories that angry little girl wrote to keep me around in some form or other?”

Neith thought for a moment, listening to Mary’s labored breathing. Then, softly, she spoke:

“There was once a king—a great king, perhaps the greatest of his age—who once grappled with the same problem. He was wise, he was kind, and he was just, and yet he would die all the same. ‘Why should this be so?’ he asked, and decided to put all his power into a search for immortality. He had many great adventures in doing so, and met and impressed many—even, some say, the gods themselves, if one believes such things.”

“What happened?” Mary said, a flutter of knowing in her voice matched by a clear desire to see Neith tell the story to its conclusion.

“He never found the secret to eternal life, and his story ultimately ended. But in the seeking, he lived a life that made a terrific epic all its own. It is a story that, a thousand generations later, still resonates across time. So much so, in fact, that the king’s name is among the few that are known from those far-off days, and one of the earliest names that yet survives.”

“Gilgamesh,” Mary said with a smile. “I’m not so full of myself to think my writing will last that long.”

“Neither was he,” Neith said quietly. “Neither was he.

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