I don’t notice the difference in beguiling flattery coming from your mouth right off. You always turn to wheedling me when you want something. I’ve learned to shut down the listening part of my brain when you get going. But tonight, the shadows have grown long across the prairie, yet still you haven’t given up asking. I can’t imagine you’d want to visit the corner store with your friends this bad.
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One memory about my time as a member of the Writers’ Club in my high school sticks out to me. The English teacher who organized the club had reached out to a local writer, asking her to meet with our group at the local coffee shop in the tiny town where our school was located. My area oozes writers—probably because of some cosmic vortex that churns them out of the dry dirt, reaching hands up toward the vast, impossibly vast blue sky overhead for literally anything beyond a monotonous high plains landscape—so she could’ve been anybody. I didn’t catch her name because I was a teenager and bad with names.
I’m still bad with names but no longer a teenager. I wish I’d remembered who she was.
My friends and I met with this writer in the evening, early enough in the school year that the weather hadn’t yet changed to nasty, blustery cold. We sat outside, where we could barely hear each other every time a train rumbled past on the nearby tracks. We held our notebooks poised, ready to jot down any writing wisdom she thought to dole out.
Our last day of sunlight dawned and faded almost at once as you reaped the final drop of ripened energy from our sun. We could do nothing to stop you. Your strange, mercurial ship flew circles around our, by comparison, primitive technology. All without needing to pause your theft.
You used to fear the bathtub drain as a child, until you’d happened to watch a cartoon demonstrating the irrationality of…well, drainophobia. No part of you could fit down a drain. You couldn’t be sucked down, even if you tried.
But there are bigger drains.
Hunger haunted the hollows of your heart where my absence left you empty. You wanted attention. Views. Likes. Comments. At first, these from anyone would do. Admiration from the masses filled the gnawing emptiness within you.
Until you got my attention.
Oh, how your consumerism pulled the teeth from we scarecrows. Made us not only harmless, but also not even frightening—our purpose no longer to guard crops, but to decorate suburban lawns. You gave us screen-printed smiling expressions for charming your neighbors.
So none of you knew what to think when the face of every scarecrow the world over went blank.
Life for everyone changed forever the day my teeth broke your skin.
But it was bite, or be bitten.
And your bite had the power to make me one of you. A rotting, shambling corpse. Someone else’s teeth had already transmitted a curse to you. A curse which drove you to pay it forward when you’d cornered me in that storage shed.
The plot of Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace asks what unfinished business might make effectively a superhero unable to find peace and pass on. Wasp, a desperately lonely archivist of ghost behavior, is tasked with finding out what happened to the world long ago from any ghost that might talk to her, in addition to fighting upstarts each year who want to take her life and her place.
But she meets the dangerous, unnamed ghost of a supersoldier on the hunt for someone he has lost in the underworld. And he thinks Wasp can help.
I had mostly rotted away by the time you found me fallen in the apartment next door.
I couldn’t guess why you knocked yourself instead of calling the manager. You never really responded to my greetings or attempts to chat. Like maybe you didn’t like me.
I couldn’t bear that.