Miss Bulletproof Comes Out of Retirement
Miss Bulletproof comes home and there’s a god sitting at her kitchen table talking to her kids. “Did you like my presents, children?” says the god. “It was I who got you those gifts, those funny little things, including that long and slithery one, which you both found so amusing.” The children had not found the Malayan pit viper to be amusing; they had found it to be terrifying, and shrieked so loudly in the middle of the night that they had almost awakened Miss Bulletproof’s wife, which, well, that would be bad. And the kids–quite reasonably–had kept on screaming until Miss Bulletproof came sleepily into the room, allowed the pit viper to shatter its fangs on her palm, and then crushed its skull with her trademark efficiency, which she has come these days to regard as maternal rather than professional.
Miss Bulletproof sees the god at her kitchen table talking to her kids and she sees red, in that order. In those days when Miss Bulletproof worked for gods and did their bidding, she would have gotten up in that smug motherfucker’s face and given him a piece of her fucking mind, not sparing the obscenities. But now Miss Bulletproof is a mama, and her two beautiful kids are in the room, looking at her with trust and terror in that classic high-proof childhood cocktail of feeling, and she knows she has to set a good example.
So she gets right up in the god’s face, between it and her children, and she says, “listen, you piece of shit, don’t you ever come into my house like that or I’ll break your fucking fingers off one by one.” Good examples are important. Kids gotta learn that even gods don’t pull shit at Miss Bulletproof’s table.
“Blessings upon your home,” says the god, and its skinny face breaks out into a shit-eating grin. Gods are like that.
“Kids,” says Miss Bulletproof, “get back to your room.”
Rosalie goes back to the room, quick and quiet like Miss Bulletproof taught her. She’s a smart girl. Alice leaves, but Miss Bulletproof sees her peeking her head around the kitchen door. She’s a smart girl too, but in a different way. Miss Bulletproof worries about Alice.
“What a lovely abode,” says the god. Its name is Once Cut Twice Sorry; Miss Bulletproof did odd jobs for it once or twice. All gods are bastards and this one is no exception.
“And where is your charming wife?” it asks.
“She’s taking a nap.”
“Ah,” says the god. It frowns. Gods don’t admit it when they’re scared but they do get scared, oh yes. “Perhaps we’d better talk quietly.”
“Perhaps you’d better fucking go.”
“Be reasonable, Miss Bulletproof. You don’t want me to keep blessing your house.”
Once Cut Twice Sorry is a god of lessons learned the hard way: of the child’s hand on the stove, the sharp knife in the bottom of the drawer. The Lego brick half-buried in the rug.
Miss Bulletproof has eaten pint-sized deities like Once Cut for breakfast ever since she was a little girl. But she is a mama now with a mama’s perspective, and she can see that Once Cut could make things difficult for her daughters and their mothers.
“What do you want?”
“Why don’t we take a walk?”
Miss Bulletproof glares daggers at Once Cut but she wants that fucker out of her house, so she agrees.
She gets her jacket from the hallway and crouches down next to Alice who has been eavesdropping. Rosalie is exactly the sort of daughter you’d expect from Miss Bulletproof and her wife, Don’t Call Me Til Morning: tough, serious, sensible. Alice is something else entirely. She reminds Miss Bulletproof of the best boss she ever had, a god called Half Moon Open Palm. That same way of watching and waiting, then making her move. Like the little old men who play chess in the park, Alice is always four steps ahead.
“Alice, honey,” says Miss Bulletproof. “You’re in charge while I’m out, okay? Watch after Rosalie. Let Mom know where I’ve gone.” Alice nods, her round face businesslike and determined. Miss Bulletproof doesn’t have to go tell Rosalie to listen to her sister, even though Rosie is two years older than Al. Both kids know the score. Miss Bulletproof loves them each so much.
She gives Alice a firm hug and an extra squeeze for luck, and she’s out.
Now Miss Bulletproof and a god named Once Cut Twice Sorry go walking down the edge of the road. Fall’s coming on and the trees are all bursting out in gold. Miss Bulletproof still in her waitressing dress and puffy coat, Once Cut clad in sunlight and moonbeams and the twinkling edges of stars, which is kind of the god equivalent of a tracksuit.
“I’m retired,” says Miss Bulletproof.
“Don’t you hate fall? No black ice and fractured coccyx. No first sunburns. No first thaw of the lake swallowing up all the little skaters.”
