Hindu deity: Saturday, Dec. Print Edition: The menu features dishes from all over Asia, including India, China and Korea. The evening meal is a large lunch, usually. Wincing with each forceful thrust the zombie made into her, Rey tried desperately to flex her leg and force him off of her.
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The earnest young men are challenged by the lack of interest of the locals, who are preoccupied with somewhat more pressing problems like AIDS,. John Jahn Jan. For tickets, call or visit marcuscenter. John Jahn Dec. For tickets, call or visit waukeshacivictheatre. Party January 22 5: A portion of every ticket sold will go to Next Door.
Finalists attend for free. Email Rachel shepex. Born in Sheboygan, he went to Germany for his education and studied in Weimar. Depicting a woman in white against a placid lake scene rendered in summery hues, the oil on board shows little interest in Impressionistic plays of light but an awareness of the color block composition of Japanese printmaking that was seminal to early modernism.
From My Studio Window is opposite in emotional tone and subject but not necessarily in form. Painted in Sheboygan, the oil on canvas represents his hometown in bleak blocks of grays and browns. The industrial city is draped under dirty winter snow with black bare trees and telegraph poles shivering against the sky. Among them is an almost cubist farm scene whose geometrically rigid human structures—a familiar Wisconsin red barn and silo—contrast with the fluid shapes of green and amber fields.
In one untitled watercolor, a giant grain elevator is framed with a proscenium of tree branches in a touch of 19th-century Romanticism brushing against 20th century industry. George Raab: The back-enders metabolize more slowly, but they carry the potential for mental nutrition that only prolonged engagement itself can generate. A back-ender, to be sure, suggesting either an absence of content, or, as it turns out, the possibility of latent presences only waiting to emerge.
Seven unframed, matte prints, all between 24 and 30 inches, and one transparency covering a single large window in the gallery, eventually begin to release the fundamental oppositions that are the source of that slow-burning nutrition: The polarity from these opposites ignites the static content and propels a jet of subsequent theoretical takeaways.
Most of the prints engage these dualities through the use of tagging or graffiti in the extreme foreground, formally as repoussoirs, but performatively as proscenia. We peer at the couple through loopy spray-painted tags and a bar of what appears to be digital dialogue boxes on the right.
This puts the couple inside and outside—inside one context, but outside countless others working on them and the impressions they broadcast.
Sex Store Atlanta GaThe gap between the mundaneness of Untitled Go Away and its elegantly dramatic ordering of contexts builds into a masterpiece of unexpected incongruity.
What initially appears to be a slightly overexposed photo of a sterile-looking conference room mushrooms into much more. The result of a break-in, or a layer in Photoshop? The graffiti sits in between two windows beyond which a kaleidoscope of additional architectural interiors and exteriors unfold. This added element finally compresses formal space into physical space, merges the site of the exhibition into the theoretical realm of its subject matter, and blurs the lines between our safely enclosed private fantasies and the more unsettled and ubiquitous public realities that envelop them.
Lights, windows and cameras are supremely good at this, just ask any 17th century Dutch painter. Not cloyingly sweet, but very good for you in the end. Fratney St. Much like the Polish folk songs heard throughout, Cold War takes a tragic story of heartbreak and horror and transforms it into something beautiful and timeless.
Welles is still showing up the Hollywood hacks more than 30 years after his death, and while his restless genius and maverick spirit may feel like a thing of the past, film critic Daniel Barnes found 10 reasons to feel good about the state of cinema in —as well as five reasons to push the panic button.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos takes a lean, witty script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara about conniving women and weak men and imbues it with a pitiless absurdism that is peculiarly Lanthimos-ian. The result feels like a ridiculously opulent and darkly Kubrick-ian cross between Dangerous Liaisons and All About Eve. We have become so spoiled by the greatness of Joaquin Phoenix that barely anyone batted an eye when he gave three excellent lead performances in Mahershala Ali survives with a shred of dignity intact, but Viggo Mortensen may never recover.
The leading character in Vertigo is a fraud. The threatening spouse in Suspicion becomes helplessly benign. The murdering uncle in Shadow of a Doubt threatens his unsuspecting niece. The most intriguing character in Strangers on a Train proposes a psychopathic bargain with his unsuspecting acquaintance.
Their fascination is that they always remain slightly out of reach. Rear Window. Cary Grant and Claude Rains would never be as sinister as they were in Notorious. He plays his non-character to perfection. But the terminally psychotic Norman has created her with vivid intensity in this most cinematically innovative entry in the Hitchcock canon.
Vertigo is in a class of its own. Watson, are frequently depicted on-screen. Reilly as Watson, distinguishes itself by casting them as bumbling and lucky idiots. When Queen Victoria is threatened by an unknown assassin, Holmes and Watson urgently search for her would-be killer. They make fools of themselves at a state function, then accidentally knock the queen unconscious.
Lisa Miller. His behind-the-scenes abilities begin to surface when Cheney lands an internship for conservative Illinois congressman Donald Rumsfeld. Years later, Cheney is tapped by George W. Bush to be his vice president. After confirming he will function as a willing puppet-master for Bush, Cheney accepts. The grocery shelves are well stocked and gasoline is cheap and plentiful.
He is irritated when yanked from college and assigned to translate for Russian children, survivors of Chernobyl sent to Cuba for treatment. He becomes a storyteller and grows as a person. Meanwhile, Cuba sinks into bare shelves and gas shortages as the Soviet Bloc dissolves and Soviet aid ends.
The pre-Kirk William Shatner plays the astronaut commanding Project Vulcan, the first interplanetary mission. But something is strange about him after he returns from space. The hour-long science-fiction show included other familiar actors as well as screenplays by the likes of Harlan Ellison. Sometimes, the writing exceeded production values, but often enough, the directors worked well within tight budgets.
In other words: Michael Caine endows the film with insouciant gravitas, that implacable seen-it-already cool that he perfected. David Carradine stars as a Jewish American in Berlin who falls into a world of trouble. Some of the cinematography mirrors the German Expressionist films of the setting.
The sad cafes and tacky cabarets—and even the police—are suffused with a rising sense of fear. The white-on-black credits accompanied by scratchy old jazz surely inspired Woody Allen. Constitution, the issue was one of the problems facing its authors.
In The War Before the War: He exaggerates but only a little as he focuses on the increasing tension as slavery became an ongoing test case for interstate relations and federal authority. The enforcement of that clause, always a source of friction, turned into a flashpoint with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act , which strengthened penalties for aiding and abetting runaways.
Along with competition by settlers to bring western territories into the Union as slave or free states, the legislation set the nation on the course toward Civil War. The War Before the War is a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of American history and the human condition.
