Lilith 2017

A1D1913E-6844-45DC-B485-6E0E01EDD01D.JPGLilith, my angel, I love you with all my heart. I love the hiccup’ing snorts of your bellylaugh, I love the strange stormy grey of your eyes. I love your fart jokes and your songs, I love our late night talks. I love everything about you, from your taste in shoes to your moral fiber. I love your kindness and your strength of character, I love your sense of humor and your sense of justice.

I love you, I love being your mom.

Happy birthday, Lilith.

++ LILITH 2017

  • lilith series 2017 WEB - Admete

    Admete

    On the last day of school, some of the families get together at the beach to celebrate the onset of summer break. It was cold, grey, and overcast, but that was hardly daunting for this little Oceanid. Lilith and her friends splashed and played in water I couldn’t put a toe into. She boogie boarded for the first time that day and fell in love. The beach bunny I have now is a far cry from the Tiny Virgo who wouldn’t go near the sand because she didn’t want her Doritos to get dirty.

    Driftwood and sea salt submerged in a marine layer, a touch of sweet carnation, bright neroli, and a sandy strip of kelp.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - apocalyptic horseprincess

    Apocalyptic Horseprincess

    Lilith has always enjoyed the company of monsters. She grew up at Dark Delicacies, and two of her favorite toys when she was a baby were a Freddy Krueger rubber mask and a matching Freddy doll (with razor hands that were blunted by Grandma Sue so Lil didn’t poke an eye out). She has fears just like any other kid, but her monster friends help protect her from “real life” dangers. When she gets scared late at night, we talk about her ghost friends that roam the house, the vampires that live in our basement, the werewolves that hang out in the yard, the zombies that keep spare brains in our garage freezer, and all the other monsters (imaginary monster friends?) that love her and keep her safe from “real world” dangers.

    When we vend at horror-centric conventions, the monsters are always so nice to Lilith. At Midsummer Scream, she gets tons of high-fives from shambling ghouls and radioactive plant horrors, and she gets hugs from demented clowns and slobbering werebeasts.

    Ever since Lilith was in kindergarten, we’ve helped with her school’s Halloween party, so she’s grown up loving setting up and working in haunted houses and horror mazes.

    This photo is from this year’s Midsummer Scream. Lilith was inspecting a headless horseman scene, getting ideas for this year’s Halloween maze.

    Crushed mint and neon lime, sour candy powder, and wild plum.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - babys first con panel

    Baby’s First Con Panel

    On July 20th, Lilith went to her first SDCC panel. As a carny kid and the tiniest Lab Rat, she’s been to tons of cons and events, and we’ve been taking her to San Diego Comic Con since birth. While she’s always had a good time, this was the first year that she was independently invested in her enjoyment there. She tore up the vending area, played video game demos, went looking for Arthas’ ice cream shop, and sat through several panels of her choosing. It was an experience that was truly /hers/ for the first time, and that was a really amazing piece of magic that I was privileged to witness.

    The scent of the soft pretzel we hid in our backpack, plus a bit of leftover chocolate chip cookie.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - cemetery creep

    Cemetery Creep

    This summer, Brian got married at the Mountain View Mausoleum. As a side benefit, the Barrials got to spend hours skulking around its beautiful, cavernous halls in the weeks leading up to the event. Lilith loves the vast quietness of the mausoleum almost as much as she enjoys playing tag in the cemetery, and wandered the halls doing impromptu math equations to figure out how old people were when they passed.

    I love this little cemetery creep with all my cobwebby heart.

    Marble-white musk, orris root, and vanilla blossom.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - closet raid

    Closet Raid

    Funny how much better Lilith looks in my clothes than I do! This is the scent of generations of children raiding their parents’ closets: my grandmother and mother’s Chanel No. 5, my father and grandfather’s Lilac Vegetal, my Snake Oil, and Lilith’s lavender blossoms.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - daybreak

    Daybreak

    Just a photo of Lilith and Pickle that I took one morning. I love this little human so, so much.

    Last night’s lavender drops and a whiff of Pickle’s vanilla coconut pupper shampoo.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - do all the good you can

    Do All the Good You Can

    Lilith has been involved with our humanitarian and philanthropic work for several years, helping with fundraising events like our food, toy, and feminine napkin drives; she has taken the initiative a few times now, setting up her own fundraisers for the UNHCR and Pasadena Humane Society. This year, we decided that she’s old enough to do the footwork, and she volunteered with us twice in serving those currently experiencing homelessness. This photo is from Christmas Day 2017: Lilith spent several hours helping us distribute food, toiletries, and sleeping bags in Hollywood.

