American Gods

We are marking the ten-year anniversary of our American Gods collaboration with Neil Gaiman by introducing the next installment of scents inspired by his beautiful, harrowing, heart-shredding novel. It is one of my favorite books and Neil is one of my favorite humans, so this project is extremely dear to my heart. In the first installment, we are introducing sixteen new scents: Believe, Black Hats, Coin Trick, Eostre of the Dawn, For the Joy of It, Glass Eye, Laura, Low-Key Lyesmith, Media, Mister Wednesday, Mr. Czernobog, Shadow, Technical Boy, and the Zoryas. 

Our sister shop, Black Phoenix Trading Post, has launched an American Gods atmosphere spray line, so you can invoke the spilled beer and fries of the Crocodile Bar, the horrors of the Bone Orchard, the Hall of Forgotten Gods’ long-dead incenses, or the biting cold of a Lakeside winter. Nail lacquers will be coming to the Post in future installments!

Your purchase from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Black Phoenix Trading Post will help our friends at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund promote and defend First Amendment rights.

The paradigms were shifting. He could feel it. The old world, a world of infinite vastness and illimitable resources and future, was being confronted by something else—a web of energy, of opinions, of gulfs.

People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they will not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.

The mountaintop was an arena; he saw that immediately. And on each side of the arena he could see them arrayed.

They were too big. Everything was too big in that place.

There were old gods in that place: gods with skins the brown of old mushrooms, the pink of chicken flesh, the yellow of autumn leaves. Some were crazy and some were sane. Shadow recognized the old gods. He’d met them already, or he’d met others like them. There were ifrits and piskies, giants and dwarfs. He saw the woman he had met in the darkened bedroom in Rhode Island, saw the writhing green snake-coils of her hair. He saw Mama-ji, from the carousel, and there was blood on her hands and a smile on her face. He knew them all.

He recognized the new ones, too.

Neil Gaiman is the winner of numerous literary honors and is the New York Times bestselling author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, American Gods, Neverwhere, Stardust and Anansi Boys; the Sandman series of graphic novels; three short story collections and one book of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats.

Neil is the first author to win both the Carnegie Medal and the Newbery Medal for one work, The Graveyard Book. He also writes books for readers of all ages including the novels Fortunately, the Milk and Odd and the Frost Giants and picture books including The Sleeper and the Spindle and the Chu’s Day series. Neil’s most recent publication, Norse Mythology has topped bestseller lists worldwide.

Originally from England, he now lives in the USA. He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, and he says he owes it all to reading the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook as a young man.

This series based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, SFX Magazine and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel, and now a Starz television series.

Visit Neil’s official site, American Gods at Starz, and NeverWear.

This is a charitable, not-for-profit venture: proceeds from every single bottle go to the CBLDF, which works to preserve and protect the First Amendment rights of the comics community.

Original American Gods art by Hugo-winner Julie Dillon.

PERFUME OIL BLENDS
$26.00 per 5ml bottle.
Presented in an amber apothecary glass vial.
Because of the nature of this project, imps are not available for any American Gods scents.

  • AGWEB-bilquis

    Bilquis

    3.5 out of 5

    The Queen of Sheba, half-demon, they said, on her father’s side, witch woman, wise woman, and queen, who ruled Sheba when Sheba was the richest land there ever was, when its spices and its gems and scented woods were taken by boat and camel-back to the corners of the earth, who was worshipped even when she was alive, worshipped as a living goddess by the wisest of kings, stands on the sidewalk of Sunset Boulevard at 2:00 A.M. staring blankly out at traffic like a slutty plastic bride on a black-and-neon wedding cake. She stands as if she owns the sidewalk and the night that surrounds her.

    Honey, myrrh, lily of the valley, rose otto, fig leaf, almond, ambrette, red apple, and warm musk.

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  • AGWEB-mad sweeney

    Mad Sweeney

    “Coin tricks is it?” asked Sweeney, his chin raising, his scruffy beard bristling. “Why, if it’s coin tricks we’re doing, watch this.”

    He took an empty glass from the table. Then he reached out and took a large coin, golden and shining, from the air. He dropped it into the glass. He took another gold coin from the air and tossed it into the glass, where it clinked against the first. He took a coin from the candle flame of a candle on the wall, another from his beard, a third from Shadow’s empty left hand, and dropped them, one by one, into the glass. Then he curled his fingrs over the glass, and blew hard, and several more golden coins dropped into the glass from his hand. He tipped the glass of sticky coins into his jacket pocket, and then tapped the pocket to show, unmistakably, that it was empty.

    “There,” he said. “That’s a coin trick for you.”

    Barrel-aged whiskey and oak.

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  • AGWEB-mama ji

    Mama-Ji

    4.67 out of 5

    Shadow saw the old woman, her dark face pinched with age and disapproval, but behind her he saw something huge, a naked woman with skin as black as a new leather jacket, and lips and tongue the bright red of arterial blood. Around her neck were skulls, and her many hands held knives, and swords, and severed heads.

    Spices, cardamom, nutmeg, and flowers.

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  • AGWEB-mr ibis

    Mr. Ibis

    The smoke stung Shadow’s eyes. He wiped the tears away with his hand, and, through the smoke, he thought he saw a tall man in a suit, with gold-rimmed spectacles. The smoke cleared and the boatman was once more a half-human creature with the head of a river bird.

    Papyrus, vanilla flower, Egyptian musk, African musk, aloe ferox, white sandalwood.

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  • AGWEB-mr jacquel

    Mr. Jacquel

    5 out of 5

    Shadow looked up at the creature. “Mr. Jacquel?” he said.

    The hands of Anubis came down, huge dark hands, and they picked Shadow up and brought him close.

    The jackal head examined him with bright and glittering eyes; examined him as dispassionately as Mr. Jacquel had examined the dead girl on the slab. Shadow knew that all his faults, all his failings, all his weaknesses were being taken out and weighed and measured; that he was, in some way, being dissected, and sliced, and tasted.

    We do not remember the things that do no credit to us. We justify them, cover them in bright lies or with the thick dust of forgetfulness. All of the things that Shadow had done in his life of which he was not proud, all the things he wished he had done otherwise or left undone, came at him then in a swirling storm of guilt and regret and shame, and he had nowhere to hide from them. He was as naked and as open as a corpose on a table, and dark Anubis the jackal god was his prosector and his prosecutor and his persecutor.

    “Please,” said Shadow. “Please stop.”

    But the examination did not stop. Every lie he had ever told, every object he had stolen, every hurt he had inflicted on another person, all the little crimes and the tiny murders that make up the day, each of these things and more were extracted and held up to the light by the jackal-headed judge of the dead.

