A Dream of Winter

The aisles of the warehouse store wound around like a worm committing self-abuse. High up on one shelf sat a fifty-five gallon drum. All frosty white and silver on a midnight blue and black background, letters spelled out “Winter” like that was the name of a new energy drink.

“Why would anyone want a can of Winter that big?” asked little Jodie.

“Suppose you wanted to make it winter all over the world, all at once?” asked his father.

“I think you’d need a lot more than one can,” said Jodie’s older sister, Miranda.

“Well, yes,” said their father. “You’d need a lot of cans all over the world, hundreds or thousands of them, probably. Then you could open all the cans at once.

“Normally, it’s only winter at the north end of the world, or the south. But if you had enough cans of Winter, you could make it freezing cold, north and south, and even in the middle.”

The children nodded. Their father was wise, if a little strange. They remembered when he had taught them how to use tiny demolition charges to blow up their toys. Little pieces of Transformers and Bratz blown sky-high, while they watched wearing their safety goggles behind barriers made of steel-reinforced Legos.

Then he’d shown them his collection of extra-terrestrial lifeforms in plastic polymer solutions that carried more oxygen than water ever could. The tiny, teddy bear flower fish had been Jodie’s favorite, so cute and pretty, all mauve and gold and kiwifruit green. Miranda had preferred the bigger dart fish, pulling in its prey on a poisoned needle at the end of a line it shot out of its own body. When it ate the teddy bear flower, of course, little Jodie had cried.

But now, the idea of winter all over the world, all at once, had them fascinated and horrified all over again.

“How cold would it get, Daddy?” asked Jodie.

“If you kept opening more cans of Winter,” said his father, “it would just keep getting colder. Cold enough and the air would begin to freeze. First the water vapor would fall out as snow, several feet deep. And the oceans would freeze from the top down, though there might be liquid under the ice for a long time.

“Then the carbon dioxide would freeze, a layer of another kind of snow on top of the water ice and frozen oceans. Then the nitrogen would freeze out, making a slush mixture with liquid oxygen. And aliens would come in big ships to buy the frozen air, taking it away in cubic-mile-size sno-cones.”

“What flavor?” asked Miranda.

“A sort of salty raspberry, I expect,” said her father.

Cat and Dog

The Cat woke up in her tree and took a long stretch before looking around. The sun rose over there and that was right. Birds, delicious birds, flew over there, and that was right. The Dog was sniffing under her tree, and that was wrong.

She sat on her branch and cleaned first her paws and then used her paws to clean her face. She looked again. Yes, he was still there, snuffling and whuffling like a dog-shaped vacuum cleaner. She shuddered to think of it. And so she washed some more.

Finally, the Dog did not seem to be going away so she jumped down to a lower branch and inquired politely, “What are you doing?” She didn’t expect any sort of sensible cat-type answer but some kind of doggy nonsense.

The Dog looked around to see who had spoken but didn’t see anyone so went back to his snuffles and whuffles.

The Cat snickered on her perch. One of the most delicious things about dogs was most of them never learned to look up. “Up here,” she said, smiling with a purr. “I’m talking to you.”

The Dog sat down and looked up. “A cat!” he said. “You’re a cat!”

“Yes,” said the Cat. “And I was asking–”

“A cat!” exclaimed the dog. He stood up. “You’re a cat!”

“Yes, said the Cat. “I–”

“A cat!” shouted the dog. “You’re a cat up inna tree!” He ran in circles, excited by this discovery apparently.

“Yes,” said the Cat. She twitched her tail and reminded herself to be patient.

After a while, the Dog calmed down and said, “Hello, cat-up-inna-tree.” He smiled with a wag.

“Yes, said the Cat. Contrary animals, dogs are, she thought. “What are you doing so industriously whuffling and snuffling under my tree?”

“Your tree?” said the dog. “Did you mark it as yours? I didn’t smell any marks with your name on it.”

“Um,” admitted the Cat. “I’ll take care of that later, after you leave but yes this is my tree.”

“Okay,” said the Dog, “but you really ought to mark things that are yours so that, you know, other people can tell.”

“Yes,” said the Cat.

The Dog stood up, wagging his tail like a small dog-shaped reciprocating fan. “I can show you how to do it and we can go around the neighborhood and mark things as ours!”

“Uh, no,” said the Cat. “I just want to know what you’re doing sniffing around my tree so busily this morning.”

“Oh,” said the Dog, sitting down again so he could more easily look up. “It’s a long story.”