    Madagascar vanilla and sweet patchouli with Yule pine, white fig, and almond blossom.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - do you like clowns

    Do You Like Clowns?

    Lilith has been watching Drag Race with me since she was teething, and she has worked with us at every Drag Con. She loves filming promo videos with Tom for the Nobodies events. She loves watching drag makeup tutorials, UNHhhh, and Alaska’s videos, and one of her goals in life is to pull off a reveal like Violet Chachki’s tartan runway look on the first day of school. So when she heard that Bob the Drag Queen was looking for a little girl for a comedy video, she was all over it. She loves Bob, she loves drag, and she loooooooooves being a big funny ham on stage. I’m the worst stage mom in all of Los Angeles history, and she has no headshots and no reel—so I sent over a funny photo of Lilith jetlagged and one of her Nobodies vids, and somehow she got the gig. It was one of the best days of her life. Bob and the crew were incredibly nice and friendly, and Lilith had the time of her life. To say thank you, she drew this picture for Bob of the two of them together on a bus bench.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j74NwQu6zho

    Raspberry ice cream and a smear of black cherry lip gloss.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - ego sum lux mundi

    Ego Sum Lux Mundi

    Doing her work at the grotto, the International Shrine of St Jude at Our Lady of Guadelupe Chapel in New Orleans.

    Frankincense and myrrh with golden amber, green apple pulp, and white pear.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - gas masks and snails and puppy dog tails

    Gas Masks and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

    My offspring loves crossbows, gas masks, and kittens. She loves unicorns and rainbows and rhinestones and glitter, insects and Spongebob and fart jokes and whoopee cushions. She has a Nerf arsenal that would make her great-great-great-great-great (so many greats) Grandpa Attila proud, and a sea of big-eyed, rainbow-poofy plushies you could (probably literally) drown in. She loves fashion dolls as much as she loves anatomical models, Legos as much as she loves jewelry, and Hamlet as much as she loves My Little Pony. I love the diversity of her interests, and that—over the years—she is finding peace with loving what she loves, regardless of what anyone else might think.

    Cotton candy and jellybeans with sugar cookie crumbles and vanilla frosting.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - the goddess of mischief

    The Goddess of Mischief

    Lilith has a ton of empathy for the God of Mischief. I think many kids identify with Loki because they know what it’s like to be passed over, to be ignored in favor of a shinier relative or friend, and what it feels like to not be as strong or powerful as some of your peers. He may be evil(ish), but he has a sense of humor and a grasp of irony that kids relate to, and that’s worth its weight in Alfheimian gold nuggets.

    Thor is great and all, but Loki has /gone through some shit/, and Lilith respects that.

    But what are the main reasons why Lilith digs Loki? “He looks like me, and he’s really funny.”

    Girl!Loki costume by Chrissy Lynn!

    White lavender and sweet amber, green oudh, and inky musk.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - heck on wheels

    Heck on Wheels

    Sometimes I make a perfume just because I love this kid.

    Red velvet confetti cupcakes and bubblegum.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - huntress

    Huntress

    3 out of 5

    This was the day that we discovered that Lilith was likely a sharpshooter crossbowman in another life. She was startlingly accurate, even with the handicap of using a clumsy carnival weapon.

    Funnel cakes, baked apples, and strawberry cream.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - little photojournalist

    Little Photojournalist

    Lilith Barrial, budding photojournalist, at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, New Orleans, LA. She’s been snapping photos since she was a toddler; we have whole photo albums of blurry photos of shoes and pavers from those days. She loves taking her powder pink instax on trips, and loves to document playdates with her friends.

    Cathedral incense and rock candy.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - nyc snowball fight

    NYC Snowball Fight

    Last winter, we took Lilith to New York for the first time. We were en route to the march in Washington, DC, with our friends, and made a few pit stops on the way. This photo was taken a split second before I got snowballed in the face at the East 72nd Street Playground. The handsome devil in the background is one of Lilith’s best friends in the world, Kyle.

    Snowballs and vanilla ice cream.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - pew pew

    Pew! Pew!

    There is nothing that sparks joy for me quite like sharing something I love with Lilith. She’s been playing console games with me on and off since she was five, though she took a break from Diablo for a while after Brian bailed on her to chase after a treasure goblin.