    Golden amber, hyssop, North African patchouli, and embalming spices.

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  • AGWEB-the ifrit

    The Ifrit

    3.5 out of 5

    The taxi driver comes out of the shower, wet, with a towel wrapped around his midsection. He is not wearing his sunglasses, and in the dim room his eyes burn with scarlet flames.

    Salim blinks back tears. “I wish you could see what I see,” he says.

    “I do not grant wishes,” whispers the ifrit, dropping his towel and pushing Salim gently, but irresistibly, down onto the bed.

    Desert sand, red musk, blackened ginger, dragon’s blood resin, black pepper, cinnamon, and tobacco.

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  • AGWEB-the norns farmhouse

    The Norns’ Farmhouse

    The farmhouse was dark and shut up. The meadows were overgrown and seemed abandoned. The farm roof was crumbling at the back; it was covered in black plastic sheeting. They jolted over a ridge and Shadow saw it there.

    It was silver-gray and it was higher than the farm-house. It was the most beautiful tree Shadow had ever seen: spectral and yet utterly real and almost perfectly symmetrical. It also looked instantly familiar: he wondered if he had dreamed it, then he realized that no, he had seen it before, or a representation of it man, many times. It was Wednesday’s silver tie pin.

    The VW bus jolted and bumped across the meadow, and it came to a stop about twenty feet from the trunk of the tree.

    There were three women standing by the tree. At first glance Shadow thought they were the Zorya, but no, they were three women he did not know. They looked tired and bored, as if they had been standing there a long time. Each of them held a wooden ladder. The biggest also carried a brown sack. They looked like a set of Russian dolls: a tall one – she was Shadow’s height, or even taller – a middle-sized one, and a woman so short and hunched that at first glance Shadow wrongly supposed her to be a child. They looked so much alike that Shadow was certain the women must be sisters.

    The smallest of the women dropped to a curtsey when the bus drew up. The other two just stared. They were sharing a cigarette, and they smoked it down to the filter before one of them stubbed it out against a root.

    Dusty, ancient wood, horehound, and sage, with viper’s bugloss, mugwort, chamomile, nettle, apple blossom, chervil, and ashes.

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American Gods - I

  • AGWEB-believe

    Believe

    Shadow was in a dark place, and the thing staring at him wore a buffalo’s head, rank and furry with huge wet eyes. Its body was a man’s body, oiled and slick.

    “Changes are coming,” said the buffalo without moving its lips. “There are certain decisions that will have to be made.”

     Firelight flickered from wet cave walls.

    “Where am I?” Shadow asked.

    “In the earth and under the earth,” said the buffalo man. “You are where the forgotten wait.” His eyes were liquid black marbles, and his voice was a rumble from beneath the world. He smelled like wet cow. “Believe,” said the rumbling voice. “If you are to survive, you must believe.”

    “Believe what?” asked Shadow. “What should I believe?”

    He stared at Shadow, the buffalo man, and he drew himself up huge, and his eyes filled with fire. He opened his spit-flecked buffalo mouth and it was red inside with the flames that burned inside him, under the earth.

    “Everything,” roared the buffalo man.

     

    A scent of compression and release, of heat and faith, of plunging through the jet-shadowed darkness of uncertainty. The heart of the land: roots plunging ever deeper into thrumming black soil through the graves of faith, disillusion, and skepticism.

     

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  • AGWEB-black hats

    Black Hats

    “So who were the guys that grabbed me in the parking lot? Mister Wood and Mister Stone? Who were they?” The lights of the car illuminated the winter landscape. Wednesday had announced that they were not to take freeways because he didn’t know whose side the freeways were on, so Shadow was sticking to back roads. He didn’t mind. He wasn’t even sure that Wednesday was crazy.

    Wednesday grunted. “Just spooks. Members of the opposition. Black hats.”

    “I think,” said Shadow, “that they think they’re the white hats.”

    “Of course they do. There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe that they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”

    “And you?” asked Shadow. “Why are you doing what you’re doing?”

    “Because I want to,” said Wednesday. And then he grinned. “So that’s all right.”

     

    Gunpowder residue, patent leather, pomade, and aftershave.

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  • AGWEB-coin trick

    Coin Trick

    Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

    The best thing—in Shadow’s opinion, perhaps the only good thing—about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he’d plunged as low as he could plunge and he’d hit bottom. He didn’t worry that the man was going to get him, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

     

    Glittering gold and silver, rolling over knuckles – concealed in palms – and pulled from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

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  • AGWEB-eostre

    Eostre of the Dawn

    4 out of 5

    There was a woman sitting on the grass, under a tree, with a paper tablecloth spread in front of her, and a variety of Tupperware dishes on the cloth.

    She was—not fat, no, far from fat: what she was, a word that Shadow had never had cause to use until now, was curvaceous. Her hair was so fair that it was white, the kind of platinum-blonde tresses that should have belonged to a long-dead movie starlet, her lips were painted crimson, and she looked to be somewhere between twenty-five and fifty.

    As they reached her she was selecting from a plate of deviled eggs. She looked up as Wednesday approached her, put down the egg she had chosen, and wiped her hand. “Hello, you old fraud,” she said, but she smiled as she said it, and Wednesday bowed low, took her hand, and raised it to his lips.

    He said, “You look divine.”

    “How the hell else should I look?” she demanded, sweetly. “Anyway, you’re a liar. New Orleans was such a mistake—I put on, what, thirty pounds there? I swear. I knew I had to leave when I started to waddle. The tops of my thighs rub together when I walk now, can you believe that?” This last was addressed to Shadow. He had no idea what to say in reply, and felt a hot flush suffuse his face. The woman laughed delightedly. “He’s blushing! Wednesday, my sweet, you brought me a blusher. How perfectly wonderful of you. What’s he called?”

    “This is Shadow,” said Wednesday. He seemed to be enjoying Shadow’s discomfort. “Shadow, say hello to Easter.”

     

    Jasmine and honeysuckle, sweet milk and female skin.

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  • AGWEB-for the joy of it

    For the Joy of It

    In prison Shadow had learned there were two kinds of fights: don’t fuck with me fights, where you made it as showy and impressive as you could, and private fights, real fights, which were fast and hard and nasty, and always over in seconds.

    “Hey, Sweeney,” said Shadow, breathless, “why are we fighting?”

    “For the joy of it,” said Sweeney, sober now, or at least, no longer visibly drunk. “For the sheer unholy fucken delight of it. Can’t you feel the joy in your own veins, rising like the sap in the springtime?” His lip was bleeding. So was Shadow’s knuckle.