A professor of American studies at Columbia University, Delbanco writes reflectively on the contradictions embedded in the birth of the nation and in its founders. In early America, large numbers of people were indentured servants held in what often amounted to a term of slavery. Some Northern states prohibited settlement by free blacks or limited their civil rights.
Delbanco explains: Instead, the war continued for four years. On the Union side, abolition was not always the motivating factor. Preserving the Union was the overriding objective, yet abolitionists saw the war as their opportunity and with reluctance, the U.
Army finally admitted black volunteers. During the war, slaves were freed by federal forces as a matter of military necessity, preventing their use by Confederates to build military emplacements. Delbanco warns against easy readings of history. Emancipation was not the inevitable result of the Civil War; the decisive Union victory at Gettysburg might have been a fluke; Lincoln might have been forced to compromise once again.
Twenty years later, they were outnumbered by settlers 50 to one, according to Michael E. In The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin: Voices of Early Settlers, the Wisconsin State Historian Emeritus focuses on the settlers by examining the paper trail they left behind, largely through the letters they wrote and the diaries they kept.
They arrived in large number from the s through s, the period covered here; they came from back east and down south and from several European nations, they spoke many languages and wrestled with the emergence of a distinct American culture. The help of neighbors could usually be counted on.
Not everyone wrote glowingly to the folks back home of what they found in Wisconsin. By the close of The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin, letter writers commented on how rapidly the newly formed state had changed and on the enterprising character of the immigrants who brought energy and ideas to the U.
The couple have been raising horses for 40 years. How did Levi become a therapy horse? My husband and I adopted Levi six years ago, when he was 7-yearsold and had just retired from racing. That really piqued my interest. Levi started working with us in September and was such a hit with patients and their families that we decided to keep him.
Levi sticks his head and a bit of his torso through the door so people can pet him if they wish. As part of the training, people would make sudden movements, clang pots and pans and make other loud noises to try and startle Levi. Trainers would also mimic erratic behavior similar to those with cognitive disabilities. During the training, Levi just kind of slowly turned around—another horse would have been out of there!
Per the requirements, animals must be bathed before they interact with patients. I also groom Levi frequently. How has Levi made a positive impact on hospice patients and those with disabilities? I see the difference in people at Angels Grace when I bring Levi around. They all look pretty solemn, but then they see Levi and just light up. He poses for pictures—everyone wants to see our star horse!
Besides being a therapy horse, does Levi have other duties? Besides being a therapy animal, Levi is my riding horse. Levi and I have quite a nice relationship. Head to Mad City for this installment of the popular parties. Brave the cold, grab a friend and head to the state capital for this 7 p. Center St. Hosted by DJ Frank Straka, this dance-off promises to be one for the books.
Get Tested. Is it just too late for me altogether? Similarly, the Thoughtful Gay Men Meetup is a monthly group of men of all ages who discuss issues concerning the gay male experience. Market St. Take by the horns! Make it your resolution to make friends, create a support system and learn to love yourself. The rest will fall into place. Belmont Ave. Head south to this tight nightclub for a great time.
Cute and kooky Tammie hits the stage at Hampshire Ave. Thinking of attending the Milwaukee Generals audition day in January? Take this workshop and make all of your tryouts the best they can be. Presented by Mark Bucher of Boulevard Theatre, participants should prepare two monologues and come ready for constructive feedback. Free and open to public, seating is available for people to simply watch the auditions and learn from the feedback provided as well.
To learn more and register, contact Mark Bucher at marksaysthankyouforwaiting gmail. Fifth St. Kick off your New Year celebration with this 6 p. Tickets are available through brownpapertickets. Wells St. Enjoy complimentary champagne and party favors at midnight when the DJ arrives to kick things into an even higher gear.
Arlington Place: Kick off with eggs and drags at one of your favorite Brady Street hot spots. Choose either the 11 a. Ask Ruthie a question and share your events at dearruthie shepex. Follow her on Instagram ruthiekeester and on Facebook at Dear Ruthie. The political pall hanging over the nation had many of us emotionally vacillating between anger, fear and frustration.
We endured 10 numbing months of regime assaults on the LGBTQ community, especially against transgender rights. The U. A Honduran asylum seeker, beaten in ICE custody, died of neglect. A trans Milwaukeean, Sasha Garden, was killed in Florida. Jamel Myles, 9, committed suicide following bullying because he was gay. Mercifully, the bad news was tempered by hope and optimism.
Veterans for Diversity celebrated its 10th year, and the Milwaukee Gay Volleyball Association opened its 10th season. PrideFest expanded to four days and boasted a record attendance of 45, More units marched in the Pride Parade than ever before, including, for the first time, a Milwaukee Police Department contingent.
The Milwaukee Beer Barons entered into the international gay rugby organization. Senator the first is our own Tammy Baldwin. So, Happy New Year to all with hopes of positive things to come! You expect to just walk in the room and eat, drink and be holy jolly. Instead, you are accosted by your biological clock.
A blink, a small smile, a few mouth bubbles from some very small lips looking up at you. You lock eyes, and you feel yourself becoming parental. After attempting to look away while eating, you eventually relent and spend the next three hours playing with the baby and completely forget the kids you brought with you to the party. The kid moves in with a final heart-tugging attack when she cuddles up and falls asleep in your arm.
You have BF, commonly known as Baby Fever. I feel your pain. I suffer from BF as well. Side effects of BF are generally as follows: Swooning when you see a smiling child; a sense of peace when holding a sleeping baby on your shoulder; sudden amnesia about the reality of raising children, such as cost, attention and time; the family Christmas card pictures; the early morning videos of little kids stumbling out of bed and playing with toys.
It really kicks into the highest gear during the holidays. I want a piece of that, too. However, Wisconsin law is insufficiently developed to ensure adequate enforcement of such agreements. Other states have much easier surrogacy laws that are clearly defined. Thankfully, a lot of us in the LGBTQ community are lucky enough to have straight siblings, cousins and good friends who will gladly toss their kids to us—like Aaron Rodgers with the football and two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter—upon request.
As the proud godfather of four, I try to be a part of their lives as much as I can. But godchildren do come with certain advantages; they can be returned when they need changing or their tummy hurts. So, fellow sufferers of BF syndrome, if any of this sounds like you, I implore you to stay strong, because, one day, we, too, might very well join the ranks of overworked, underpaid and under-rested parents.
The rink will be open 10 a. The referee-flummoxing Harlem basketball team will keep their decades-long streak of Dec. Fans at this Wave game against the St. Louis Ambush will receive a Robert Renaud bobblehead. The New Year arrives especially early at this party tailored for very young kids, which wraps up early enough that parents will have plenty of time to prepare for a night that ends with something a little stronger than a juice toast.