    Blue raspberry slushy, a bowl of strawberries, and microwavable popcorn.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - poke

    Poke!

    On December 30th, Lilith went with a gaggle of her Grownups, her plush alligator, Crocky (there’s a story there), and one of her besties, Camilla, to get their ears pierced by the wonderful people at Studio City Tattoo. When the needle went through, she didn’t scream and she didn’t cry… she growled “FFFFFFFFFffFFfffFfffFffffffffffaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh” in an attempt to repress the impulse to yell FUCK in the middle of the tattoo shop. Tom and I got new piercings in solidarity, but Crocky, Teddy, and Brian all declined.

    Coconut and red currant, red musk, and a pop of surgical steel.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - Potamides

    Potamides

    Thanks to the much-needed winter rains this year, my little river nymph was finally able to see the creeks in Eaton Canyon as something other than dry, fawn-beige, tumbleweed-strewn strips of sandwash. In the past, she’s always been ambivalent about hiking, but something about the rushing streams and sparkling waters enchanted her, and she fell in love.

    Honeysuckle and honey, water lilies and white sage.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - the spectral flower girl

    The Spectral Flower Girl

    The ghosts swarm.
    They speak as one
    person. Each
    loves you. Each
    has left something
    undone…

    With love to Rae Armantrout for the poem.

    Black lilies, red roses, and baby’s breath.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - storyboard julius caesar

    Storyboard: Julius Caesar

    Lilith has been taking kiddo Shakespeare classes for the past four years, and absolutely loves them. Last year, they did a mini-series focusing on Julius Caesar, King Lear, and the Tempest. The kids analyze the plays, and perform scenes from them; then, at the end of the cycle, they put together a play of their own based on the themes in the works of Shakespeare that they have studied. Their play this time around was entitled Evil Bunny.

    Lilith performed as Marc Antony, and showed off her orator skills. Hearing Lilith speak at Caesar’s funeral gave me the chills. She came to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

    Macerated myrrh, rose petals, and iris with frankincense and a splash of blood.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - storyboard the tempest

    Storyboard: The Tempest

    Lilith has been taking kiddo Shakespeare classes for the past four years, and absolutely loves them. Last year, they did a mini-series focusing on Julius Caesar, King Lear, and the Tempest. The kids analyze the plays, and perform scenes from them; then, at the end of the cycle, they put together a play of their own based on the themes in the works of Shakespeare that they have studied. Their play this time around was entitled Evil Bunny.

    Lilith played Ariel and Miranda, and said she liked playing Miranda more. She said it’s easy to relate, because her mom is a lot like Prospero.

    I’m still trying to figure out whether that’s a compliment or an insult.

    Ivy and lime rind, marigold and moss.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - valuable powerful deserving

    Valuable, Powerful, Deserving

    In a hotel in Baltimore, Lilith helped me color in my sign for the Women’s March in DC. She had made her own two signs — brimming with Girl Power and featuring a unicorn, of course — but finished in time to help me get mine all dolled up.

    There are many criticisms of the march that are valid, but I will tell you this: being able to show my daughter thousands upon thousands of people that were demanding a government built on justice, compassion, and acceptance was something incredibly powerful. The experience she had meeting other children who were there in the hopes of a kinder, brighter future was invaluable. It was a pivotal moment, this ability to demonstrate for her /how to show up/ and how to /work/ for a better country and a better future for marginalized and under-represented groups. It was incredible being there in Washington with her, and I will never forget it. I hope this experience helped to reveal her own inner strength to her, and the strength she can find in her allies.

    Golden amber, vanilla oudh, and orange blossom.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - vampire princess

    Vampire Princess

    Last Halloween, Lilith wanted to be Maleficent, so we hooked her up with a Maleficent costume. The horns were imbalanced, though, and she was frustrated, so she decided to wear the rest of the costume—sans horns—and be a vampire. She looked amazing (in my motherly opinion), but when the time came to trick or treat, her voluminous skirts and flowing cape made it difficult for her to keep up with the other kids. We tried knotting it, hiking it up, everything…and in the end, she vowed never to wear another costume that she can’t run and jump in.

    Blood musk and lavender with bourbon vanilla, plum oudh, black patchouli, and Romanian wildflowers.

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  • lilith series 2017 WEB - winter at the capitol

    Winter at the Capitol

    It was a cold, cold day, and a thick fog obfuscated everything. It was tremendously symbolic in myriad ways.