    Whiskey, mead, honey, gold, sweat, and blood.

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  • AGWEB-glass eye

    Glass Eye

    “How’d you lose your eye?”

    Wednesday shoveled half a dozen pieces of bacon into his mouth, chewed, wiped the fat from his lips with the back of his hand. “Didn’t lose it,” he said. “I still know exactly where it is.”

     

    The depths of Mímisbrunnr: mugwort and frankincense, grey amber and ash.

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  • AGWEB-laura

    Laura

    There was something he wanted to say to Laura, and he was prepared to wait until he knew what it was. The world slowly began to lose light and color. Shadow’s feet were going numb, while his hands and face hurt from the cold. He burrowed his hands into his pockets for warmth, and his fingers closed about the gold coin.

    He walked over to the grave.

    “This is for you,” he said.

    Several shovels of earth had been emptied onto the casket, but the hole was far from full. He threw the gold coin into the grave with Laura, then he pushed more earth into the hole, to hide the coin from acquisitive grave diggers. He brushed the earth from his hands and said, “Good night, Laura.” Then he said, “I’m sorry.”

    Violets, upturned earth, mothballs, formaldehyde (mixed with glycerin and lanolin), and the memory of the taste of strawberry daiquiris suspended in twilight.

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  • AGWEB-low key lyesmith

    Low Key Lyesmith

    “Cigarette, sir?”

    “No, thank you.”

    “You don’t mind if I do?”

    “Go right ahead.”

    The driver used a Bic disposable lighter, and it was in the yellow light of the flame that Shadow saw the man’s face, actually saw it for the first time, and recognized him, and began to understand.

    Shadow knew that thin face. He knew that there would be close-cropped orange hair beneath the black driver’s cap, cut close to the scalp. He knew that when the man’s lips smiled they would crease into a network of rough scars.

    “You’re looking good, big guy,” said the driver.

    “Low Key?” Shadow stared at his old cellmate warily.

    Prison friendships are good things: they get you through bad places and through dark times. But a prison friendship ends at the prison gates, and a prison friend who reappears in your life is at best a mixed blessing.

    “Jesus. Low Key Lyesmith,” said Shadow, and then he heard what he was saying and he understood. “Loki,” he said. “Loki Lie-Smith.”

    “You’re slow,” said Loki, “but you get there in the end.” And his lips twisted into a scarred smile and embers danced in the shadows of his eyes.

     

    Black clove and cassia flung onto glowing cinders and mingled with slow-dripping poisons.

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  • AGWEB-media

    Media

    5 out of 5

    Waiting for them in front of the motel was a woman Shadow did not recognize. She was perfectly made-up, perfectly coiffed. She reminded him of every newscaster he’d ever seen on morning television sitting in a studio that didn’t really resemble a living room.

    “Lovely to see you,” she said. “Now, you must be Czernobog. I’ve heard a lot about you. And you’re Anansi, always up to mischief, eh? You jolly old man. And you, you must be Shadow. You’ve certainly led us a merry chase, haven’t you?” A hand took his, pressed it firmly, looked him straight in the eye. “I’m Media. Good to meet you. I hope we can get this evening’s business done as pleasantly as possible.”

     

    A news anchor’s cologne, a soap star’s perfume: perfect, pixelated, and glamorous; aglow with cathodes and anodes, coated with phosphor. “I offered you the world,” she said. “When you’re dying in a gutter, you remember that.”

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  • AGWEB-mister wednesday

    Mister Wednesday

    His hair was a reddish gray; his beard, little more than stubble, was grayish red. A craggy, square face with pale gray eyes. The suit looked expensive, and was the color of melted vanilla ice cream. His tie was dark gray silk, and the tie pin was a tree, worked in silver: trunk, branches, and deep roots.

    He held his glass of Jack Daniel’s as they took off, and did not spill a drop.

     

    Sleek cologne, the memory of a Nine Herbs Charm, gallows wood, and a splash of whiskey.

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  • AGWEB-mr czernobog

    Mr. Czernobog

    5 out of 5

    Shadow saw a gray-haired old Eastern-European immigrant, with a shabby raincoat and one iron-colored tooth, true. But he also saw a squat black thing, darker than the darkness that surrounded them, its eyes two burning coals; and he saw a prince, with long flowing black hair and a long black mustache, blood on his hands and his face, riding, naked but for a bear skin over his shoulder, on a creature half-man, half-beast, his face and torso blue-tattooed with swirls and spirals.


    Unfiltered cigarettes, the leather and metal of sledgehammers, aortal blood slowly drying, and black incense.

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  • AGWEB-shadow

    Shadow

    5 out of 5

    “How the hell did you find me here?” he asked his dead wife.

    She shook her head slowly, amused. “You shine like a beacon in a dark world,” she told him. “It wasn’t that hard…”

    Grey oudh and bay rum luminous with amber.

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  • AGWEB-technical boy

    Technical Boy

    The fat young man at the other end of the stretch limo took a can of diet Coke from the cocktail bar and popped it open. He wore a long black coat, made of some silky material, and he appeared barely out of his teens: a spattering of acne glistened on one cheek. He smiled when he saw that Shadow was awake.

    “Hello, Shadow,” he said. “Don’t fuck with me.”

     

    It’s all about the dominant fucking paradigm, Shadow. Nothing else is important: vape smoke and burning electrical parts.

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  • AGWEB-zorya polunochnaya

    Zorya Polunochnaya

    4.75 out of 5

    Her hair was pale and colorless in the moon’s thin light. She wore a white cotton nightgown, with a high lace neck and a hem that swept the ground. Shadow sat up, entirely awake. “You are Zorya Polu . . . ,” he hesitated. “The sister who was asleep.”

    “I am Zorya Polunochnaya, yes. And you are called Shadow, yes? That was what Zorya Vechernyaya told me, when I woke.”

    “Yes. What were you looking at, out there?”

    She looked at him, then she beckoned him to join her by the window. She turned her back while he pulled on his jeans. He walked over to her. It seemed a long walk, for such a small room.

    He could not tell her age. Her skin was unlined, her eyes were dark, her lashes were long, her hair was to her waist and white. The moonlight drained colors into ghosts of themselves. She was taller than either of her sisters.

    She pointed up into the night sky. “I was looking at that,” she said, pointing to the Big Dipper. “See?”

    “Ursa Major,” he said. “The Great Bear.”

    “That is one way of looking at it,” she said. “But it is not the way from where I come from. I am going to sit on the roof. Would you like to come with me?”

     

    Pale amber and ambergris, gossamer vanilla, moonflower, and white tobacco petals.

