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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

“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 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

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.”