    It’s funny. Lilith was two months old when Obama was elected, and I remember how I felt that night as the election returns were coming in. When his presidency was announced, it was like a fist surrounding my heart unclenched, and I could breathe again. With Lilith in my arms, I inexplicably wept with relief, suddenly believing with all my heart that she was safe, and that her future—all of our futures—were on a trajectory of kindness and justice buoyed by hope. The country is flawed and imperfect, but we were on our way to making things right.

    Then November of 2016 happened, and in January, a thick fog descended on the National Mall and the fist clamped around my heart again.

    The hope and valor of iris blossoms twined with chrysanthemum’s bold fearlessness, violet’s vigilance, oleander’s caution, and white and red roses for unity.

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Songs of Midday Darkness, Lunacy, and More

If you felt left out of our summer travel plans (SDCC and Midsummer Scream were outstanding!) then perhaps the following will make it up to you: a cluster of small scent collections serving as a veritable sampler platter of the best 2017 has to offer.

Firstly, the path of this month’s solar eclipse has inspired a Limited Edition series of thirteen scents, in addition to our usual Lunacy fare — Harvest Moon 2017 to set you soaring into September, and Single Note: Honeysuckle to make sure you turn every head along the way.

We’re also rolling out the long-awaited next installment of Neil Gaiman’s 15 Painted Cards From a Vampire Tarot, bringing the number of scents in this collection up to 7. These bottles, accompanied by an actual tarot card drawn by Madame Talbot, will raise funds for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Last but far from least, the latest winner of our #BPAL7WordStory contest (ENVY Edition) has finally been announced… and you’re gonna want to sniff those words.

In all, that’s a gallery of 19 new creations to wander through as the world outside swelters and the sun itself threatens to go out.

On Monday, 21 August 2017, all of North America will experience an eclipse of the sun, with a total eclipse stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. During this event, the moon will completely cover the sun, and the sun’s corona will extend its golden tendrils from behind a shadowed veil. Solar eclipses have been held responsible for the fall of empires, the onset of wars, the birth and death of great people, and the onset of terrible plagues and natural disasters. Is this rare and awe-inspiring event an omen? Grab your nearest soothsayer or augur; it’s big business for seers this year!

This series is a paean to this once in a lifetime event: an amber-gilded sampling of the poetry, prose, notable persons, mythology, and historical accounts surrounding solar eclipses.

++ SONGS OF MIDDAY DARKNESS

  • eclipse 2017 ALL RUINOUS DISORDERS web

    All Ruinous Disorders

    These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide, in cities mutinies, in countries discord, in palaces treason, and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction—there’s son against father. The king falls from bias of nature—there’s father against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund. It shall lose thee nothing. Do it carefully.—And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished, his offense honesty! ‘Tis strange, strange.
    – William Shakespeare, King Lear

    Amber, bergamot, and honeyed saffron blackened by smoked oudh, patchouli, ti leaf, scorched thistle, leather, and yew.

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  • eclipse 2017 disastrous twilight WEB

    Disastrous Twilight

    As when the Sun, new risen,
    Looks through the horizontal misty air,
    Shorn of his beams, or from behind the Moon,
    In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
    On half the nations and with fear of change
    Perplexes monarchs.
    – John Milton, Paradise Lost

    Star-touched blue amber, gurjum balsam, pale orris, Somalian myrrh, benzoin, red sandalwood, and ylang ylang.

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  • eclipse 2017 ECLIPSES BE web

    Eclipses Be

    Eclipses be – predicted –
    And Science bows them in –
    But do one face us suddenly –
    Jehovah’s watch – is wrong.
    – Emily Dickinson

    Rose amber, carnation, and clove.

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  • eclipse 2017 THE SUN HAS PERISHED web

    The Sun Has Perished

    …and the Sun has perished
    out of heaven,
    and an evil mist hovers over all.
    – Homer, the Odyssey

    An evil mist hovers over all: Tunisian amber, wilted asphodel, myrrh, and smoke.

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++ HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS, LANDMARKS, AND PERSONAGES

  • eclipse 2017 18 JUNE 1860 web

    18 June 1860

    On this date, the first wet plate photograph of an eclipse was taken. Shimmering amber, collodion, silver nitrate accord, and white lavender.