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  • AGWEB-zorya utrennyaya

    Zorya Utrennyaya

    4 out of 5

    “Why you are standing at the door?” asked a woman’s voice. Shadow looked over Czernobog’s shoulder, at the old woman standing behind him. She was smaller and frailer than her sister, but her hair was long and still golden. “I am Zorya Utrennyaya,” she said. “You must not stand there in the hall. You must go in, sit down. I will bring you coffee.”

     

    Sweet black coffee and a touch of ambrette seed.

     

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  • AGWEB-zorya vercernyaya

    Zorya Vechernyaya

    4 out of 5

    “You see, I am the only one of us who brings in any money. The other two cannot make money fortune-telling. This is because they only tell the truth, and the truth is not what people want to hear. It is a bad thing, and it troubles people, so they do not come back. But I can lie to them, tell them what they want to hear. So I bring home the bread.”

    Red musk and wild plum, orange blossom and jasmine, juniper berries, sweet incense and vetiver-laced sandalwood.

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American Gods - II

  • americangodsWEB-america's new gods

    America’s New Gods

    “Now, as all of you will have had reason aplenty to discover for yourselves, there are new gods growing in America, clinging to growing knots of belief: gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance.”

    Scorched wires, silicone, tar, chlorine, wax, rubber, and exhaust.

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  • americangodsWEB-becoming thunder

    Becoming Thunder

    5 out of 5

    “You got to understand the god thing. It’s not magic. It’s about being you, but the you that people believe in. It’s about being the concentrated, magnified, essence of you. It’s about becoming thunder, or the power of a running horse, or wisdom. You take all the belief and become bigger, cooler, more than human. You crystallize.”

    This is the scent of the absolute: this is the perfected manifestation of the absolute essence of not who you are, but what you represent to others. This is You as Symbol, your spirit separated and combined, distilled and condensed into one archetype. Skin musk and 20-year aged frankincense, a sprig of asphodel, a splash of soma, a lightning-streak of sharp ozone, and a stream of ambrosia.

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  • americangodsWEB-cigarettes and offerings

    Cigarettes and Offerings

    “I think,” he pronounced, gloomily, “that our kind, we like the cigarettes so much because they remind us of the offerings that once they burned for us, the smoke rising up as they sought our approval or our favor.”

    Cigarette smoke overlapping with the resonance of long-forgotten incenses.

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  • americangodsWEB-search engine

    Search Engine

    “What the hell is that?” asked Shadow, but Wednesday touched his finger to his lips, shook his head sharply. Silence.

    It looked like a mechanical spider, blue metal, glittering LED lights, and it was the size of a tractor. It squatted at the bottom of the hill. Beyond it were an assortment of bones, each with a flame beside it little bigger than a candle-flame, flickering.

    Dark metal and sour grapefruit creeping over a field of bones.

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  • americangodsWEB-take the moon

    Take the Moon

    She held his hand, with a hand that was icy cold. “You were given protection once. You were given the sun itself. But you lost it already. You gave it away. All I can give you is much weaker protection. The daughter, not the father. But all helps. Yes?” Her white hair blew about her face in the chilly wind.

    “Do I have to fight you? Or play checkers?” he asked.

    “You do not even have to kiss me,” she told him. “Just take the moon from me.”

    “How?”

    “Take the moon.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Watch,” said Zorya Polunochnaya. She raised her left hand and held it in front of the moon, so that her forefinger and thumb seemed to be grasping it. Then, in one smooth movement, she plucked at it. For a moment, it looked like she had taken the moon from the sky, but then Shadow saw that the moon shone still, and Zorya Polunochnaya opened her hand to display a silver Liberty-head dollar resting between finger and thumb.

    “That was beautifully done,” said Shadow. “I didn’t see you palm it. And I don’t know how you did that last bit.”

    “I did not palm it,” she said. “I took it. And now I give it you, to keep safe. Here. Don’t give this one away.”

    Silvered musk and lemon peel, white fir needle, frosted apple blossom, and mugwort.

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  • americangodsWEB-the best lies

    The Best Lies

    5 out of 5

    “Such a pity,” Zorya Vechernyaya told Shadow. “In my fortune for you, I should have said you would have a long life and a happy one, with many children.”

    “That is why you are a good fortune-teller,” said Zorya Utrennyaya. She looked sleepy, as if it were an effort for her to be up so late. “You tell the best lies.”

    The melodious sweetness of false fortunes: sugar-swept honey and rose.

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  • americangodsWEB-buffalo man

    The Buffalo Man

    Darkness; a sensation of falling—as if he were tumbling down a great hole, like Alice. He fell for a hundred years into darkness. Faces passed him, swimming out of the black, then each face was ripped up and away before he could touch it . . .

    Abruptly, and without transition, he was not falling. Now he was in a cave, and he was no longer alone. Shadow stared into familiar eyes: huge, liquid black eyes. They blinked.

    Under the earth: yes. He remembered this place. The stink of wet cow. Firelight flickered on the wet cave walls, illuminating the buffalo head, the man’s body, skin the color of brick clay.

    “Can’t you people leave me be?” asked Shadow. “I just want to sleep.”

    The buffalo man nodded, slowly. His lips did not move, but a voice in Shadow’s head said, “Where are you going, Shadow?”

    “Cairo.”

    “Why?”

    “Where else have I got to go? It’s where Wednesday wants me to go. I drank his mead.” In Shadow’s dream, with the power of dream logic behind it, the obligation seemed unarguable: he drank Wednesday’s mead three times, and sealed the pact—what other choice of action did he have?

    The buffalo-headed man reached a hand into the fire, stirring the embers and the broken branches into a blaze. “The storm is coming,” he said. Now there was ash on his hands, and he wiped it onto his hairless chest, leaving soot-black streaks.

    “So you people keep telling me. Can I ask you a question?”

    There was a pause. A fly settled on the furry forehead. The buffalo man flicked it away. “Ask.”

    “Is this true? Are these people really gods? It’s all so . . .” He paused. Then he said, “impossible,” which was not exactly the word he had been going for but seemed to be the best he could do.

    “What are gods?” asked the buffalo man.

    “I don’t know,” said Shadow.

    Warm dark brown musk, woodsmoke, and deep pools of labdanum.

