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Cover Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

Enclosed please find my application for the job listing you posted yesterday, “Outstanding Opportunity :: Second-Grade Teacher.” I say enclosed when what I actually mean is entombed, sealed, thrice-bound with every incantation I know to keep it contained. It is a blinding vortex of flame, a mighty howling terror; I am applying to the available position in the same way that the Cretaceous extinction asteroid applied force to Earth.

When I say It May Concern you, in other words, I mean it.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Cordially,
Miss Tiffany Chamuel

Marta

“I like girls who don’t have to wear makeup,” he says with confidence, gesturing across the table with his fork. “Like you!”

“I remember you saying this,” says Marta distantly. “You dumb idiot.”

“Huh?” Dinesh blinks. “This is our first–”

“So first, 1), I am wearing makeup.” She leans forward. “Very subtle makeup. And 2), it’s not for you. The right face can age you or make you younger. Done well, really well, it can send you through time.”

Dinesh is shaken. “Uh,” he says. “Why do I believe you?”

Marta sits back. “Because, 3), done right, it’s mind control too.”

Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan is the only person on this planet who holds a 14th dan black belt in bittersweet jitsu. Don’t ask her for a demonstration.

“True martial art is about more than performance,” she’ll sigh, when you inevitably do. “One trains one’s body as a tool of one’s mind. Would you ask me to demonstrate a shovel?” She might look away.

It’s in your best interest not to joke about whether there are higher ranks on other planets.

“You and I will never know,” she’ll say, turning to you with devastating eyes, and a smile like a hook in your heart.

Showalter

Every meeting of the Plagiarists’ Guild is almost exactly the same, at least according to the minutes.

Which is all fine as an inside joke but it does make solving a locked-room murder difficult. “What are the chances that the witnesses all tell the same story?” says Detective McMeel.

Showalter gives him dead eyes. “High,” she says.

One guildmaster is pantomiming a strangling. “And I’m next! They’re picking us off, one by one!”

“There was that other case across town,” murmurs McMeel. “Liars’ Guild. Similar. Could be a serial thing. Or a copyc–”

“Don’t,” says Showalter, tight as a garrote.

Karaaz the Flagrant

Karaaz the Flagrant tears the corner off the ichor packet and drips it onto her zomburger. “I don’t get how you’re supposed to advance in this system,” she says. “When the faculty has eternal unlife and tenure…”

“It’s rigged,” says Jensen the Wroth. “Dumb program to get into.”

“You’re in it.”

He jams fingerfries into his mouth and waggles his eyebrows. “I’m sleeping my way to the top.”

Karaaz makes a genuine face, picturing that, and Jensen laughs hard enough to inhale his food. He’s a cute choker. Necromancy is a dumb program, she thinks, pounding him, but there are perks.

HG

“For one thing, that’s not actually cheese,” says the mouse. “It’s Velveeta.”

“I’m gonna admit that I did not expect you to know the difference,” says HG.

“And anyway, you should use peanut butter. That’s right on the instructions.”

“I mean,” says HG. “It did work.”

The mouse whiskercombs dismissively. “Yes, well, you consider me trapped. I consider this a free ride.”

“To the garden.”

“Yes, and be quick about it,” says the mouse, checking what cannot possibly be a wristwatch. “If you still expect a tip!”

HG has real trouble depositing mouse currency, which it turns out later is poop.

Ludmilla

“I don’t know,” says Yancy, pulling her fingers away from the softsteel pads on the back of Ludmilla’s neck, “it feels okay when I try it.”

Ludmilla shivers. “You don’t feel that? It’s twitchy and agitated, and whenever I move too fast it seizes up on me.”

“Lemme in again.” Contact: Yancy trickles into Ludmilla’s body: the altered balance and weight of her, the way her nerves talk to each other, the slightly different cast to colors. It’s lovely.

“I could stay in there all day,” she says, withdrawing.

“I’d sell it to you,” sighs Ludmilla, “if I had a spare.”

Cadie

His stupid chapstick keeps turning up in her cup holders, coat pockets, backpacks and jeans. He liked the old-style black tube and he’d take the car out sometimes to go hunting for it, at convenience stores inconveniently far away. Then he’d lose it. And she’d forget she’d picked it up.

What do you do with the stuff? Can’t recycle it, can’t use it. The one time Cadie put a shirt through the dryer with a stick in the breast she broke down. Can’t clean it off either. Stains on her heart pocket, and ghosts she doesn’t need on her lips.

Lutwidge

“It’s time to let go,” says the Being of Sound Mind and Body gently.

“But I made them myself,” says Lutwidge, letting the little codicils scurry up her arms, along her shoulders and into her pockets. “I’d miss them. Some of them won contests–”

“You have to revoke them,” says the Being. “It’s the only way the ritual works.”

With an undersigh, she begins to scoop them into the revoking bin. “I wish I didn’t have to. My old testament wasn’t bad, really.”

“The new will be better,” the Being assures her. “And I promise this one can be your last.”

Tiny Yogurt

Tiny Yogurt eats alone. It’s not a big deal, it’s just that lunch is a tricky thing, lunch is difficult, and her former lunch circle is unavailable so she takes her half sandwich and twelve doritos and namesake cup of fruit-on-the-bottom to the hall by the library and sits, taking measured, careful bites.

She takes comfort in it, this space of her own, silent and answerable to no one. Until the day this kid carrying a stack of books he can’t see over trips on her.

“Watch it,” Tiny Yogurt snaps, startling herself.

“Sorry!” says Giant Nut Head.

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