The Pathfinder RitualsThese are rituals of summoning and communication. The usual precautionary statements (about following all instructions to the letter, being clear in your own mind about what you want and what you are prepared to pay for it, and above all not being fool enough to actually do any of this) are in full effect.
I’m going to start by talking about the basic ritual, even though I suspect that isn’t what you came for. When you know how to do the basic ritual, you’ll understand how to perform the advanced ritual.
For the basic ritual, you’ll need four things:
• A mirror, the bigger the better.
• A clock. If it’s an analog clock, it should have a second hand. If it’s a digital clock, it should display seconds as well as hours and minutes.
• A comfortable chair. (Yes, it needs to be comfortable. Use a recliner if you have one.)
• One single source of light. It can be a candle, or a light bulb — I favor an LED bulb myself. Whatever
Vignette: President Pratt Tries to ChillA President of the United States — at least a good one — didn’t get a lot of leisure time, particularly when the nation was in crisis. Henry Pratt had been working on one thing or another from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., with only a couple of breaks for meals.
Pratt made the most of the few hours he did have. At 9:45 p.m. he was in bed with an e-reader in his left hand and Claire curled against his right arm. On the nightstand was a wineglass holding the last of a smoky ’94 Oregon Pinot Noir, aged to a deep russet and mellowed to a velvety smoothness, that they’d shared over dinner.
An old Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan jam session, likewise mellowed to a velvety smoothness, was playing on his earpiece. (Someone had once told Pratt that the Duke of Wellington had wanted to be a violinist before going into the army and making history. Pratt himself had once dreamed of being a blues guitarist and singer, but he had never been better than mediocre as a player and t
You Think You Hate Holiday Travel? (1120 words)by Paul Briggs
One of the many bad things about my parents splitting up as soon as I was off to college was that I had to choose who to spend the holidays with. I decided to spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Christmas with Dad. Thing is, Dad was going to be down in Florida that Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and Uncles Jake and Hank.
Not a problem at all. I had a wonderful five-day road trip all planned out. It was going to give me a chance to see places I'd never been — New Orleans, San Antonio — with time to visit the sports bars and see if any of the guys knew who I was yet, and if any of them were cute and feeling brave.
And then I got the word. Uncle Jake and his family were in southern California, and they were going to be flying to Florida for Christmas, and they'd bought an extra ticket just for me.
He shouldn't have. Really. He shouldn't have.
I could have taken the train, or even the bus… but of course, it had to be airplanes. The owner of the secon
Vignette: Nat'l Governors Association Smackdown!As Carrie left the meeting, she broke into a brisk jog. Two men were having a screaming argument in the middle of the hotel lobby. It sounded bad enough that somebody was going to have to step in and referee it. In this case, “somebody” meant her.
She stepped into the lobby and got a look at the arguers. One of them was Governor Gilbert Swank of Arizona — Carrie recognized him because he looked a lot like her father, huge, fat and red-faced. But her father had mostly been the jolly kind of fat man, and Swank looked the opposite of jolly right now.
The other was the governor of Colorado, a skinny guy who was bald right on top of his head. His name was either LaTour or LaCour. Both of them were screaming over each other to the point where Carrie had a hard time telling what they were arguing about, except that water was involved. A much smaller man was holding Swank’s right arm and trying to talk him down.
As Carrie approached the scene of the kerfuffle, she caugh
Vignette: Isabel's Awkward ThanksgivingRodrick Freitag’s house had made it through Gordon undamaged. It was too far north for the wind and too high up for the storm surge. Which made it the perfect place for the Bradshaws and both sets of their grandparents to spend Thanksgiving. Except for the fact that it was a small house, and not really built to accommodate ten extra people. Even getting the various cars and vans in the driveway was a complicated sliding-tiles game.
So of course, out of all possible ways to prepare the turkeys Rod and Chelsey had chosen the one most likely to set the crowded little house on fire. They were deep-frying them.
In the interests of life and property, Isabel was overseeing the process. First, when the two 15-pound turkeys were taken out of the beer brine she measured the remaining brine and used a little Archimedean logic to estimate their volume, so she knew exactly how much oil would go in the fryer. Then she spent a full hour drying them, inside and out, at one point using a hair dry
Locksmith's Journeys: Deleted Scene (First Date?)Just as he was about to go out for a sprint, his phone buzzed.
It was Lucy. “I’m sorry to bring this up,” she said, “but do you remember when Mr. Hance tried to kidnap you?”
“Well… I’ve been talking to Mr. Joyce. The police are going around campgrounds and summer schools, basically reminding kids what to do and what not to do if a stranger approaches them. Joyce thinks it would be good for them to hear from someone who got away from a would-be kidnapper.”
“You want me to go talk to them?”
That had been scary, but Lock remembered how, for a few shining days afterward, he’d been the coolest dude in school. What the hell.
“When do I do this?”
“Saturday at noon. I don’t have the exact address with me, but I can e-mail it to you. I’ll drive you there.”
Lock woke up at six a.m. Friday morning. This gave him three and a half hours to think of t
Locksmith's Journeys: Deleted Scene (Day Care)It was Saturday. Lucy was on her lunch break at the day-care center. To her great surprise, Lee Smith had come over to visit, with a shipping envelope under her arm.
“I found some marijuana and paraphernalia in William’s room, so I searched Lachlan’s room while I was at it,” she said.
“Seriously? You think Lock’s—”
“No. I just… the point is, I found this in the bottom of his closet where the portal used to be.” She took a sketchbook out. “What d’you make of it?”
Lucy leafed dispassionately through the sketchbook. As unpleasant as the subject matter was, the drawings were obviously the product of talent and practice.
“Does Locksmith do a lot of drawing?”
“Not since he was little.”
“Well, then, he couldn’t possibly have done any of this himself. I’m guessing these are by that friend of his back in Georgia.”
“That’s what the note said.”
Locksmith's Journeys: Deleted Scene (Cold Turkey)There was a streetlight outside the building, one of the old kind that gave a pure white light. Standing underneath it, Lucy lit a cigarette. Once she’d drawn in a lungful of smoke, she held her breath for a surprisingly long time before letting it out.
“I thought there should be witnesses,” she said. “This is the last cigarette I’ll ever smoke.”
“Sure it is,” said Rikki.
“I know it’ll be tough, but I don’t plan to fail and I trust” — she gave Rikki a look that suggested no trust at all — “that certain people will be supportive.”
“Don’t look at me. I fully endorse your decision to stop sucking Joe Camel’s puh-roduct. Sorry, I just remembered there’s a kid here.”
The smoke made intricate little curls in the air, like bluish lace. It looked kind of nice, actually, as long as you stayed upwind.
“The Buddhists,” said Lucy, “say that all suff
One of Those Brain Chip Thingsby Paul Briggs
The first rule of medicine is “First, do no harm.”
The second rule is, “When you’re sewing up a patient after a splenectomy, try not to leave your smartphone in there.” I failed to heed this rule, and now I live in Miami and work as an orderly in a nursing home, while supplementing my income with the occasional illegal procedure.
Mostly this involves either removing unwanted bullets from unsavory characters without reporting them to the police, or altering the hormone balances of athletes in ways that will improve their performance for a few years and probably kill them later. Every once in a while, however, I get a strange case.
“I want one of those brain chip things in my head,” says the kid in the back room that doubles as my office.
Meet Brenton. Nineteen years old. In Miami, officially for Spring Break. Tall, slim, fresh-faced, curly-haired, leaving a trail of privilege wherever he goes. Been to all the right schools,