Oklahoma Ave. Barstow Ave. Stevens Point is hardly considered a music hotbed, but the city has sired at least one popular touring draw: The year they released their most recent record, The Ode. Stand-up comedian Shane Mauss has done just fine for himself since leaving Milwaukee.
Selector Max, Asher Gray and Juiceboxxx will provide the music at this party, set to last until early morning, while High Dive will provide the champagne toast, midnight balloon drop and free late-night breakfast. The local metal site MilwaukeeMetalChick. Once again The John Schneider Orchestra celebrates the end of another year with the music of years gone by.
Joined by Claire Morkin and Mrs. Fun, Schneider will perform standards by giants like. The band formerly known as Chocolate Ice 2 will dig deep into the funk and soul songbook at this show, where there will be drink specials and complimentary snacks throughout the night. Both shows are family-friendly, and each will end with a countdown at midnight for the late show, and 9: As always, the Milwaukee County Transit System is offering free rides on all routes, starting at 8 p.
Do yourself and everybody else on the roads a favor by leaving your car at home. This annual blowout at the Milwaukee Athletic Club regularly sells out. CO, and Listening Party, a huge light display, a four-hour premium open bar, professional photographers and a complimentary appetizer buffet. Rihanna dance party to the historic venue. The event will also include an appetizer buffet, a champagne toast at midnight, movie projections and a coat check.
The storied dance club on Van Buren will be open from 3 p. Good luck. There will be a speakeasy with gaming and an LED TV as a prize , live music from the piece Southport Sound, and a midnight balloon drop and champagne toast. For those with amazing stamina, there will be an after-party starting at 6 a. The soundtrack to many a car ride to the club, the dance station Energy DJs Steve Marxx and Roc will provide the music.
VIP table reservations are available. VIP tables and bottle service are available. There will be cash prizes for the best-dressed attendees. Once again the cooperatively owned pub will be hosting a service industry brunch starting around 3 a. DJ Cell and DJ Yogie guarantee a lively dance floor at this party, which will also feature a midnight balloon drop, party favors and chicken and waffles after 1 a.
She Dancer is much more than a clever title she came intends to release her future work on the label and is working on up with for her latest album. My job is constantly creating and favorite artists and records with her. And then I got into collecting Expressing herself was much easier on Music Box Dancer than Rebel records because of it.
This place culturally shaped my musical tastes. She had to make do with what she had, including jumping roll world that I grew up in. Ballroom often as she could. She left immediately Sat. She for the recording of the rest of the album. Beggars Banquet includes a blues morality play worth of Rev. Also included is a flexi disc of a conversation involving Mick Jagger in an especially witty mood.
Leader Mark G. The campy appeal of it is all the more enhanced by a music video with G. But on The Space, Werner sits alone at the piano and meditates on the spaces between notes, the sound and the silence. The link with jazz is obvious enough but, as Jarrett showed long ago, the boundaries are porous. The Bash Brothers 8pm ; DJ: Jesse Montijo Qtet Arpin — Richards — Dietz Robert Allen Jr.
Knaaves Trail Boss Tim Cook 10pm. Call to order item X or Visit HaleGroves. Satisfaction completely guaranteed. This gift ships in December at the peak of freshness. Order by Dec. Limited time offer, good while supplies last. Not valid with any other offer. Limit 5 boxes per customer.
No appt. Five Stars. Located in trendy Walkers Point. Extra Clean. Shared bath and kitchen. Smoke Free. On Bus Line. Utilities incl. Need a roomate? MKE County. Early Shift starting at 6am or 1: Full benefit package incl. Must possess clean driving record, pass criminal background and drug screening. Call x Helping Home Workers Since ! No Experience Required. Genuine Opportunity.
Start Immediately. There is hope! Call Today to speak with someone who cares. The Shepherd Express makes no representations or warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, regarding any advertising. The Shepherd Express will not be held liable for any damages of any kind relating to any ad. We are not responsible for errors in advertising after the first.
We reserve the right to edit, reject or reclassify advertisements in our sole discretion, without notice. How can I motivate myself to succeed? Each spring at planting time, they believed if they renewed their devotion to the gods, they would be blessed with an abundant harvest in the coming year. Other cultures and religions—and regular people like you and me—have perpetuated the custom ever since.
There must be something to it; this 4,yearold ritual has certainly stood the test of time. For some reason, at the end of one year and beginning of the next, most of us do a mental inventory assessing how things went for us in the past year and goals we hope to pursue in the year ahead.
Resolving to consciously move in a more positive direction is the first step. Maintaining that forward movement is not so easy. Generally speaking, people are motivated to do well when they get a pat on the back rather than harsh criticism. Your first resolution could be to ditch the self-loathing.
Your own experience has shown that no good result can come from that approach. How about taking the pressure off this time around by making some totally different resolutions? Sometimes, people achieve greater success in life by taking the focus off of the goal you think you want to achieve and choosing other, less emotionally fraught, plans for overall well-being.
For example, why not try these on for size? Go Old School in the New Year. Read an actual book—the kind printed on paper, not illuminated on a screen. Give yourself extra bonus points if you procure that book from either your neighborhood library free!
Buy a few cards—the kind you write in, put a stamp on and send off to someone in the mail. Do you remember how you felt when you saw it? Get Outside of the Box. Life can get pretty boring and mundane if you let it. Our daily path typically takes us on the same route: We break it up occasionally with a date with friends or a yoga class, but even so, our patterns are generally set.
Humans like predictability, but too much of the same leads to boredom. Get your daily news fix differently. Steer clear of the clickbait and do a deeper dive into a story, see what the other side of the political spectrum has to say, or try a news source from outside the U. Shake it up a bit. Some type of daily effort to count your blessings and pass kindness on to others is critically important these days.
Feelings of hopelessness and defeat have, sadly, become common for many of us. A steady diet of anger and frustration is not the best nourishment for us humans. There are many antidotes to negativity, but a gratitude practice is a good place to start. As a prompt, subscribe to a daily e-mail that focuses on the bigger picture, the greater good.
I like gratefulness. The ritual of a year-end inventory is a good one to preserve. While most things in life worth achieving require some extra effort, all change starts with thought and intention. And making some changes around the margins in life can have a ripple effect into the core of what we really wish to be doing differently.