“I don’t do this sort of thing anymore.”
“I have to make do with wet leaves and the misaimed axe in the woodpile.” Once Cut smiles and clacks its teeth together and the sound is the sound of the axe that is directed at tinder but instead splits flesh and bone.
“Whatever this sort of thing is. I don’t know. But I don’t do it anymore.”
“I only want you to have a chat with a friend of yours,” says Once Cut. “Your friendships mean so much to me.”
Miss Bulletproof rolls her eyes and spits in the gutter. And yet she is almost amused. Away from the house it is like a childhood game: Miss Bulletproof Takes A Case. Away from the house, and the kids.
“Blow it out your ass,” says Miss Bulletproof, and if her words have the ring of ritual rather than rage, well, what god knows no ritual? “Which friend?”
“One Finger Makes a Fist.”
“Ah.” Miss Bulletproof and One Finger had worked together in Cleveland, putting the squeeze on a god known as Et Tu, a god of treason, the poison cup and the word broken clean in half, whom the gods of Cleveland found an unfriendly neighbor. Afterwards Miss Bulletproof remembered One Finger fondly enough to send her an invitation to the wedding. One Finger did not attend, but then, the wedding invitations of Miss Bulletproof and her wife gave neither date nor address, so maybe that was exactly what the happy couple had in mind. Miss Bulletproof and her wife had a simple courthouse marriage, no guests, though it wasn’t held in any courthouse the state of Michigan would recognize.
“And just what do you want me to say to my good friend Finger?”
“Whatsoever you please. It’s not my place to dictate the terms of discussion between intimates.”
Miss Bulletproof gives the god a glance that her daughters would have recognized. All mamas know when they are being taken for a ride.
“But I would appreciate it if you . . . conveyed an overture of friendship from me to your friend, as well.”
“Anything in particular?”
The god frowns, a long and twisted thing, not unlike the snakes of which it is so fond, or the spaghetti that Rosalie loves but insists she has outgrown.
“There’s been some friction between herself and my person of late. I wish to convey a total absence of hard feelings. Beyond that you may improvise.”
“Ah.” Miss Bulletproof moves her hands as if doing up Alice’s shoelaces, following threads of thought. It is a problem of several angles. One, she is retired, and Miss Bulletproof long ago learned that if you want something to stick you have to stick it there hard. But, two, this is not really a job such as she did when she had jobs, because all she needs to do is talk to One Finger. And, three–always this–being a mama to two growing girls is expensive. It is getting to that time of year when Miss Bulletproof will have to decide between winter boots and dentist appointments, no matter how many extra shifts she pulls waiting tables at the diner.
“Alright,” says Miss Bulletproof when she is done tying up the imaginary double-knotted bow in her empty fingers. “I’ll do it. Usual fee.”
“Surely you are making a fanciful joke,” says Once Cut. “For you are a person who has retired from your once-perilous lifestyle, and I am asking for only a small, unprofessional sort of favor such as you might–”
“Usual fee, half before you finish that unbearable sentence,” says Miss Bulletproof. “Or I walk.” She catches the god in the eyes and makes it stick. Its eyes are galaxies but Miss Bulletproof was never much impressed by stars.
There’s a pause and it closes its mouth with a snap, and hands her an envelope. Miss Bulletproof opens the envelope, holding it well away from her body. Gods have funny ideas about in-kind payment and divine miracles, but Miss Bulletproof shops for winter boots at KMart and will not be fucked with.
There’s the right amount of cash in the envelope, a salad of lost bills and found ones, the strange pallor of money burnt as offerings and deifically reconstructed. Miss Bulletproof nods.
“I am reliably informed that you can find your friend One Finger Makes a Fist at Tiki Tommy’s any time after nine,” says the god.
“Great,” says Miss Bulletproof. “Now fuck off.” It does so, and she leans up against the edge of an old wooden fence and smokes a cigarette all the way down to the butt, waiting to make sure that the god has in fact fucked all the way off.
Satisfied eventually with the fact that no numinous eavesdroppers hover close by, and also by the nicotine of the cigarette which she is no longer allowed to smoke at work and no longer willing to smoke in her home (with its precious little lungs) Miss Bulletproof lets out a contented sigh. She takes an old flip phone out of her pocket and dials her wife, who is not taking a nap at home–that was a lie to scare the shit out of Once Cut, and it worked–but who is instead working a late shift at the call center.
