My body was recovered, along with two others, by a young mizzen—nominally, a practitioner of “street magic,” by definition, bits of illusion and conjuring mixed with hexes and holistic alchemy. In truth, mizzenry was as much pickpocketing, sleight-of-hand, opportunistic theft, and con artistry as much as anything magical. But despite their reputations, the mizzen had the honor of thieves and the nobility of the poor, and they took it upon themselves to collect and bury the bodies of witches and sages that were hung by the authorities, rescuing them from the unsanctified communal plots where they were discarded. I would come to learn that had at least as much to do with scavenging as honor. The recently dead have value—the eyes, the pineal gland, and the foreskin were all meagerly valuable in trade with gypsies and night maidens. But the bodies were buried properly after they were raided, and always with attending rites.
It was at this time that I slipped through the cracks of society. I had tried to make my way honestly in the world, twice, and it hadn’t worked to my favor or liking. I had been driven from two homes, shot, betrayed, abandoned, and hung, and with each death, the patent terror of a life without end, which is a life without meaning, became ever clearer. There were many days when I would not eat. I simply stared out at the world in a coma of existential dread. Occasionally, I might open my hands and try to feel the passing of moments, as if time itself were a steady rain, and I would say “This is it. This is what it will be like.”
This thinker observed that all the books, no matter how diverse they might be, are made up of the same elements. He also alleged a fact which travelers have confirmed: In the vast Library there are no two identical books. From these two premises he deduced...
(Fiction) The Winter Bureau
I cannot describe what followed since I was not conscious to witness it. For the longest time, two curses waged war within me: one granting me eternal life, the other eternal undeath. It seemed neither could get the better of the other. I was wracked with tremors and night sweats that emerged between long bouts of still coma, by which I mean years. Twenty-three, in total. I was kept in a sanitarium, expenses covered by The Masters, or rather by their proxies. This was not done out of charity or obligation but rather because mine was a unique case deemed worthy of study. It seems no one in the world knew what would happen—or what to do.
Anna saw also that men would land on the moon—as well as distant worlds as-yet unnamed. But of her visions, there was only one—again, lost on me at the time—that is worth mentioning. I did not witness it. It must have happened some time I was away. She was scrubbing a pot at the drain in the floor, for we had no sink. She dipped a rag in a tub of water and scraped bits of food free and glanced at me once, then twice.