On the Couch is written by a licensed mental health professional. Her advice is not meant to be a substitute for mental healt care. Send your questions to onthecouch shepex. Fill in every square with a number from using the greater-than signs as a guide. Solving hint: Vacation venue 5. The Pentateuch Fundamental Knocks dead Inter — Gathering place in Athens Equally Birthright seller Circulate Passover meal Stark Start of a quip by Jack Handey: Is indebted Cookie brand Most of zeta and theta Set of four Lover of Helen Economized Panoply Played for stakes Slippers Comedian — Philips Heavy hammer Wrinkled Like a superhero A letter Sign in a market Termagant Ridge Put in writing: Step Greek philosopher Part 2 of quip: Stone fruits Sakes —!
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Find the listed words in the grid. They may run in any direction but always in a straight line. Some letters are used more than once. Ring each word as you find it and when you have completed the puzzle, there will be 32 letters left over. They spell out the alternative theme of the puzzle.
Roadkill Roasting on an Open Fire im Alexander, 41, and Betina Bradshaw, 54, of Torquay, England, planned quite the holiday feast for family and friends. On the menu: Alexander, a trained butcher, has collected nearly 50 animal corpses throughout Bradshaw says her family refers to him as a serial killer, but he has gradually won her over to the idea of eating roadkill.
The Domino Effect H. Determined to park his tractor-trailer in a restricted area, reported the Austin American-Statesman, Taylor removed a chain blocking the area and parked his truck there, even as store employees told him not to. Having lost his appetite for pizza, Taylor returned to his truck and drove away, but officers soon caught up to him in another county. A filthy bag filled with other bags sat beside him.
His arms were as thin as sticks and his face was as wrinkled as a raisin, but he kissed Lolli on the cheek and said hello to Val very politely. Lolli gave him a couple of cigarettes and a crumpled wad of bills, and he stood up and crossed the street. Dave rummaged up an almost-empty cola bottle from his messenger bag and filled that with the liquor. Val took a swig from the bottle and felt the alcohol burn all the way down her throat.
The three of them passed it back and forth as they walked down West Third. Lolli stopped in front of a table covered in beaded earrings hanging from plastic trees that jangled whenever a car went past. She fingered a bracelet made with tiny silver bells. Val walked to the next table, where incense was stacked in bundles and samples burned on an abalone tray.
He had skin the color of polished mahogany and smelled of sandalwood. Lolli skipped up, bells jangling around her wrist. Dave was trying to make the cat lick brandy out of the soda cap. When she looked back, out of the corner of her eye, for just a moment, the incense man seemed to have long spines jutting up from his back like a hedgehog.
They walked aimlessly until they came to a triangle-shaped median of asphalt, lined on both sides with park benches, presumably for suits to eat their lunch in warmer weather and suck in the humid air and car exhaust. They sat, letting the cat down to investigate the flattened remains of a pigeon. There, they passed the brandy back and forth until Val's tongue felt numb and her teeth tingled and her head swam.
It paid no attention. Val laughed. I mean, I don't believe in vampires or werewolves or zombies or anything like that. We know where the faeries live. Luis would be raging if he heard you. She tossed back her hair. I bet she doesn't even believe me.
Drunk as she was, it almost seemed possible. Val tried to think back to the fairy tales she liked to re-read, the ones she'd collected since she was a little kid. There weren't very many faeries in them. At least not what she thought of as faeries. There were godmothers, ogres, trolls, and little men that bargained their services for children, then railed at the discovery of their true names.
She thought of faeries in video games, but they were elves, and she wasn't sure if elves were faeries at all. You know what that is? She had a cousin who went out to Weird NJ sites and posted photos of them on his Web site. Like abandoned buildings? Lolli got up and retrieved the cat from where it was scratching at the dead bird.
She held it on her lap and petted it hard. She shivered. Even though she was warm from the liquor drowsing through her veins, her breath gusted in the air and her hands alternated between icy and hot when she pressed them under her shirt and against her skin. They walked for a while and then ducked down into a subway station. Lollipop stepped through the turnstile with a swipe of her card, then passed it back through the bars to Dave.
She looked at Val. She walked up to the turnstile. He swiped, then pressed himself against her, pushing them both through at once. His body was corded muscle against her back and she smelled smoke and unwashed clothes. Val laughed and staggered a little. You break off toothpicks real little and then you jam them in the machine.
People pay, but they don't get their cards. It's like a lobster trap. You come back later and see what you caught. She wasn't sure what was true and what wasn't. Lollipop and Sketchy Dave walked to the far end of the subway platform, but instead of stopping at the end and waiting for the train, Dave jumped down into the well where the tracks ran. A few people waiting for the train glanced over and then quickly looked away, but most of them didn't even seem to notice.
Lolli followed Dave awkwardly, moving so that she was sitting on the edge and then letting him half lift her down. She held on to the now-squirming kitten. As Val jumped down onto the litter-strewn concrete after them, she thought how insane it was to follow two people she didn't know into the bowels of the subway, but instead of being afraid, she felt glad.
She would make all her own decisions now, even if they were ruinous ones. It was the same pleasurable feeling as tearing a piece of paper into tiny, tiny pieces. Third rail? She looked down nervously. The middle one. It had to be the middle one. Val looked back at the concrete of the subway platform, much too high to climb. Ahead, there was darkness, studded only with tiny lamps that seemed to give off little real light.
Rustling noises seemed too close, and she thought she felt tiny paws run over one sneaker. She felt the panic she had been waiting for this whole time. It swallowed her up. She stopped, so gripped by fear that she couldn't move. Val heard the distant rattle of a train but couldn't tell how far away it was or even what track it was on. She ran to catch up to Lolli and Dave.
She had never been afraid of the dark, but this was different. The darkness here was devouring, thick. It seemed like a living thing, breathing through its own pipes, heaving gusts of stench into the tunnel around her. The smell of filth and wetness was oppressive. Her ears strained for the steps of the other two. She kept her eyes on the lights, as though they were a breadcrumb trail, leading her out of danger.
A train rushed by on the other side of the tracks, the sudden brightness and furious noise stunning her. She felt the pull of the air, as though everything in the tunnels was being drawn toward it. If it had been on her side, she would have never had time to jump for the niche. She couldn't be sure whether it belonged to Lolli or to Dave.
Val realized she was standing next to a platform. It looked like the station they'd left, except here the tiled walls were covered in graffiti. Mattresses were piled on the concrete shelf, heaped with blankets, throw pillows, and couch cushions—most of them in some variation of mustard yellow. Candle stubs flickered dimly, some jammed in the sharp mouths of beer cans, others in tall glass jars decorated with the Virgin Mary's face on the label.