The phone rings ten times and goes to voicemail, and Miss Bulletproof flips it shut and waits. She considers another cigarette but decides against it, and concentrates instead on blowing the ice-edged air into and out of her mouth.
The phone rings, and Miss Bulletproof answers.
“Missy? What’s up?”
“Hey babe,” says Miss Bulletproof. Every time she hears her wife’s voice it leaves her just a little giddy. Every damn time.
Don’t Call Me Til Morning is Miss Bulletproof’s wife. She is short and round and the healthy color of a pancake cooked to perfection, and Miss Bulletproof loves her so godsdamned much. Which is why she’s gonna be straight with her wife even when it might piss her off.
“Whatcha calling about, Missy? Are the kids okay?”
“They’re fine, Tillie. Just fine. I’m calling to say–I’ll be home late tonight.”
“I thought you were home already.”
“I was. I went back out.”
“You went back out?”
“I–yeah.” Miss Bulletproof is all twisted around already. She knows she should just spit it out, but a single sigh from her wife can split her like a lightning-struck tree; she treads more gently than she should.
“Snuggles, what’s going on?” It’s her wife’s favorite nickname for Miss Bulletproof; funny cause it’s true, though Miss Bulletproof doesn’t look it.
“There was a god in the kitchen.”
“Oh my,” says Tillie.
“Yeah,” says Miss Bulletproof. “Once Cut Twice Sorry. You ever meet it?”
“No-o-o,” says Tillie, and Miss Bulletproof can just see the way she shakes her head. Back when Miss Bulletproof was in the business, Don’t Call Me Til Morning was in the business as well, but they moved in different circles.
“It was the one who sent the snake. It said so. And then it offered me a job–”
“Baby,” says Tillie. “You promised.”
“I know,” said Miss Bulletproof. “But we could use the money.” She does not say “for the kids”; she does not need to. There is a long pause.
“What’s the job?”
Miss Bulletproof tells her, every last bit of what she knows, which is not much. Tillie takes it all in. She’s good at that. At first Miss Bulletproof had resisted telling Tillie about her work at all, even after that day in Lansing where she had turned to face her girlfriend and realized she was looking at her future wife. Miss Bulletproof lived professionally by a few simple rules and one of them was “buck up and shut up.”
But it’s always smart to talk to Tillie.
At the end of Miss Bulletproof’s speech, Tillie says, “I trust you, Snuggles. I’ll see you after. I gotta get back to work.”
Miss Bulletproof puts her phone back in her pocket, blows into her cupped hands for warmth, and walks back to her house. Standing in the driveway, she stares right through the house’s weatherbeaten face, the porch sagging a little with a touch of dry rot coming in around the foundation, to her girls inside, sitting down for reheated frozen tamales. Alice still needs to push a chair all the way up against the countertop to reach the microwave, and Rosie holds the legs for her, keeping the chair steady, and it’s all Miss Bulletproof can do to keep from calling off the whole thing, sneaking back into her own house, and frying up a couple of eggs in pasta nests for dinner with the kids.
She sighs and does not even wave through the window, just gets into the car, grinds the ignition three times for luck, and pulls out into the street heading toward the liquor store.
You don’t have to be buzzed to do what Miss Bulletproof does but you’d better believe that it helps. This time, however, Miss Bulletproof is just getting a sixpack. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, which she remembers was One Finger’s favorite. It’s important not to show up empty-handed. She pays with the god’s cash, then gets back out on the road. Sun’s getting pretty low. Miss Bulletproof takes it slow–no need to be at Tiki Tommy’s all that long before nine.
Tiki Tommy’s was a vaguely Hawaiian-themed restaurant maybe an hour out of town, a sad cornucopia of spam and pineapple and mai-tais. But then maybe two, three years back the cops figured out that Tiki Tommy–who is a white dude from Scranton–was mostly using the restaurant to launder cash for a Canadian weed operation, and he split town. For actual Hawaii, says Kara down at the diner, but she’s got a poker face that Miss Bulletproof never can crack.