The Cat yawned. “Well, in that case–”

“I could tell you all about it,” said the Dog.

“Don’t bother,” said the Cat, tail twitching. “I’m curious but not that curious.”

“Last night,” said the Dog, “we had a party at our place.”

“Mm,” said the Cat, not hiding a yawn. The Dog lived in the house on the front end of the Cat’s property where a fence marked off the Dog’s territory and kept little people from falling into the swimming pool.

“A barbeque party, out by the pool, with a fire and meat burning and all kinds of wonderful things to eat,” said the Dog.

“Uh, huh,” said the Cat. She had attended a few such parties. Not too bad as long as you didn’t get your tail stepped on. “I was invited but I didn’t go.”

The Dog looked up, wagging his tail. “Next time, I’ll be sure not to invite you so I’ll know that you’ll be there.”

“Huh?” said the Cat. Was the Dog making a joke? Dogs are always funny, the Cat knew, but they don’t know how to tell a joke.

“Anyway,” said the Dog. “My master lost a contact lens at the party last night. I’m hunting it for him.” He got back to the business of sniffing every inch of the ground under the tree.

The Cat knew the Dog’s master, he was one of her slaves and sometimes left exceedingly tasty morsels for her on a shelf high enough that the Dog could not reach it. She looked at the house, at least three leaps, a bound and a scuttle away beyond the rosebush.

“Where did he lose this contact lens? Up by the house, near the pool?” asked the Cat.

“Yes,” said the Dog. “That wasn’t that long of a story after all, was it?” He wagged his tail like a dog-shaped Buddha if Buddha had a tail.

“Not nearly long enough,” said the Cat. “If your master lost his lens up there by the house, why are you hunting for it under my tree?”

The Dog sat down so he could look up again without straining his neck. “It’s clear that you’ve never tried to hunt for anything.”

The Cat twitched her tail. “I hunt birds. I’ve even made your master a present of a few I’ve caught.”

“Birds,” sniffed the Dog. “You wait till someone shoots one and then you go get it.”

“That’s not how I do it,” said the Cat.

“Well, I’m hunting a contact lens and no one is going to shoot one of them for me,” said the Dog.

The Cat paused to clean herself and so she would not spit angrily at the Dog. Finally, she asked. “So, if your master lost something down by the pool, why are you hunting for it up here under my tree?”

“Cats,” sniffed the Dog. “I’m hunting up here because you can’t smell anything next to a swimming pool except chlorine!”

Did I mention that the Dog was shaggy?

Ebony Jewels

Was sitting here and just remembered the very odd dream I was having this morning before I woke up.

It was about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, two of Fritz Leiber’s fantasy characters from a series of books back in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

They had gotten quite old and had retired from adventuring. The Mouser was in his mid-eighties, still spry but having mental problems. A few years younger than his old partner, Fafhrd was very worried about him. Fafhrd was still mentally sharp but had grown fragile. After breaking his hip when an elevator had stopped suddenly, Fafhrd was getting around in a wheelchair which meant that he couldn’t visit the Mouser in his home which was a third floor walk-up in the East Village. So he called me to go check on Mouse.

“Just be sure the little guy is okay,” he begged me. He was being pushed around his Park Avenue apartment by a black, amazonian beauty half his age.

I took a bus over and met the Mouser’s current thirty-something girlfriend in a Starbucks in SoHo. Leisha told me that Mouse was fine, just a little confused sometimes. The part that made her worry was that when he got anxious he would disappear into the building’s conduits and inner spaces, sometimes not coming out for days. “Sheelba is the only one who can talk him out before he’s ready,” Leisha confessed.

Sheelba I remembered was Mouse’s patron and a class-A manipulator. Whitney Houston was singing “How Will I Know If I Really Love You” on the Starbucks music system and that seemed somehow significant.

Mouse himself showed up about then claiming to have found the Ebony Jewels of Nevernight – a bag of espresso beans. The alarm went off and I woke up wondering what a cup of coffee brewed from the Ebony Jewels of Nevernight would taste like.

 

Meat Club

The first rule of Meat Club is never to ask who you’re having for dinner.

The joke above started a conversation between Daniel Ford and I about a new comic series about immortal ghouls and their problems. Meat Club is how we privately refer to this project whose public title will probably be “Feast of the Undying”. In fact, we’ve got three series tentatively planned out, the other two being “Dream of the Undying” and “Tomb of the Undying”.

We haven’t done much more than talk for hours about this so far but I am hoping we get further on it this year as it is kind of an exciting story idea.