A boy with his hair braided thickly back from his face sat near a hibachi grill in the back corner of the station. One of his eyes was clouded over, whitish and strange, and steel piercings puckered his dark skin. His ears were bright with rings, some thick as worms, and a bar stuck out from either cheek, as though to highlight his cheekbones.
His nose was pierced through one nostril and a hoop threaded his lower lip. As he stood, Val saw that he wore a puffy black jacket over baggy and ripped jeans. Sketchy Dave started up a makeshift ladder of wood planking. Val turned all the way around. One of the walls was decorated with spray paint that read "for never and ever. Dave snorted and walked over to the fire.
He took out flattened cigarette butts from his messenger bag and dropped them into one of the chipped mugs, then stacked cans of peaches and coffee. Val shifted her weight, uncomfortably aware that she didn't know the way back. For some reason that made both the pierced boy and Sketchy Dave laugh. Lolli looked pleased with her.
Exhaustion was starting to creep over Val. She settled down on a mattress and pulled a blanket over her head. Lolli was saying something, but the combination of brandy, ebbing fear, and exhaustion was overwhelming. She could always go home later, tomorrow, in a few days. As long as it wasn't now. As she dozed off, Lolli's cat climbed over her, jumping at shadows.
She reached out her hand to it, sinking her fingers into the short, soft fur. It was a tiny thing, really, but already crazy. I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods; fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves.
Muscles clenching, Val vaulted out of sleep into being fully awake, her heart beating hard against her chest. She nearly cried out before she remembered where she was. She guessed it was afternoon, although it was still dark in the tunnels; the only light came from the guttering candles.
On the other mattress, Lollipop was curled up with her back against Luis. He had one arm thrown over her. Sketchy Dave was on her other side, swaddled up in a dirty blanket, head bent toward Lolli the way the branch of a tree grows toward the sun. Val buried her head deeper in the comforter, even though it smelled vaguely of cat piss. She felt groggy but better rested.
Lying there, she remembered looking through college catalogues a couple of weeks earlier with Tom. He'd been talking about Kansas, which had a good writing program and wasn't crazy expensive. She'd smiled and kissed him while she was still smiling. She'd liked kissing him; he always seemed to know just how to kiss back. Thinking about it made her feel aching and dumb and betrayed.
She wanted to go back to sleep but she couldn't, so she just stayed still until she had to pee badly enough to go and squat, wide-legged, over the stinking bucket she found in one corner. She tugged down her jeans and underwear, trying to balance on the balls of her feet, while she pulled the crotch of her clothes as far away from her body as she could.
She tried to tell herself that it was the same as when you were driving down a highway and there was no rest stop, so you had to go in the woods. There was no toilet paper and no leaves, so she did a little hopping dance that she hoped would shake herself dry. Making her way back, she saw Sketchy Dave starting to stir and hoped that she hadn't woken him up.
She tucked her legs back into the blanket, now noticing that the vivid odors of the platform combined into a smell she couldn't identify. Light streamed down from a grate in the street above, illuminating black, grime-streaked iron beams. He was shirtless, and even in the gloom she could see what looked like a bullet wound in the center of his chest.
It pulled the rest of his skin toward it, a sinking pool that drew everything to his heart. Dave moved over to the hibachi and kindled it with matches and balls of newspaper. Then he set a pot on top, shaking grounds out of a tin and pouring water from a plastic gallon milk jug. She must have stared at him for too long, because he looked up with a grin. It's cowboy coffee. No milk, but there's plenty of sugar if you want it.
Nodding, she bundled the blankets around her. He strained her a steaming cup and she held it gratefully, using it first to warm her hands and then her cheeks. She ran her fingers absently over her scalp. She felt thin stubble, like fine sandpaper. The coffee was bitter, but Val found it satisfying to drink, flavored with smoke and nothing else. Grounds floated on the surface, making a black film.
You either got it or you don't. One time I found a Rolex watch in with some junk mail and burned toast. It was like someone tossed everything on the kitchen table right into the garbage without looking at it. Despite what Dave had said about them sleeping in, Lolli groaned and slid out from under Luis's arm. Her eyes were still mostly closed and she had a dirty kimono-style dressing gown thrown over yesterday's clothes.
She looked beautiful in a way that Val never would, lush and hard all at the same time. Lolli gave Luis a shove. He grunted and rolled over, propping himself up on his elbows. There was a flicker of movement along the wall and the cat strolled out, butting its head against Luis's hand. Dave poured another cup for Luis. I don't know which one. Ask him. Sketchy Dave shrugged, as if apologizing for knowing as much as he did.
Val didn't really know what a Muse was, except for a dim recollection of studying the Odyssey in ninth grade. Kind of like down here. Lolli laughed and Dave's smile broadened. He seemed more pleased by his joke now that he knew Lolli liked it. Tell her about Hermes. A courier, kind of. That's what Lolli wants me to say. But forget that for a minute; you asked about rats getting Polly.
What do you know about rats? Lolli snorted and even Dave smiled, but Luis's face was intense. His voice had a ritual quality, as though he'd said this many times before. Everybody hates rats. People hate the way they move, the way they hop, they hate the sound of their paws skittering all over the floor.
Rats're always the villains. Val looked into the shadows. Luis seemed to be waiting for her to react, but she didn't know what the right response was. She wasn't even sure she knew what he was really talking about. He went on. They got teeth that are tougher than iron. They can gnaw through anything—wood beams, plaster walls, copper pipes—anything but steel.
Luis barely paused to acknowledge Lolli had spoken. His eyes stayed on Val. Fight them against ferrets, against dogs, against people. That's how tough they are. You ever see a rat on the subway? Sometimes they get on a car at one platform and detrain at the next stop.
They're taking a ride. Then he turned to Val. But what if I told you that there were things out there that think of you like you think of rats? Luis looked at her for a long time. They're neophobic. You know what that means? What an asshole. Val picked at a loose thread on her pants, pulling at it, unraveling the fabric. I should go home , she thought. But she didn't go anywhere.
Opening the latch, she took out and unrolled a T-shirt to spread out the contents: Lolli shouldered off one sleeve of her dressing gown and Val could see black marks on the inside of her elbow, like the skin there was charred. Lolli reclined against a pile of pillows and bags. I like the feeling of the steel under my skin.
You can even shoot up vodka. Goes right into your bloodstream. Makes you drunker cheaper. Val rubbed her arm. It made her think of something, but she wasn't quite sure what. He was in such a mood, I didn't want him to get started about the faeries. It bubbled on the spoon. The sweet smell, like burnt sugar, filled Val's nose.