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  • eclipse 2017 NOTHING IS UNEXPECTED NOTHING IS FORESWORN web

    Nothing is Unexpected, Nothing is Foresworn

    Nothing is unexpected, nothing is foresworn and
    Nothing amazes now that father Zeus the Olympian
    veiled the light to make it night at midday
    even as sun was shining: so dread fear has overtaken men.
    From this time on everything that men believe
    will be doubted: may none of us who see this be surprised
    when we see forest beasts taking turns in the salted field
    with dolphins, when the echoing waves of the sea become
    Dearer to them than the sand, and the dolphins love the wooded glen
    – Archilochus

    Red amber and heady red wine, benzoin, ash, and bourbon vanilla.

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  • eclipse 2017 THE DRUNK ASTRONOMERS web

    The Drunk Astronomers

    Credit for some of the first recorded accounts of eclipses are attributed to the legendary Drunk Astronomers, Ho and Hsi, circa 2137 BCE. Ho and Hsi were royal astronomers in the court of Chung K’ang. They were in charge of predicting the celestial dance – all movements of the Heavenly Bodies. They were also reprobates, and spent a fair amount of their time in debauch, drinking and carousing. In a drunken stupor – though they knew an eclipse was imminent – they failed to notify the emperor of the event, and they failed to perform the sacred rites that would prevent the celestial dragon from consuming the mighty sun. They were summarily decapitated for creating chaos and confusion in the celestial chain by leaving their duties unperformed.

    Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hsi,
    Whose fate, though sad, is risible;
    Being slain because they could not spy
    The eclipse which was invisible.

    Jasmine tea, blood musk, and pale yellow amber.

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  • eclipse 2017 IN HIDEOUS DARKNESS web

    In Hideous Darkness

    The elements manifested their sorrow at this great man’s departure from England. For the Sun on that day at the 6th hour shrouded his glorious face, as the poets say, in hideous darkness, agitating the hearts of men by an eclipse; and on the 6th day of the week early in the morning there was so great an earthquake that the ground appeared absolutely to sink down; an horrid noise being first heard beneath the surface.
    – Historia Novella, William of Malmesbury on the death of Henry I

    Golden amber and ambergris, sage and white cedar, rockrose, bourbon tobacco, and vetiver.

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  • eclipse 2017 MABEL web

    Mabel

    Mabel Loomis Todd is probably best known as the first editor of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and editor of publications of Dickinson’s posthumous works. She was also a fearless and experienced adventuress, eclipse chaser and astronomer, and trekked over the globe locating unobscured sites to witness solar eclipses. She published Total Eclipses of the Sun in 1894, a list of past and future total solar eclipses, and recorded her experiences in her travels through painting and journals.

    Rose-tinted amber, golden chypre, ambergris, tobacco leaf, and clove.

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  • eclipse 2017 THE SUN IN ANGER SWORE web

    The Sun in Anger Swore

    And the moon in haste eclipsed her,
    and the Sun in anger swore
    He would curl his wick within him
    and give light to you no more.
    – Aristophanese, Chorus of Clouds

    A withdrawn, seething red amber spiked with dragon’s blood resin, black pepper, red musk, and red oudh.

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  • eclipse 2017 OIL AND PITCH web

    Oil and Pitch

    It has been known since antiquity that looking directly at an eclipse can cause serious damage to the eyes. Islamic scholar, Al-Biruni, observed that you could minimize the damage by viewing an eclipse reflected in the surface of still water. In his Naturales Quaestiones, Seneca observed, “Whenever we want to watch an eclipse of the Sun we set out basins filled with oil or pitch, because the heavy liquid is not easily disturbed and so preserves the images it receives.”

    Amber swirled in opoponax, black labdanum, and poplar tar.

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  • eclipse 2017 THE THALES ECLIPSE web

    The Thales Eclipse

    In the sixth year a battle took place in which it happened, when the fight had begun, that suddenly the day became night. And this change of the day Thales the Milesian had foretold to the Ionians laying down as a limit this very year in which the change took place. The Lydians however and the Medes, when they saw that it had become night instead of day, ceased from their fighting and were much more eager both of them that peace should be made between them.
    – Herodotus, on a prediction of by Thales of Miletus

    Red amber and leather, patchouli, champaca flower, frankincense, oudh, castoreum accord, and black musk.

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++ BIBLICAL CATASTROPHES
The Bible is filled with the eclipse’s ill-omens. Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s blood-red moons and midday darkness have indicated to Biblical historians that the date of the crucifixion was November 24th AD 29 (solar eclipse) or April 3rd AD 33 (partial lunar eclipse).