Turns out nobody’s got much use for a polystyrene Polynesian shack an hour outside of town, not even gods, which makes the ghost of Tiki Tommy’s a great place to have a quiet chat without being observed. Miss Bulletproof pulls into the parking lot and parks perpendicularly across three faded parking spaces just for the hell of it, which is the sort of shit she won’t do with the kids in the car. She zips up her poofy mama coat and tells herself it’s no different than the shredded leather jackets she used to wear to work, that she’s still the baddest motherfucker within a hundred miles. And you know what, Miss Bulletproof tells no lies.
Swinging the sixpack in one hand, the other clenched into a fist–just in case–Miss Bulletproof crosses a parking lot as empty as the East Montana Prairie and lets herself into the bar.
It’s dark inside and all of the torch brackets on the walls are empty. A watery moon peeks through the window and as Miss Bulletproof crosses the room, the silvery shine illuminates a vague figure sitting in a wicker chair, facing the bar. Looks like One Finger Makes a Fist got here first. Miss Bulletproof is early–professional paranoia–but then maybe One Finger is paranoid in the same way.
“Hey,” says Miss Bulletproof, and she takes a step toward the chair. Behind her the door slams shut. It might just be the wind but it isn’t. She whirls around.
“Well, well, well,” says Once Cut Twice Sorry. “I guess we’re all here.” It steps toward Miss Bulletproof and something is different in its gait, its stride, different enough that Miss Bulletproof finds herself retreating, fists up, toward the lump-filled chair that she had thought contained One Finger.
Once Cut reaches into its eye sockets and pulls off its entire face. Underneath, its true face is shaped like a butcher’s knife and its eyes are bloodshot. Miss Bulletproof recognizes that face and it takes only a moment to place it: Et Tu, the treason god from Cleveland.
“It’s good to see you again,” says Et Tu. Miss Bulletproof cannot agree and so she doesn’t. Another few steps back and a quick glance to the left and she can see that the lump in the chair actually is One Finger, but knocked out and trussed up. Her right hand is tied down to her side and her left is strapped to the armrest of the chair.
Miss Bulletproof gets a closer look at that hand, the famous left hand of One Finger Makes a Fist. Every finger but the pinky has been sliced right off and the four stumps have been bandaged with a paisley handkerchief. The pinky finger is splinted out straight. That is really, really fucking bad. Miss Bulletproof does not like this situation one fucking bit.
She squares her shoulders. She lifts her fists.
“Stop right there, shithead.” Et Tu stops, maybe five yards away from her. It smiles and shrugs its shoulders wide, as if to say, no hard feelings, right?–and then reaches out sideways through space and slaps her hard on the back of the head.
All gods fight dirty but this one especially so. It shrugs again and Miss Bulletproof ducks, anticipating another reverse slap, but this one is a grab at the ankle and she goes down hard.
Of course down is not out, not for Miss Bulletproof, and she comes off the rotting floorboards like a high school track star who ate all her Wheaties the morning before the big race. Her fist is up to give Et Tu what her wife affectionately refers to as “the business” but of course a treason god won’t fall for a simple haymaker. It dodges, still grinning that awful smarmy god grin, and Miss Bulletproof gets it right up the side of the face with the sixpack. Cheap beer cans go off like bottle rockets. Et Tu staggers back.
This is when Miss Bulletproof should get the fuck out of Tiki Tommy’s and in the old days she would have. One Finger was a friend but Miss Bulletproof is out of her weight class and her ass will do no good if it gets fried.
But these days Miss Bulletproof is a mama and thinks differently about matters. With a grunt she drops down, pivots her hips, and brings her shoulder right up into the god’s sternum. It topples and Miss Bulletproof goes for the piledriver and grapple.
This is a huge fucking mistake, of course. Miss Bulletproof is a boxer, not a wrestler, and you’d better believe a backstabber’s god knows a full nelson. One second she’s in control and the next it is, and it flips her across the floor just as neat and easy as Kara flips hotcakes at the diner, one two three.
Once the flipping stops and Miss Bulletproof no longer feels like a load of washing, she finds herself held by arms that coil like too many snakes. A spare hand–gods and their extra appendages–yanks off her left boot and rips a hole in her nearly-new, thick woolen sock. Miss Bulletproof has a sudden bloody vision of her ever-expanding KMart shopping list and her enraged spasm is nearly strong enough to break Et Tu’s grip.
Nearly, but not quite. Those serpentine fingers reestablish their grip on her and now Miss Bulletproof is hoisted toward the slumped form of One Finger Makes a Fist and her surviving outstretched pinky.