Lolli sucked it up through the needle, then tapped the bubbles to the top, pushing them out with a squirt of liquid. Tying off her upper arm with pantyhose, Lolli inserted the tip slowly into one of the black marks on her arm. It came to Val then that what she was reminded of was her mother putting on makeup—laying out the tools and then using them one by one. First foundation, then powder, eye shadow, eyeliner, blush, all done with the same calm ceremony.
The fusion of the images unnerved her. Val didn't know what she thought. She'd never seen anyone give themselves a shot like that, professional as a doctor. Val watched him get up to pace the platform. Dave seemed to see it, too. His eyes widened. The gloom seemed to be coalescing into indistinct shapes that made the hair stand up on Val's arms.
Blurry horns, mouths crowded with teeth, and claws as long as branches formed and then dissipated. You scared? That's why we call him Sketchy. Lolli pouted exaggeratedly. I found her. She's my new friend and I want her to stay here and play with me. Play with her? Val didn't know what Lolli meant, but she didn't like the sound of it.
Right then, Val wanted nothing more than to get out of the claustrophobic tunnels and away from the shifting shade. Her heart beat so fast that she feared it would spring out of her chest like the bird in a cuckoo clock. Her hair seemed bluer than it had a moment ago, shot through with aquamarine highlights, and the air flickered around her the way it did over a street in the hot sun.
A good half of it went up in flames, and she dragged on it anyway. Her voice was slow, slurred, but her gaze, even from drowsy eyes, was severe. Dave started up the yellow maintenance stairs and Val followed him quickly, filled with an uncertain dread. At the top, Dave pushed up the grating and they stepped out onto the sidewalk. As she emerged into the bright, late-afternoon sunlight, she realized that she'd left her backpack on the platform with her return ticket still inside of it.
She half-turned back to the grate and then hesitated. She wanted the bag, but Lolli had been acting so strange… everything had gone so strange. But maybe even the smell of the drug could make shadows move? She ran through a health-class list of substances to avoid—heroin, PCP, angel dust, cocaine, crystal meth, special K.
She didn't know much about any of them. No one she knew did anything more than smoke weed or drink. She noticed the worn-down soles of his boots, the stains covering his jeans, the tightly corded muscles of his thin arms. Val looked around at the large building across the street and the concrete park they were standing in, with its dried-up and cracked pond, and an abandoned shopping cart.
Dave looked uncomfortable and he was silent for a moment. You don't want to be coming up out of the sidewalk with a million people around. Val tried to smile, because she guessed that he had a little faith in her now, but all she could think of was what would have happened if somewhere, walking through the tunnels, he had decided that he couldn't trust her.
Val picked through a Dumpster. The food smells still made her gag, but after two previous trash piles, she was getting more used to them. She pushed aside mounds of shredded paper, but found only a few boards studded with nails, empty CD cases, and a broken picture frame. He emerged wearing a navy pea coat, one arm of it slightly ripped, and holding up a Styrofoam take-out box that looked like it was mostly filled with linguini in alfredo sauce.
Pedestrians were wending their way home from work, messenger bags and briefcases slung across their shoulders. None of them seemed to see Val or Dave. It was as if the two of them had become invisible, just part of the trash they were sorting through. It was the sort of thing that she'd heard about on television and in books. It was supposed to make you feel small, but she felt liberated.
No one was looking at her or judging her based on whether her outfit matched or who her friends were. They didn't see her at all. Around now on the weekday, businesses are junking office stuff. We'll see what's around, then come back out near midnight, when restaurants toss off the day-old bread and vegetables.
And then at dawn you go residential again—we'll have to get there before the trucks pick up. She glanced at a stack of magazines tied together with string. So far, she hadn't found anything she thought was worth taking. Dave ate the last of the linguini and tossed the box back into a Dumpster. We can always sell that. And anything nice, I guess.
If you think it's nice, someone else probably will, too. I have to pick something up before it gets dark. I might have to do a delivery. Val picked up the headboard. The rust scraped off on her hands, but she managed to balance the cast iron on her shoulder. Dave was right.
It was heavy. She put it back down again. All the fonts curled and some were embossed with gold. She bet none of these books had to do with fucking your daughter's boyfriend. She wanted to see one of the covers show that—a young kid and an old lady with too much makeup and lines around her mouth. Dave shrugged, carried the box under one arm, and flipped open a book.
He didn't read out loud, but his mouth moved as he scanned the page. They were quiet as they walked for a while and then Val pointed to the book in his hand. He sounded annoyed. They walked for a while more in silence, his face buried in the book. Dave shrugged and turned to walk through a black gate into a mostly empty square, dumping the romance novel back into the box.
Val stopped to read the plaque: Seward Park. Tall trees shadowed most of the deserted playground equipment sprawled over the space. The concrete was carpeted with yellow and brown leaves. They passed a dried-up fountain with stone seals that looked as if they might spurt water for kids to run through in the summertime. The statue of a wolf peeked out from a patch of brown grass.
Sketchy Dave walked past all that without pausing and headed for a separate gated area that bordered one of the New York Public Library branches. Dave slid through a gap in the fence. Val followed, climbing into a miniature Japanese garden filled with small piles of smooth, black rocks in stacks of varying heights. He pushed over one of the stone piles and lifted up a small, folded note.
Moments later he was back out through the fence and unfolding it. Crumpling it into a ball, he threw it into the air. It flew out onto the path and downward, when it suddenly changed direction as though blown by a rebel wind. As Val watched in amazement, the paper ball rolled until it rested beneath the base of a slide. Dave reached underneath the slide and ripped a tape-covered object free.
It was a beer bottle, corked with melted wax. Around the neck, a scrap of paper hung from a ragged piece of string. Inside, molasses-brown sand sifted with each tilt of the container, showing a purplish sheen. She told you too much already. But just say that you did believe Lolli for a minute, and say you thought that Luis could see a whole world the rest of us can't, and say that he does some jobs for them.
Dave squatted down, and with a quick look at the sun's position in the sky, uncorked the bottle, causing the wax around the neck to crumble. He sifted a little of the contents into a tiny baggie like the one she'd seen Lolli pour her drug out of. He shoved the baggie into the front pocket of his jeans.
I have to go uptown and drop this off. You can come along with me, but you have to hang back when we get there. Val had no choice but to follow him. She wasn't even sure she could find her way back to the abandoned platform without him to guide her and she needed her bag to go anywhere else. They took the F to Thirty-fourth Street then switched to the B, taking that all the way to Ninety-sixth.
Sketchy Dave held on to a horizontal metal bar and did pull-ups as the train thundered through the tunnels. Val looked out the train window, watching the small lights marking distance streak by, but after a while her eyes were drawn to the other passengers. A wiry black man with close-cropped hair swayed unconsciously to the music on his iPod, a load of manuscripts balanced in one arm.