  • eclipse 2017 THE CURTAIN OF THE TEMPLE WAS TORN IN TWO web

    The Curtain of the Temple was Torn in Two

    By now it was about midday and a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted until three in the afternoon; the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry and said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit’; and with these words he died.

    Radiant golden amber suffused with holy incense smoke compounded from acacia, myrrh, cassia, balsam, frankincense, cinnamon, onycha accord, and galbanum.

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++ 15 PAINTED CARDS FROM A VAMPIRE TAROT

  • web bw POPE

    V. The Pope

    This is my body, he said, two thousand years ago. This is my blood.

    It was the only religion that delivered exactly what it promised: life eternal, for its adherents.

    There are some of us alive today who remember him. And some of us claim that he was a messiah, and some think that he was just a man with very special powers. But that misses the point. Whatever he was, he changed the world.

    Life everlasting: clove-smoke, benzoin, rose maroc, Jerusalem cedar, cistus, and frankincense.

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  • web bw CHARIOT

    VII. The Chariot

    It was genetic engineering at its finest: they created a breed of human to sail the stars: they needed to be possessed of impossibly long life-spans, for the distances between the stars were vast; space was limited, and their food supplies needed to be compact; they needed to be able to process local sustenance, and to colonise the worlds they found with their own kind.

    The homeworld wished the colonists well, and sent them on their way. They removed all traces of their location from the ships’ computers first, however. To be on the safe side.

    The scent of white-hot metal and stardust, limned with glowing bergamot aldehyde.

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  • web bw WHEEL OF FORTUNE

    X. The Wheel of Fortune

    What did you do with the doctor? she asked, and laughed. I thought the Doctor came in here ten minutes ago.

    I’m sorry, I said. I was hungry.

    And we both laughed.

    I’ll go find her for you, she said.

    I sat in the doctor’s office, picking my teeth. After a while the assistant came back.

    I’m sorry, she said. The doctor must have stepped out for a while. Can I make an appointment for you for next week?

    I shook my head. I’ll call, I said. But, for the first time that day, I was not telling the truth.

    An antiseptic white scent, splattered with blood.

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++ BPAL 7 WORD STORY

  • BPAL7words-ENVY web

    Seven Word Story: Envy

    The subject of our latest #BPAL7wordstory contest was Envy. The winning entry was submitted by Tyler Butler:

    Galatea wept as Pygmalion carved new statues

    Marble-white sandalwood, vanilla blossom, and orris root veined with whorls of ambergris accord, rose-touched with life, slowly shattering tears of bitter carrot seed and cistus.

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++ A LITTLE LUNACY

 

++ SINGLE NOTES

Carnaval Diabolique Act IV: The Interlude

The flames leap from Priala’s body, touching the dry canvas walls, setting the 13-in-1 aflame. Squinting your eyes against the blinding bursts of light and motion, you see a sign on the wall that reads “TO THE EGRESS”. Staggering through the fire, you make your way out of the tent and back onto the rain-slick Midway.

  • cdWEB-stormclouds over the midway

    Stormclouds Over the Midway

    In your smoke-addled confusion, the Midway seems strangely empty and devoid of life. The tents that line the path appear distorted, out of proportion, and cartoonish, their angles arching menacingly.

    For a moment, the only sound you hear is the soft squelch of your boots on the damp ground. As your eyes adjust, the tents right themselves, the sounds of the Midway swirl around you, and you feel the press of the crowd against your body. The Calliope’s eerie drone lilts above the swelling chatter.

    Wine-colored storm clouds are gathering, and the scent of incense and ozone is thick in the wet air.

    Thunder-charged ozone, plum-colored incense smoke, opium tar, and wormwood.

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  • cdWEB-urchins

    The Urchins

    You hear a tittering of laughter: high-pitched and discordant, like bent, cracked silver bells clattering onto sheets of rusted metal. In the gloom of a dilapidated tent, the glow of small red eyes reflects on shining steel blades.

    Dust and dead, dry flowers, ice-cold skin, the swish of a metal blade, and a memory of honey.

