Matthew Skala

Row of pins


I had the car, so it must be within the last couple years, but I don't know the highway. I was a long way from anywhere, and I have a memory I think must have been a little earlier, of driving through a strange flat land with dead trees and oily puddles of lakes. But this one picks up where I'm eating dinner in a large log house with an elderly couple. I don't recognize them, I think we must have just met, and they're being very hospitable. Earlier the man was showing me something in the garage that he was proud of. A computer-controlled milling machine, maybe? Maybe it was more like a jigsaw. I think he had built it himself. He was using it to make stupid kitschy plywood cut-outs and she would douse them in acrylic latex. Such a waste. The room was decorated with the cut-outs and I had seen more in the yard.

Light and Speed

It's not so easy to find a primitive, backward culture anymore. Satellite constellations can lay down a gigahertz on every square kilometer of the Earth's surface and where there's a signal there will be receivers. We need not even mention the orbitals. The painters may be naked - they may be using mud pigments and hair brushes. You might mistake them for a tiny group of prehistoric people somehow cut off from the march of progress for thousands of years. That would be a mistake. Machines dug this cave, the hair for the brushes was grown by bacteria in a bottle, and the design taking shape on the wall does not represent an animal to be hunted. Not exactly.

Freezing spirits of Air

by Matthew Skala


My cat watches me from his patch of sunlight. No familiar spirit this year; just an ordinary cat, black and sleek and wise in the manner of cats. Does he feel my pain? I have heard that cats have a similar disease, a slow waning of the body's defenses. But can he comprehend my unique fear?

When I was young and immortal I feared nothing; but in eight centuries I have grown wiser. Even as I advanced my position, removing my enemies one by one, I was learning the price of such advancement. Wizards have long memories, I know this; even dead ones. I fear not death but who waits for me on the other side.

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