A girl seated next to him was carefully drawing a glove of inky swirls up her own hand. Leaning against the doors, a tall man in a striped gray suit clutched his briefcase and stared at Dave in horror. Each person seemed to have a destination, but Val was a piece of driftwood, spinning down a river, not even sure in what direction she was moving.
But she knew how to make herself spin faster. From the station, they walked a few blocks to the edge of Riverside Park, a sprawling patch of green that sloped down the highway to the water beyond. Across the street, town houses with park views had curling ironwork at the windows and doors.
Intricately carved concrete blocks framed doorways and stair railings, forming fantastical dragons and lions and griffons that leered down at her in the reflected glow of street lamps. Val and Dave passed a fountain where a stone eagle with a cracked beak glowered over a murky green pool choked with leaves. You already told me all kinds of shit you aren't supposed to. He walked up the white steps, put down the box of romance novels, and pressed a buzzer near where someone had stenciled a mushroom with spray paint.
Val glanced up at the sculpted gargoyles that flanked the roof of the building. As she was looking, one seemed to shudder, like a bird on a perch, stony feathers rustling and then settling. Val froze, staring at it, and after a moment, the gargoyle went still. Val jumped up and crossed the street, calling Dave's name.
But as she got to the steps, the black door opened and a woman stepped into the doorway. She wore a long white slip. Her tangled, brown-and-green hair looked unwashed and the skin under her eyes was dark as a bruise. Hooves peeked out from under the hem of the slip where feet should have been. Sketchy Dave turned his head and gave Val a fierce glare before he took out the beer bottle from his bag.
She didn't seem to notice that the seal had been broken. The chill air will cut her to the bone. There was a marble-lined hall and a staircase railed with old, polished wood. The hooved woman led them through sparsely furnished rooms, past a fountain where silvery koi darted, their bodies so pale that the pink of their insides showed through their scales, past a music room holding only a double-strung lap harp on a table of marble, then into a parlor.
She sat down on a cream-colored settee, the brocade fabric worn thin, and beckoned for them to join her. There was a low table near her and on it a glass, a teapot, and a tarnished spoon. The hooved woman used the spoon to measure out some of the amber sand into her cup, then filled it with hot water and drank deeply.
She flinched once and when she looked up, her eyes shone with an eerie, glittering brightness. Val couldn't stop her gaze from straying to the woman's goat feet. There was something obscene about the glimpses of short, thick fur that covered her slender ankles, the sheen of the black horn, the two splayed toes.
Poor thing, she was just coming out of her tree—it's horrible how that iron gate fences her roots. It must have scorched her every time she crossed it. You delivered to her, no? Val scowled and walked over to a display case. Inside the glass door was a large, solid chunk of something like obsidian. Beside it were some other things, equally odd.
A bit of bark, a broken stick, a sharp burr in the shape of a pinecone, each fold razor sharp. A few moments later, Sketchy Dave and the goat-footed woman returned. She was smiling. Val tried to stare at her without catching her eye. If someone had asked Val what she would do if she saw some supernatural creature, she wouldn't have figured she'd do nothing at all.
She felt unable to be sure of what she was seeing, unable to decide if there really was a monster right in front of her. As they walked out of the apartment, Val could hear her blood thundering in her head to the speeding beat of her heart. Val was too flustered to be angry. Val caught up to him and grabbed him by the arm.
He tried to jerk away from her, but he couldn't. She was stronger. He looked at her strangely, like he was reevaluating them both. There was nothing to see. Val stared at him. A faerie, right? Except faeries don't fucking exist! He started to laugh. She dropped his arm and shoved him hard.
The box of novels fell, scattering paperbacks into the road. All the rage and bewilderment of the last day boiled up in her. Her hands balled into fists. She wanted to hit something. Dave bent down to pick up the cardboard box and replaced the fallen books. We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots?
On the train ride back, Val sat in a plastic seat far from Dave, leaned her head back against a Plexiglas-covered map of the subway, and wondered how a person could have hooves. She'd seen shadows move on their own and bottles of brown sand that had something to do with make-believe gossip about murdered tree people from weird, Upper West Side ladies.
What she did know was that she didn't want to be blind and dumb, the kind of girl that didn't notice that her mom and boyfriend were having sex until she saw it with her own eyes. She wanted to know the truth. When Val got close to the concrete park on Leonard Street she saw Luis sitting on a ledge, drinking something out of a blue glass bottle.
A bird-boned girl with mismatched sneakers and a swollen belly sat beside him, trembling fingers holding a cigarette. As Val got closer, she could see sores on the new girl's ankles, leaking pus. The streets were nearly deserted, the only person close by a security guard across the street who walked out to the curb every now and then before she disappeared into the building.
She was unnerved by the stare from his cloudy eye. The girl dropped her cigarette and then reached for it, her fingers grazing the hot end without her seeming to notice as she fumbled to put it back in her mouth. Dave said something else, but Val had already started walking toward the service entrance, the grate that she and Dave had slid out of that afternoon.
She got down on her hands and knees, pulled up the unhinged end of the metal bars, and lowered herself onto the steps. Val waded across the mattresses and blankets to where she'd slept the night before. Her backpack wasn't where she'd left it. She kicked aside some of the dirty clothes on the platform.
Val unzipped her pack. All her stuff was inside, the razor still choked with her hair, the thirteen dollars still folded up in her wallet right beside her train ticket. Even her gum was still there. Lolli sat up, hugging her legs to her chest, eyes wide and smile stretching even wider.
The image of the goat-footed woman moved uneasily behind Val's eyes. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. It made a cracking sound, but supported her weight. I told you I don't know what I saw. A woman with goat feet? You shooting something weird in your arm? Paper that dances around?
Is that supposed to add up? It was when Dave and their mom got shot. Their mother was dead when the ambulance came, but Dave was in the hospital for a while. Luis promised the troll he would serve him for a year if he saved Dave's life. Why does Luis care what I know? Like you said to Dave, no one is going to believe me. They'd be mad, he says. But since he started doing deliveries for Ravus, some of the other faeries have him doing errands for them.
Dave does some of the troll's jobs. She said she had a boyfriend named Zachary that lived in England. She showed me letters full of angsty poetry. Basically, the truth was that Ruth wrote herself letters, printed them out, and lied about it. I know all about liars," Val said. Val felt a burst of anger, the worse because it was directionless.