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  • americangodsWEB-jeweled spider

    The Jeweled Spider

    4.5 out of 5

    He was looking at Mr. Nancy, an old black man with a pencil mustache, in his check sports jacket and his lemon-yellow gloves, riding a carousel lion as it rose and lowered, high in the air; and, at the same time, in the same place, he saw a jeweled spider as high as a horse, its eyes an emerald nebula, strutting, staring down at him; and simultaneously he was looking at an extraordinarily tall man with teak-colored skin and three sets of arms, wearing a flowing ostrich-feather headdress, his face painted with red stripes, riding an irritated golden lion, two of his six hands holding on tightly to the beast’s mane; and he was also seeing a young black boy, dressed in rags, his left foot all swollen and crawling with blackflies; and last of all, and behind all these things, Shadow was looking at a tiny brown spider, hiding under a withered ocher leaf.

    Shadow saw all these things, and he knew they were the same thing.

    “If you don’t close your mouth,” said the many things that were Mr. Nancy, “somethin’s goin’ to fly in there.”

    Cigarillo smoke, spatters of ice cream sundae, a supersized mug of coffee, a pile of fruit, and a little bit of curried goat.

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American Gods - III

  • americangodsWEB-all father

    All-Father

    Wednesday guided his wolf—now a huge and charcoal-gray beast with green eyes—over to Shadow. Shadow’s mount caracoled away from it, and Shadow stroked its neck and told it not to be afraid. Its tiger tail swished, aggressively. It occurred to Shadow that there was another wolf, a twin to the one that Wednesday was riding, keeping pace with them in the sand dunes, just a moment out of sight.

    “Do you know me, Shadow?” said Wednesday. He rode his wolf with his head high. His right eye glittered and flashed, his left eye was dull. He wore a cloak with a deep, monklike cowl, and his face stared out from the shadows. “I told you I would tell you my names. This is what they call me. I am called Glad-of-War, Grim, Raider, and Third. I am One-Eyed. I am called Highest, and True-Guesser. I am Grimnir, and I am the Hooded One. I am All-Father, and I am Gondlir Wand-Bearer. I have as many names as there are winds, as many titles as there are ways to die. My ravens are Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory; my wolves are Freki and Geri; my horse is the gallows.” Two ghostly-gray ravens, like transparent skins of birds, landed on Wednesday’s shoulders, pushed their beaks into the side of Wednesday’s head as if tasting his mind, and flapped out into the world once more.

    Oak leaves and ash, honey mead, wolf musk, a flutter of black feathers, and bronze fennel.

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  • americangodsWEB-alviss

    Alviss

    The peculiar-looking man was of average height, but of an odd shape: Shadow had heard of men who were barrel-chested before, but had no image to accompany the metaphor. This man was barrel-chested, and he had legs like, yes, like tree trunks, and hands like, exactly, ham hocks. He wore a black parka with a hood, several sweaters, thick dungarees, and, incongruously, in the winter and with those clothes, a pair of white tennis shoes, which were the same size and shape as shoeboxes. His fingers resembled sausages, with flat, squared-off fingertips.

    “That’s some hum you got,” said Shadow from the driver’s seat.

    “Sorry,” said the peculiar young man, in a deep, deep voice, embarrassed. He stopped humming.

    “No, I enjoyed it,” said Shadow. “Don’t stop.”

    The peculiar young man hesitated, then commenced to hum once more, his voice as deep and reverberant as before. This time there were words interspersed in the humming. “Down down down,” he sang, so deeply that the windows rattled. “Down down down, down down, down down.”

    Thick, tangled, and strong: ash and oak, elm and pine, reaching down, down, and deeper down into earth.

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  • americangodsWEB-bast

    Bast

    5 out of 5

    There was a girl. He had met her somewhere, and now they were walking across a bridge. It spanned a small lake, in the middle of a town. The wind was ruffling the surface of the lake, making waves tipped with whitecaps, which seemed to Shadow to be tiny hands reaching for him.

    — Down there, said the woman. She was wearing a leopard-print skirt, which flapped and tossed in the wind, and the flesh between the top of her stockings and her skirt was creamy and soft and in his dream, on the bridge, before God and the world, Shadow went down to his knees in front of her, burying his head in her crotch, drinking in the intoxicating jungle female scent of her. He became aware, in his dream, of his erection in real life, a rigid, pounding, monstrous thing as painful in its hardness as the erections he’d had as a boy, when he was crashing into puberty.

    He pulled away and looked upward, and still he could not see her face. But his mouth was seeking hers and her lips were soft against his, and his hands were cupping her breasts, and then they were running across the satin smoothness of her skin, pushing into and parting the furs that hid her waist, sliding into the wonderful cleft of her, which warmed and wetted and parted for him, opening to his hand like a flower.

    The woman purred against him ecstatically, her hand moving down to the hardness of him and squeezing it. He pushed the bedsheets away and rolled on top of her, his hand parting her thighs, her hand guiding him between her legs, where one thrust, one magical push . . .

    Now he was back in his old prison cell with her, and he was kissing her deeply. She wrapped her arms tightly around him, clamped her legs about his legs to hold him tight, so he could not pull out, not even if he wanted to.

    Never had he kissed lips so soft. He had not known that there were lips so soft in the whole world. Her tongue, though, was sandpaper-rough as it slipped against his.

    —Who are you? he asked.

    She made no answer, just pushed him onto his back and, in one lithe movement, straddled him and began to ride him. No, not to ride him: to insinuate herself against him in series of silken-smooth waves, each more powerful than the one before, strokes and beats and rhythms that crashed against his mind and his body just as the wind-waves on the lake splashed against the shore. Her nails were needle-sharp and they pierced his sides, raking them, but he felt no pain, only pleasure, everything was transmuted by some alchemy into moments of utter pleasure.

    He struggled to find himself, struggled to talk, his head now filled with sand dunes and desert winds.

    —Who are you? he asked again, gasping for the words.

    She stared at him with eyes the color of dark amber, then lowered her mouth to his and kissed him with a passion, kissed him so completely and so deeply that there, on the bridge over the lake, in his prison cell, in the bed in the Cairo funeral home, he almost came. He rode the sensation like a kite riding a hurricane, willing it not to crest, not to explode, wanting it never to end.

    A desert wind alight with myrrh and golden amber, cardamom and honey, bourbon vanilla and cacao.

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  • americangodsWEB-chad

    Chad

    5 out of 5

    “Everything okay here?” said a cop inside.

    Shadow’s first, automatic instinct was to say Yup, everything’s just fine and jimdandy thank you officer. But it was too late for that, and he started to say, “I think I’m freezing. I was walking into Lakeside to buy food and clothes, but I underestimated the length of the walk”—he was that far through the sentence in his head, when he realized that all that had came out was “F-f-freezing,” and a chattering noise, and he said, “So s-sorry. Cold. Sorry.”