Miss Bulletproof doesn’t let it show but she is getting pretty fucking terrified. There are not a lot of things on this Earth that can put a hole into Miss Bulletproof, not even One Finger’s thumb, pointer, middle, and ring fingers, but that final pinky of her erstwhile colleague can drive right through her and out the other side.
“Listen,” says Miss Bulletproof. She has never begged for her life before, but Rose and Alice are more important than pride. “Don’t kill me.”
The fact that she regards this sentence and its deadpan delivery as begging for her life is remarkably revealing of Miss Bulletproof’s character.
The god chuckles. Miss Bulletproof begs some more.
“What One Finger and I did to you in Cleveland was just business. I’m out of the business. I’ve got kids, now.”
The god’s chuckle subsides but the mirth in its voice doesn’t go anywhere.
“I’m not going to kill you, you pea-brained juggernaut,” it says. “I’m going to deify you.”
Talk about your fates worse than death.
See, some gods are born. But most gods are made. They’re made from the shell of a person, someone who’s been cut open and whose insides have been scooped out just like a jack-o-lantern. Not just meat, bone and muscle and fat. But also hopes and loves and fears and memories.
Miss Bulletproof saw it, once. Deification. Back down near Jacksonville, where she grew up, there was a woman she loved, who loved her–a girl, really. Miss Bulletproof was a girl in those days too. And one day, one deal gone terribly wrong, Miss Bulletproof saw a god poke a hole in her girlfriend and suck her soul out in a slurry of viscera, and when Cassie stood back up there was nothing left of her but a scrap of skin–half of Cassie’s cheek, a sliver of eyebrow–and a god who wore that skin as a mask.
Sick shit. Miss Bulletproof can’t bear the thought of some thing loose in the world that wears her skin but doesn’t know her kids. She fights like hell. But outclassed is outclassed and, inch by squirming inch, Et Tu brings her closer to the lancet pinky.
Inch by squirming inch. Miss Bulletproof is swearing up a storm but that just gives Et Tu the giggles. And then contact.
At first it doesn’t hurt at all and then it hurts worse than anything Miss Bulletproof has ever imagined. She clamps down on it, bears into the pain with every ounce of stoicism and heroism and butchness and stiff upper lip in her body and for about a second it works. And then Miss Bulletproof screams in pain.
It’s not a loud scream but it’s a scream alright. It bounces around the walls of Tiki Tommy’s and out into the night and it spreads out over the hills and the trees and the swirling leaves of autumn and maybe two minutes later, attenuated to inaudibility, it enters the house Miss Bulletproof lives in with her family, it enters the bedroom she shares with her wife, and it resounds into her sleeping wife’s ear.
Don’t Call Me Til Morning is a lovely, tenderhearted woman, and there is nothing uncanny or supernatural about her–provided she wakes up of her own accord, in her own time. Otherwise it’s another situation entirely.
Now, Don’t Call Me Til Morning can sleep through car alarms and late-night telemarketers and alarm clocks of all stripes without difficulty, and with some practice she has trained herself to sleep through her daughters’ ordinary midnight crying. But she is married to Miss Bulletproof, who is physically invulnerable and also the most stoic bitch south of the Great Lakes, and that means Don’t Call Me Til Morning has never acclimated herself to the sound of her wife’s pain.
The faintest most distant echo of that shriek of agony bounces around the master bedroom and into her ear, and Don’t Call Me Til Morning’s eyes snap open. They are the precise color of the sun in the instant before it permanently blinds you.
Don’t Call Me Til Morning levitates six inches into the air, and she turns inside out, just exactly like a reversible vest. What’s on the inside looks like the unauthorized offspring of a bull hippopotamus and an atom bomb explosion. She leaves via the side of the house and is moving so quickly that she doesn’t even vaporize the wall as she goes, just scorches the windows black with the heat of her passing.
Rather less than two seconds later she arrives at the twilit shell of Tiki Tommy’s and lights it up like a late-night sunrise. And when she goes through the wall, moving at only about the speed of an eighteen-wheeler barreling down the highway, it knows it’s been hit.
Miss Bulletproof has just finished up her first scream of pain and is biting down hard on the second when half of the building goes up in a sheet of flame. And then there’s a smile on her face, because Miss Bulletproof can recognize her wife anywhere.