Where's the troll tunnel? We'll find out for ourselves. Val thought of the story of the three goats, thought of the game WarCraft and the little green trolls that carried axes and said, "Wanna buy a cigar? None of that seemed real, but the world would certainly be cooler with something so unreal in it. As they walked through the subway tunnel, the failing flashlight washed the black walls amber, highlighting the soot and the miles of electrical cording that threaded through the tunnel.
It was like moving through the veins of the city. They passed a live platform, where people waited for a train. Lolli waved to them as they stared, but Val reached down and picked up the discarded batteries of a dozen CD players. As they moved on, she tried each battery in turn, until she found two that strengthened the beam of the flashlight.
Now it lit piles of garbage, catching the green reflection of rat eyes and the moving walls of roaches that throve in the heat and the dark. Val heard a thin whistle. Dust gusted through the air a moment before the train barreled past on another track. Lolli cackled and pressed her face close to Val's. The deaf cop on the beat heard the noise and came and shot the two dead boys.
It's a rhyme my mother used to tell me. You never heard it before? Val's knees were shaky as they resumed walking through the endless twisting tunnels. Finally, Lolli pointed to an opening that looked as if it had been bashed through the cement blocks. There was a corridor, murky with water, with calcium deposits hanging down in brittle, chalky stalactites.
She took a few more steps, cold water soaking her sneakers and the hem of her jeans. The light from the flashlight lit torn, ragged strips of plastic sheeting directly ahead of her. They shifted with the slight wind, like gauzy draperies or ghosts. The movement was unnerving. Splashing along, she ducked through the plastic and into a large chamber choked with roots.
They dangled everywhere, long feathery tendrils dragging in the deeper water, thick root trunks cracking through the concrete ceiling to thin and spread. But the strangest part was that fruit hung from them as from branches. Pale globes grew from the hairy coils, warmed by no sun and fed by no soil.
Val walked closer. The skin of each was milky and translucent, showing a rose blush beneath it, as though their centers might be red. She hesitated at the bottom of them. Glancing at the inverted tree again, she tried to tell herself that it was just weird, not supernatural.
It didn't matter. It was too late to turn back. Val started up the steps. Each one echoed and she could see a diffuse light. As trains rumbled above them, a thin, powdery dust fell like rain, catching and streaking the weeping walls. The girls spiraled up, higher and higher until they came to a large casement window shrouded by old blankets hung with nails.
Val leaned over the railing and pushed aside the cloth. She was surprised to see a basketball court, apartment buildings, the highway, and the river beyond, sparkling like a necklace of lights. She was inside the Manhattan Bridge. She kept walking, finally coming to a large open room with pipes and thick cords running along the ceiling and heavy wooden ladders along both sides of the wall.
It looked as if it was meant for maintenance workers. Books were piled up on the makeshift shelves and in dusty stacks on the floor. Old volumes, tattered and worn. A sheet of plywood rested atop several dozen cinderblocks near the doorway, creating a makeshift desk.
Jam jars lined one edge, and resting against it was a sword that looked as though it was made of glass. Val took a step closer, reaching out her hand, when something fell on her. It was cold and formless, like a heavy wet blanket, and it stretched to cover her. It blocked out her sight and choked her. She threw up her hands, clawing at the slightly damp stuff, feeling it give under her sharp, short nails.
Dimly, she could hear Lolli shrieking as if from very far away. Spots started to form in front of Val's eyes and she reached blindly for the sword. Her hand slid over the blade, cutting her fingers shallowly, but letting her blindly find the hilt. She braced and swung at her own shoulder.
The thing slipped from her, and for a dizzying moment she could breathe again. Hefting the sword of glass as much as she could like a lacrosse stick, she chopped at the white, boneless thing that rippled toward her, its stretched face and flat features making it appear like a pallid, fleshy paper doll.
It writhed on the ground and went limp. Val's hands shook. She tried to still them, but they wouldn't stop trembling, even when she clenched them into fists and dug her fingernails into the heels of her hands. Herbs were bound into bundles in one of the jamjars.
Another was full of dead wasps, but a third was filled with what looked like knots of red licorice shoelaces. Some had labels on their lids: At the center of the plywood was a marble cutting board with spiky green balls waiting to be chopped by the tin half-moon of a knife that rested beside them. On the wall were a series of pinned objects—a candy wrapper, a gray wad of chewing gum, the burned-out stub of a cigarette.
Hanging in front of each was a magnifying glass, enlarging not only the items but also the handwritten notes surrounding each. Lolli gasped sharply. Val spun around without thinking, lifting the sword automatically. Someone loomed in the doorway, tall and lean as a basketball player, bending to duck under the doorframe.
As he straightened up, lank hair, black as ink, framed the grayish-green skin of his face. Two undershot incisors jutted from his jaw, their tips sinking into the soft flesh of his upper lip. His eyes went wide with something that might have been fear or even fury, but she found herself transfixed by the way the black irises were dusted around the edges with gold, like the eyes of a frog.
A pair of filthy street girls. With one booted foot, the troll nudged the boneless thing. How unlikely. His skin was the same horrible color that you might find underneath a band of copper you'd worn for too long. Fear closed up Val's throat and held her in place. She watched the milky blood run down the sword and felt her hands start to shake again.
So what did Luis tell you? Did he say there was a monster? The troll ran the point of his tongue over an incisor. To give you a good scare? To give me a good scare? A good meal? It is entirely possible Luis might think I would want to eat you. You don't say? Val's instincts took over. She ran toward the exit, toward the troll. As he reached for her, she ducked, passing under his arm and hitting the strips of plastic.
She was halfway down the stairs when she heard Lolli scream. Standing there, trains rattling on the bridge overhead, still holding the glass sword, she hesitated. She was the reason Lolli was inside this place. It was Val's own dumb idea to try to prove to herself that faeries were real. She should have gone back when she saw the tree.
She shouldn't have come here at all. Taking a deep breath, she ran back up the stairs. Lolli was sprawled out on the ground, tears running down her face, her body gone weirdly lax. The troll held her by the wrist and seemed to be in the middle of demanding something from her. Several coins bounced on the wood floor, rolling next to bottles filled with black sand, needles, a rusted knife, sticks of gum, cigarette butts, and a compact that cracked as it hit the wood, spilling powder across the floor.
The stadium smelled cold, the way the air did after a snowstorm. That was the only constant. She felt thin stubble, like fine sandpaper. Some factions in the USA thought that Berlin might become the present day counterpart of ancient Rome - political overlord of Europe: Lara had started blasting them, but quickly realized there were too many to kill. They were just happy to have the meal that was in front of them. The asphalt parking lot of the train station was still wet with yesterday's rain and the overcast sky swollen with the promise of more. Her mother had wanted Val to throw them out, but she'd forgotten.
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