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Category Archives: Miss Chamuel

Miss Chamuel

On meeting, Regen and Miss Chamuel are struck by an undeniable love, pure and trembling, so intense that it must be contained. It’s not filial or sexual. It’s just the sudden knowledge that they will stand, when necessary, two against the world.

Miss Chamuel never grants favors in their classroom; Regen, unlike most first-graders, never asks. Sometimes, when his mother is late, they’ll hold hands and wait together. That’s all.

But when he goes missing, Miss Chamuel knows before the newspapers do. She contacts a substitute. She dons her coat and hat. She unwraps her sword, and goes after him.

Miss Chamuel

Miss Chamuel leaves her hat in the empty coat check, walks down the mezzanine, and drives her sword into the wall below the stage.

The proscenium wakes, roars, smashes at her with coils of velvet curtain; but Miss Chamuel is quick and sharp. She dodges and lops. Curtains shred. The proscenium howls in pain.

“Recognize my key,” says Miss Chamuel, brandishing, “and I’ll stop.”

“Fiddlesticks,” it grumbles, and yawns wide.

“Thank you,” says Miss Chamuel, who is used to setting an example of politeness. She wipes the blade on the proscenium’s hardwood tongue. She walks into its mouth, and the dark.

Regen

Regen’s in a white gulf, and he can see pretty far. To his left there’s a girl shredding paper to make a trail, but the breeze keeps stealing it away: she walks in circles. Behind him, a girl and a boy try to fix a leaky bucket with a straw.

Regen realizes he’s on a precipice. “Come across the bridge, Regen,” says his father urgently from the other side. The bridge is a narrow arch, but it looks safe. Regen’s pretty sure it’s just the top of a wheel.

“No thank you,” says Regen, who had a fine exemplar of politeness.

Miss Chamuel

Miss Chamuel’s CV lists her age as twenty-four, but in fact she came to teaching late in life. She never struck a child in her classroom, but there was something about the way she would hold a yardstick: balanced in a light grip, point low. Her students watched it very carefully.

Now she raps the hilt of her sword on a door deep inside a hot, dark warren. A great dingy white wolf emerges and growls.

“I’m the Guardian again,” she says, “and so you must be the Guide.”

Golden eyes go from hunter’s to hunted, without even a blink.

Miss Chamuel

“You look older,” says Miss Chamuel to her mount.

The white wolf casts a disparaging eye back at her.

“Of course I do too,” she says, a bit sharply. “I’m aging now. You know I don’t go in for the alternative.” She rides bareback in divided skirts; her sword hangs scabbarded from a complicated belt.

The wolf growls in a way that might be a chuckle. They’re cantering up a bridge of ice, its claws taking easy traction in the chipped and gritty surface. Deep in its heart is a refracting oily band: what might, once, have looked like a rainbow.

Miss Chamuel

They pad through cracked streets: asphalt over bedrock road, and around them, hasty stucco over ancient wood. The stucco is decaying much faster. Litter tumbles by in the breeze.

Miss Chamuel leans down and picks up a crushed soda cup. On the side is a man in a horned cartoon helmet, shrieking “RAGNA-FEST ’89!” in bright green letters. She waits until they pass a rusting wire bin to toss it aside.

The street leads to a pier and a little sailboat, bobbing on water as blue as television. Miss Chamuel dismounts and steps on board.

“Baldr,” she says. “Wake up.”

Miss Chamuel

The left side of Baldr’s head is bald, his nose bright with veins; his blue eyes are sunken. He has no eyebrows. The ends of his fingers are scabbed, nails bitten back beyond the quick. He smells of fermented honey.

He is so beautiful.

“Where have you left your vipers, pallbearer?” he croaks, standing in the doorway of his boat.

“You’ve confused me with someone else,” says Miss Chamuel firmly. “Hardly surprising given your condition. Did you sell off this sad little heaven yourself or just sign what was thrust before you?”

“Ah,” he nods, “you keep them under your tongue.”

Miss Chamuel

“Is he the child of great destiny?” asks Baldr. “Was he born under a blood moon to a woman whose belly was cut to free him, and is there a silver birthmark in the hollow of his throat? Did nine herons attend upon his first steps? When first he spoke, was it with the voice of seraphs or in a language dead four thousand years; does his touch heal or does a sword await his hand? Will he slay his father? Was he, in a word, foretold?”

“Hardly,” says Miss Chamuel.

“Good,” Baldr grunts, “I think poorly of prophecy these days.”

Miss Chamuel

The door’s in the back of Baldr’s messy cabin, padlocked, with a masking-tape tag labeling it “TACKLE.”

“And this leads to the place where they’ve taken him?” asks Miss Chamuel.

“It leads to Niflheim,” says Baldr.

“But all such afterlives suspended are one; doesn’t one find throughout human history the echoes of life-without-life, and isn’t the only difference among them perspective?”

“It leads to Niflheim,” says Baldr patiently.

“And you’ll let us back out when I knock,” says Miss Chamuel firmly.

Baldr nods.

When they’ve gone through, he padlocks the door again, then sets the boat on fire.

Miss Chamuel

The place where Regen is trapped is a manifestation of perfect order. There is no change, no entropy: his fellow prisoners labor forever, pointless tasks their prison. They want badly to keep him there too.

Miss Chamuel is an agent of chaos, her wolf a roaring fury, her sword a flaming brand. They throw everything in her path, stone and steel and creatures of nightmare, but though she bleeds they cannot stand before her.

Regen is terrified, shaking, but not surprised. He expected this from the moment they met. For a good teacher, saving your life is part of the job.

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