“Soccer Fields & Frozen Lakes”

From Lightspeed #82

The official verdict that I am no longer classified as human arrived in a windowed envelope bearing the return address of the Bureau of Lineage Affairs. There is one envelope for me and one for you, although I haven’t opened yours. Except for the return address, these envelopes look like something from the bank, or perhaps an offer for home insurance, the kind we throw away. Inside mine is a letter folded in thirds, and on it, something like a death sentence, although a very formal and polite one. It’s here beside me–I’ve read it many times already. It breaks the bad news without much ado, then goes on to list the names and numbers of several organizations to which we may apply for further information and support. This is strongly encouraged. There is also a number to call if I feel a mistake has been made. This is not encouraged at all. Somewhere in there I’m given my identification number, which is 73281. This number is mine for the remainder of my life. Worse than all of this: they provide the numbers that have been assigned to our children: 73282 and 73283.

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“Masks of the Mud God”

from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #213

bcs213Miriam fashioned the inner lining of her mask from a single piece of cured and softened pigskin. Pressing the soaked leather over a plaster gauze mold of her face, she cut it to shape with a pair of shears, and with a naked razor carved holes for the mouth, nose, and eyes.

She baked it only long enough to fix its shape without sacrificing flexibility, then conditioned the inside with neatsfoot oil, so it would remain kind to her skin, and supple. She mixed her own plaster with clay, sand, and water, which she smeared over the mask’s exterior. She sculpted cheekbones, nose, and chin not from memory but from imagination and desire. With a sliver of wood and meticulous care, she pressed detailed texture into the lips and drew the finest lines around the mouth to suggest kind and frequent smiles. When the plaster dried, she brushed it with the softest hues of pink and red paint. It was a pure face, a face with only a few innocent secrets, if any at all. It was the face of a woman with freedom, contentment, and children who brought her joy—all the things Miriam lacked.

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