    The cop pulled open the back door of the car and said, “You get in there this moment and warm yourself up, okay?” Shadow climbed in gratefully, and he sat in the back and rubbed his hands together, trying not to worry about frostbitten toes. The cop got back in the driver’s seat. Shadow stared at him through the metal grille. Shadow tried not to think about the last time he’d been in the back of a police car, or to notice that there were no door handles in the back, and to concentrate instead on rubbing life back into his hands. His face hurt and his red fingers hurt, and now, in the warmth, his toes were starting to hurt once more. That was, Shadow figured, a good sign.

    The cop put the car in drive and moved off. “You know, that was,” he said, not turning to look at Shadow, just talking a little louder, “if you’ll pardon me saying so, a real stupid thing to do. You didn’t hear any of the weather advisories? It’s minus thirty out there. God alone knows what the windchill is, minus sixty, minus seventy, although I figure when you’re down at minus thirty, windchill’s the least of your worries.”

    “Thanks,” said Shadow. “Thanks for stopping. Very, very grateful.”

    “Woman in Rhinelander went out this morning to fill her bird feeder in her robe and carpet slippers and she froze, literally froze, to the sidewalk. She’s in intensive care now. It was on the TV this morning. You’re new in town.” It was almost a question, but the man knew the answer already.

    “I came in on the Greyhound last night. Figured today I’d buy myself some warm clothes, food, and a car. Wasn’t expecting this cold.”

    “Yeah,” said the cop. “It took me by surprise as well. I was too busy worrying about global warming. I’m Chad Mulligan. I’m the chief of police here in Lakeside.”

    The scent of a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

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  • americangodsWEB-dead words on a dead frequency

    Dead Words on a Dead Frequency

    “You’re dead, Mad Sweeney,” said Shadow. “You take what you’re given when you’re dead.”

    “Aye, that I shall,” sighed the dead man sitting in the back of the hearse. The junkie whine had vanished from his voice now, replaced with a resigned flatness, as if the words were being broadcast from a long, long way away, dead words being sent out on a dead frequency.

    Tinny eucalyptus and elemi against a flat black backdrop of opoponax.

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  • americangodsWEB-eat the strawberries

    Eat the Strawberries

    Still, there was a tale he had read once, long ago, as a small boy: the story of a traveler who had slipped down a cliff, with man-eating tigers above him and a lethal fall below him, who managed to stop his fall halfway down the side of the cliff, holding on for dear life. There was a clump of strawberries beside him, and certain death above him and below. What should he do? went the question.

    And the reply was, Eat the strawberries.

    Strawberries, fresh-picked.

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  • americangodsWEB-fuck you said the raven

    Fuck You, Said the Raven

    4.5 out of 5

    “Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”

    The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.

    “Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.

    “Fuck you,” said the raven.”

    Glossy black, rough, and gravelly: violet-gilded opoponax, black patchouli, myrrh, and oak leaf.

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  • americangodsWEB-gods own country

    God’s Own Country

    “Yes, it’s still God’s Own Country,” said the announcer, a news reporter pronouncing the final tag line. “The only question is, which gods?”

    Circuit boards, cathode rays, and exhaust ramming against frankincense, myrrh, soil, and blood.

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  • americangodsWEB-hinzelmann

    Hinzelmann

    Where Hinzelmann had been standing stood a male child, no more than five years old. His hair was dark brown, and long. He was perfectly naked, save for a worn leather band around his neck. He was pierced with two swords, one of them going through his chest, the other entering at his shoulder, with the point coming out beneath the rib-cage. Blood flowed through the wounds without stopping and ran down the child’s body to pool and puddle on the floor. The swords looked unimaginably old.

    The little boy stared up at Shadow with eyes that held only pain.

    And Shadow thought to himself, of course. That’s as good a way as any other of making a tribal god. He did not have to be told. He knew.

    You take a baby and you bring it up in the darkness, letting it see no one, touch no one, and you feed it well as the years pass, feed it better than any of the village’s other children, and then, five winters on, when the night is at its longest, you drag the terrified child out of its hut and into the circle of bonfires, and you pierce it with blades of iron and of bronze. Then you smoke the small body over charcoal fires until it is properly dried, and you wrap it in furs and carry it with you from encampment to encampment, deep in the Black Forest, sacrificing animals and children to it, making it the luck of the tribe. When, eventually, the thing falls apart from age, you place its fragile bones in a box, and you worship the box; until one day the bones are scattered and forgotten, and the tribes who worshipped the child-god of the box are long gone; and the child-god, the luck of the village, will be barely remembered, save as a ghost or a brownie: a kobold.

    Shadow wondered which of the people who had come to northern Wisconsin 150 years ago, a woodcutter, perhaps, or a mapmaker, had crossed the Atlantic with Hinzelmann living in his head.

    And then the bloody child was gone, and the blood, and there was only an old man with a fluff of white hair and a goblin smile, his sweater-sleeves still soaked from putting Shadow into the bath that had saved his life.

    The luck of the tribe: black pine pitch and gouts of blood, darkness and bonfires that cast long shadows.

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  • americangodsWEB-mithras

    Mithras

    “…You run into Mithras yet? Red cap. Nice kid.”

    “No, I don’t think so.”

    “Well . . . I’ve never seen Mithras around here. He was an army brat. Maybe he’s back in the Middle East, taking it easy, but I expect he’s probably gone by now. It happens. One day every soldier in the empire has to shower in the blood of your sacrificial bull. The next they don’t even remember your birthday.”

    Oblations of milk, oil, honey, and blood.

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  • americangodsWEB-murder for murder

    Murder for Murder, Blood for Blood

    “So. I got to say it, because nobody else here will. We are at the center of this place: a land that has no time for gods, and here at the center it has less time for us than anywhere. It is a no-man’s-land, a place of truce, and we observe our truces, here. We have no choice. So. You give us the body of our friend. We accept it. You will pay for this, murder for murder, blood for blood.”

    Black oudh, patchouli, opoponax, black pepper, and blackened cacao.

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  • americangodsWEB-only a sip

    Only a Sip

    4 out of 5

    Shadow began to feel headachy. There was a pounding quality to the starlight, something that resonated with the pulse in his temples and his chest. At the bottom of the next hill he stumbled, opened his mouth to say something and, without warning, he vomited.

    Wednesday reached into an inside pocket, and produced a small hip flask. “Take a sip of this,” he said. “Only a sip.”

    The liquid was pungent, and it evaporated in his mouth like a good brandy, although it did not taste like alcohol. Wednesday took the flask away, and pocketed it. “It’s not good for the audience to find themselves walking about backstage. That’s why you’re feeling sick. We need to hurry to get you out of here.”