Et Tu pauses in its torture of Miss Bulletproof and it turns its rusted-bayonet face up towards the rampant flames. Now, Miss Bulletproof is tough and she is mean and a forklift couldn’t drive a hypodermic needle a quarter inch into her skin if it tried. But after all that, she’s basically a human woman, and Et Tu can pretty reliably get the drop on her. The nightmare sunbeast that is Don’t Call Me Til Morning is something else altogether. It’s no wonder Et Tu is scared shitless. Shock loosens its grip just a hair and Miss Bulletproof wrenches herself free from its coiled fingers, dropping to the floor. Et Tu grabs at her but she scrambles just like her girls had when they first learned to crawl, faster than you would expect.
Et Tu leaps for her but a roar from behind makes it snap its terrified head a full two hundred degrees around on its neck. Don’t Call Me bounds forward and gets him in jaws of flame that look like they belong to Truckasaurus’s big sister. If you’ve ever seen a labrador retriever pick up a little green army man and just worry it to death you’ve got the right idea. Except Don’t Call Me is hot enough to melt godflesh, and the god’s face bulges and drips right off. Limbs and molten droplets fly in all directions, and when Miss Bulletproof’s wife is done there’s neither hide nor hair of the god left.
Miss Bulletproof breathes a great big sigh of relief, and then starts panting. “Hi, baby,” she says.
Don’t Call Me Til Morning drifts gently downward, incinerating wicker chairs beneath her, until her coronal glory is maybe half an inch above the ground-level rubble in the ruins of Tiki Tommy’s. Then with a pop like a quiet champagne cork, she turns back inside out. Miss Bulletproof’s wife is standing in the ashes in her pajamas and socks. Her hair is sticking up at odd angles and it’s still catching the highlights of a distant sun.
She crosses the floor over to Miss Bulletproof in five quick strides and grabs her shoulders, tight and protective. Her face is fierce and angry and loving by turns, but Tillie is a smart one and knows when to forgo words.
Don’t Call Me Til Morning kisses Miss Bulletproof under a canopy that’s half stars and half hollowed-out Hawaiian restaurant. She kisses her hard and it’s nothing like when they first met; it is a different kiss, mother to mother, wife to wife. She kisses Miss Bulletproof until all the heat from her inside-out form leaks out of the restaurant and into the icy Michigan wind.
Tillie shivers, suddenly cold in nothing but cotton pajamas. Miss Bulletproof tries to give her the poofy jacket but her wife is having none of her shit.
“You’re hurt,” says Tillie. “Don’t scare me like that again.”
Miss Bulletproof tries for a nonchalant shrug. The wince at the end spoils the effect a little. Tillie offers her the sleeve of her pajamas, and Miss Bulletproof tears off a wide strip, which Tillie uses to bandage the hole in her foot. It’s a neat piece of work–Tillie took first aid classes when she was pregnant with Rosalie–and Miss Bulletproof, still wincing, slips back into her discarded shoe. She pats her pockets and feels the reassuringly plump bulk of the envelope of cash. Half pay is better than none, Miss Bulletproof knows this, but it still cuts her to be shortchanged.
Together Miss Bulletproof and her wife untie One Finger Makes a Fist. Her breath is hoarse but regular and the betrayal god even did a pretty good job bandaging her cut fingers. They hoist One Finger up, and between the two of them–Miss Bulletproof tall, broad and limping, Tillie short and rock-steady–they get her out to the car and lay her down in the back.
“We can drop One Finger at Pleasant Peninsula Hospital,” says Miss Bulletproof. Tillie nods. “And then right back to the kids,” she says. It’s not a question.
Usually Miss Bulletproof drives, but this time Tillie climbs right in the driver’s seat and leaves her with shotgun. Tillie starts the car just once, because, as she always says, with a wife like Miss Bulletproof and kids like theirs, she’s got all the luck in the world.
And as they pull out of the parking lot on a route that will take them to Rosalie and Alice tucked into bed, and as Tille’s right hand slips from the gear shift into her wife’s palm, just holding each other, Miss Bulletproof is inclined to agree.
About the Author
Louis Evans dreams of Saurosapien civilizations: therapod cities along the Pierre Seaway; feathered astronauts’ tridactyl bootprints on Mars’s red sands. His work has been published in Analog, Interzone, Escape Pod, and other markets. He is a member of the Clarion West class of the plague year. His Twitter handle is @louisevanswrite.