    Orange peel, rosemary oil, peppermint, and cloves.

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  • americangodsWEB-roadside attractions

    Roadside Attractions

    “So what is this place?” asked Shadow, as they walked through the parking lot toward a low, unimpressive wooden building.

    “This is a roadside attraction,” said Wednesday. “One of the finest. Which means it is a place of power.”

    “Come again?”

    “It’s perfectly simple,” said Wednesday. “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or . . . well, you get the idea.”

    “There are churches all across the States, though,” said Shadow.

    “In every town. Sometimes on every block. And about as significant, in this context, as dentists’ offices. No, in the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”

    Plaster, paint, glass, and plastic surrounding a thrumming core of sacred frankincense.

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  • americangodsWEB-sam

    Sam

    5 out of 5

    Tap. Tap. Tap.

    Shadow opened his eyes, and, groggily, sat up. He was freezing, and the sky outside the car was the deep luminescent purple that divides the dusk from the night.

    Tap. Tap. Someone said, “Hey, mister,” and Shadow turned his head. The someone was standing beside the car, no more than a darker shape against the darkling sky. Shadow reached out a hand and cranked down the window a few inches. He made some waking-up noises, and then he said, “Hi.”

    “You all right? You sick? You been drinking?” The voice was high—a woman’s or a boy’s.

    “I’m fine,” said Shadow. “Hold on.” He opened the door, and got out, stretching his aching limbs and neck as he did so. Then he rubbed his hands together, to get the blood circulating and to warm them up.

    “Whoa. You’re pretty big.”

    “That’s what they tell me,” said Shadow.

    “Who are you?”

    “I’m Sam,” said the voice.

    “Boy Sam or girl Sam?”

    “Girl Sam. I used to be Sammi with an i, and I’d do a smiley face over the i, but then I got completely sick of it because like absolutely everybody was doing it, so I stopped.”

    “Okay, girl Sam. You go over there, and look out at the road.”

    “Why? Are you a crazed killer or something?”

    “No,” said Shadow, “I need to take a leak and I’d like just the smallest amount of privacy.”

    “Oh. Right. Okay. Got it. No problem. I am so with you. I can’t even pee if there’s someone in the next stall. Major shy bladder syndrome.”

    “Now, please.”

    Nag champa incense, patchouli, and freshly-soaped skin.

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  • americangodsWEB-the blood must flow

    The Blood Must Flow

    5 out of 5

    “It is only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything. The death of one dog symbolizes the death of all dogs. Nine men they gave to me, but they stood for all the men, all the blood, all the power. It just wasn’t enough. One day, the blood stopped flowing. Belief without blood only takes us so far. The blood must flow.”

    “I saw you die,” said Shadow.

    “In the god business,” said the figure—and now Shadow was certain it was Wednesday, nobody else had that rasp, that deep cynical joy in words, “it’s not the death that matters. It’s the opportunity for resurrection. And when the blood flows . . .”

    Three days on the tree, three days in the underworld, three days to find your way back: ash, oak, and elm; vetiver, dragon’s blood resin, and cypress; frankincense, copal, and chamomile.

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  • americangodsWEB-the carousel

    The Carousel

    Calliope music played: a Strauss waltz, stirring and occasionally discordant. The wall as they entered was hung with antique carousel horses, hundreds of them, some in need of a lick of paint, others in need of a good dusting; above them hung dozens of winged angels constructed rather obviously from female store-window mannequins; some of them bared their sexless breasts; some had lost their wigs and stared baldly and blindly down from the darkness.

    And then there was the carousel.

    A sign proclaimed it was the largest in the world, said how much it weighed, how many thousand lightbulbs were to be found in the chandeliers that hung from it in Gothic profusion, and forbade anyone from climbing on it or from riding on the animals.

    And such animals! Shadow stared, impressed in spite of himself, at the hundreds of full-sized creatures who circled on the platform of the carousel. Real creatures, imaginary creatures, and transformations of the two: each creature was different. He saw mermaid and merman, centaur and unicorn, elephants (one huge, one tiny), bulldog, frog and phoenix, zebra, tiger, manticore and basilisk, swans pulling a carriage, a white ox, a fox, twin walruses, even a sea serpent, all of them brightly colored and more than real: each rode the platform as the waltz came to an end and a new waltz began. The carousel did not even slow down.

    “What’s it for?” asked Shadow. “I mean, okay, world’s biggest, hundreds of animals, thousands of lightbulbs, and it goes around all the time, and no one ever rides it.”

    “It’s not there to be ridden, not by people,” said Wednesday. “It’s there to be admired. It’s there to be.”

    A place of power and possibility, of gods diabolical and celestial: glowing amber and heady cinnamon, the green of growing things and the white of thunderclaps, sweet myrrh and sacred styrax, forest moss and blood-soaked battlefields, papyrus and clay, rose petals, wildflowers, abbatoirs, and honey.

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  • americangodsWEB-the center

    The Center

    “What is the word for it? The opposite of sacred?”

    “Profane,” said Shadow, without thinking.

    “No,” said Czernobog. “I mean, when a place is less sacred than any other place. Of negative sacredness. Places where they can build no temples. Places where people will not come, and will leave as soon as they can. Places where gods only walk if they are forced to.”

    “I don’t know,” said Shadow. “I don’t think there is a word for it.”

    “All of America has it, a little,” said Czernobog. “That is why we are not welcome here. But the center,” said Czernobog. “The center is worst. Is like a minefield. We all tread too carefully there to dare break the truce.”

    Peeling paint, faded wallpaper and threadbare carpets, flickering neon, candlewax, and a fading whiff of Jack Daniels.

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  • americangodsWEB-drink of heroes

    The Drink of Heroes, the Drink of the Gods

    “Taste it.”

    The drink was a tawny golden color. Shadow took a sip, tasting an odd blend of sour and sweet on his tongue. He could taste the alcohol underneath, and a strange blend of flavors. It reminded him a little of prison hooch, brewed in a garbage bag from rotten fruit and bread and sugar and water, but it was sweeter, and far stranger.

    “Okay,” said Shadow. “I tasted it. What was it?”

    “Mead,” said Wednesday. “Honey wine. The drink of heroes. The drink of the gods.”

    Shadow took another tentative sip. Yes, he could taste the honey, he decided. That was one of the tastes. “Tastes kinda like pickle juice,” he said. “Sweet pickle-juice wine.”

    “Tastes like a drunken diabetic’s piss,” agreed Wednesday. “I hate the stuff.”

    Nine glory-twigs dipped in golden mead.

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  • americangodsWEB-drunkards dream

    The Drunkard’s Dream

    The drunk in the graveyard raised his bottle to his lips. One of the gravestones flipped over, revealing a grasping corpse; a headstone turned around, flowers replaced by a grinning skull. A wraith appeared on the right of the church, while on the left of the church something with a half-glimpsed, pointed, unsettlingly birdlike face, a pale, Boschian nightmare, glided smoothly from a headstone into the shadows and was gone. Then the church door opened, a priest came out, and the ghosts, haunts, and corpses vanished, and only the priest and the drunk were left alone in the graveyard. The priest looked down at the drunk disdainfully, and backed through the open door, which closed behind him, leaving the drunk on his own.

    The clockwork story was deeply unsettling. Much more unsettling, thought Shadow, than clockwork has any right to be.

    “You know why I show that to you?” asked Czernobog.

    “No.”

    “That is the world as it is. That is the real world. It is there, in that box.”

    Red currant and labdanum with opoponax, vetiver, grave moss, white sandalwood, and khus.

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  • americangodsWEB-forgettable god

    The Forgettable God

    He had stood beside the man as he got into the car, had opened and closed the door for him, and was unable to remember anything about him. He turned around in the driver’s seat and looked at him, carefully noting his face, his hair, his clothes, making certain he would know him if he met him again, and turned back to start the car, to find that the man had slipped from his mind. An impression of wealth was left behind, but nothing more.

    A faint impression of scent, a memory slipping like water through a sieve.

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  • americangodsWEB-intangibles

    The Intangibles

    “You’ve been troubled?”

    “Yes. Good word. Troubled. Yes. Like a home for troubled teens. Funny. Yes.”

    “And what exactly is troubling you?”

    “Well, we fight, we win.”

    “And that is a source of trouble? I find it a matter of triumph and delight, myself.”

    “But. They’ll die out anyway. They are passenger pigeons and thylacines. Yes? Who cares? This way, it’s going to be a bloodbath.”

    “Ah.” Mr. World nodded.

    He was following. That was good. The fat kid said, “Look, I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve checked with the crew at Radio Modern, and they’re all for settling this peacefully; and the intangibles are pretty much in favor of letting market forces take care of it. I’m being. You know. The voice of reason here.”

    “You are indeed. Unfortunately, there is information you do not have.” The smile that followed was twisted and scarred.

    Gods of the Stock Market, of securities and trades, of trade and upheaval, debt, fortune, and risk: chaotic synthetic notes, bubbling aldehydes, and the electric green of market euphoria.

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  • americangodsWEB-silver dollar

    The Silver Dollar

    His fingers closed around the Liberty dollar in his pocket, and he remembered Zorya Polunochnaya, and the way she had looked at him in the moonlight. Did you ask her what she wanted? It is the wisest thing to ask the dead. Sometimes they will tell you.

    Gilded iris and Siamese benzoin, silvery-white musk, white tea leaf, and bergamot.

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  • americangodsWEB-the small brown cat

    The Small Brown Cat

    5 out of 5

    The small brown cat opened her eyes and stretched to her feet. She padded across the kitchen floor and pushed at Shadow’s boot with her head. He put down his left hand and scratched her forehead and the back of her ears and the scruff of her neck. She arched, ecstatically, then sprang into his lap, pushed herself up against his chest, and touched her cold nose to his. Then she curled up in his lap and went back to sleep. He put his hand down to stroke her: her fur was soft, and she was warm and pleasant in his lap; she acted like she was in the safest place in the world, and Shadow felt comforted.

    Warm brown fur, cardamom-infused bourbon vanilla, and a touch of cedarwood.

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  • americangodsWEB-the suns treasure

    The Sun’s Treasure

    “Have you remembered how I do my little coin trick?” he asked Shadow with a grin.

    “I have not.”

    “If you can guess how I did it,” said Mad Sweeney, his lips purple, his blue eyes beclouded, “I’ll tell you if you get warm.”

    “It’s not a palm is it?” asked Shadow.

    “It is not.”

    “Is it a gadget of some kind? Something up your sleeve or elsewhere that shoots the coins up for you to catch?”

    “It is not that neither. More whiskey, anybody?”

    “I read in a book about a way of doing the miser’s dream with latex covering the palm of your hand, making a skin-colored pouch for the coins to hide behind.”

    “This is a sad wake for Great Sweeney who flew like a bird across all of Ireland and ate watercress in his madness: to be dead and unmourned save for a bird, a dog, and an idiot. No, it is not a pouch.”

    “Well, that’s pretty much it for ideas,” said Shadow. “I expect you just take them out of nowhere.” It was meant to be sarcasm, but then he saw the expression on Sweeney’s face. “You do,” he said. “You do take them from nowhere.”

    “Well, not exactly nowhere,” said Mad Sweeney. “But now you’re getting the idea. You take them from the hoard.”

    “The hoard,” said Shadow, starting to remember.

    “Yes.”

    “You just have to hold it in your mind, and it’s yours to take from. The sun’s treasure. It’s there in those moments when the world makes a rainbow. It’s there in the moment of eclipse and the moment of the storm.” And he showed Shadow how to do the thing. This time Shadow got it.

    Radiant amber and orange blossom, golden oudh, and saffron-threaded honey.

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  • americangodsWEB-these shabby days

    These Shabby Days

    “…Our kind of people, we are…” He waved the cigarillo about, as if using it to hunt for a word, then stabbing forward with it. “…exclusive. We’re not social. Not even me. Not even Bacchus. Not for long. We walk by ourselves or we stay in our own little groups. We do not play well with others. We like to be adored and respected and worshiped—me, I like them to be tellin’ tales about me, tales showing my cleverness. It’s a fault, I know, but it’s the way I am. We like to be big. Now, in these shabby days, we are small. The new gods rise and fall and rise again. But this is not a country that tolerates gods for long. Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves, Shiva destroys, and the ground is clear for Brahma to create once more.”

    Memories of myrrh and gold, and the dying smoke of a snuffed cigarillo.

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  • americangodsWEB-we cared about such different things

    We Cared About Such Different Things

    “I have a brother. They say, you put us together, we are like one person, you know? When we are young, his hair, it is very blond, very light, his eyes are blue, and people say, he is the good one. And my hair it is very dark, darker than yours even, and people say I am the rogue, you know? I am the bad one. And now time passes, and my hair is gray. His hair, too, I think, is gray. And you look at us, you would not know who was light, who was dark.”

    “Were you close?” asked Shadow.

    “Close?” asked Czernobog. “No. How could we be? We cared about such different things.”

    You would not know who was light, who was dark: iron and amber, gold-limned white musk and ink-gloomed dark musk.

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