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  • cdWEB-nibble nibble gnaw

    Nibble Nibble Gnaw

    Looking down, you see a scattering of breadcrumbs strewn on the packed soil and straw at your feet. A waft of candied apple and pancakes embraces you, as you follow the crumbs on the path. The scent intensifies: sugared nuts, crushed candies, hot gusts of chocolate, and you find yourself standing before a small booth constructed of cakes, pastries, sweet breads, and a cascade of candy tiles. Shards of clear sugar glint in the ambient firelight of the Midway, and an old woman emerges from the shadows within. She extends a gnarled hand to you and rasps, “Oh, you dear, what has brought you here? You look like skin and bones; a strong gust of wind would spirit you into the air. Do come in, and visit with me. No harm shall happen to you.”

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  • cdWEB-knucklebones

    Knucklebones

    You hear a clatter on the ground behind you, and a small bleached bone smacks against your foot. Cloaked in shadows between the tents, three men crouch playing knucklebones. Distress clouds the face of one of the men, while another bursts into a wicked smile and the last one sighs in relief. Scooping up his winnings and shaking his head, the victor makes a soft ‘tsk’ noise as he reaches towards the loser’s chest, positioning his hand over the man’s heart. Pressing forward, his hand moves through cloth, flesh, muscle, and bone to extract the beating organ. Tossing the heart onto the ground, he says to you, “Mind handing me those bones, buddy? I’ve got a game to run here.”

    Black musk, bay rum, lime fougere, orange blossom water, gin, and tobacco.

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  • cdWEB-l heure verte

    L’Heure Verte

    Recoiling, you back away from the dicing. A large tent striped in many shades of green grabs your attention, and you walk towards it. You peer inside the open tent flap and see a room crowded with people in various stages of profound intoxication. Tables are littered with glasses filled with thick, cloudy emerald liquid, and candlelight glints on discarded silver spoons. The scent of spilled absinthe, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water permeates the stifling air of the tent. As you close the tent flap and turn to leave, you see a scantily clad server bend close to a rugged laborer that is sitting slumped in a sagging chair. A low velvety voice voice asks, “Another drink for you, Monsieur Lanfray?”

    Spilled absinthe, scorched sugar cubes, opium smoke, lilac blossoms, and rose water.

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  • cdWEB-blockhead

    The Blockhead

    Back out on the Midway, a huge, leather-clad man leans against a post. He smiles at you, guilelessly, baring a mouthful of sharpened teeth as he hammers huge rusted nails into his skull.

    Rusted metal, leather, and a pop of pink bubblegum.

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  • cdWEB-solanine the flower girl

    Solanine, the Flower Girl

    In the distance, you hear the discordant tolling of churchbells, uneven and strangely triumphant. As you turn towards the beckoning clang, you feel something brush across your neck: a gentle caress before a hundred pricking trichomes tear at your skin. There is a sudden whipping sensation and a clench of movement, and your throat is clamped in a rigid green noose.

    A raspy voice whispers, “Pardon,” and the grip on you loosens.

    A woman stands behind you. She holds a basket overflowing with creeping vines and flowers: razor-thorned roses, vibrant bursts of oleander, drooping cascades of wisteria, sprays of white hemlock and lily of the valley, bruise-blue pillows of aconite, purple-veined henbane, and the snapping jaws of monstrously large flytraps, glistening wet with mucilage. Her clothes smell faintly of manchineel smoke, and her fingertips are stained green. She smiles and shudders as the green tendrils that surround her writhe and contract. She plucks a red-spotted mushroom from her basket and places it gently in your palm before turning away.

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  • cdWEB-chapel

    The Chapel

    You come to a building that seems to have been hastily erected from splintered wood, stone, and plaster. Flickering light from within sparkles out through blood-tinged chunks of glass that have been wedged into the arch entrance. You push open the thick velvet curtain that covers the mouth of the building and look inside. The chapel is small and cramped, and the air is thick with heavy incense, bitter wine, sulphur, and the coppery scent of blood. A massive stained glass window is set against the back wall, glowing brightly.

    In the center of the room, a groveling figure is crouched before a woman draped in purple-black clerical robes. The woman's eyes are filled with righteous hellfire, and she extends a hand in benediction to the man who has fallen prostrate at her feet. He murmurs, “Libera Te Ex Caelum”, and she gestures for him to rise. As he gets to his knees he winces in pain and moans in a strange expression of ecstasy, and you see small horns growing from his skull.

    Black incense, bitter wine, brimstone, bile, and blood.

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  • cdWEB-grindhouse

    The Grindhouse

    Throaty laughter captures your attention. Across the lane you see a buxom Venetian woman standing before a huge black and red striped tent. Her head is inclined towards a dapper, leering man, and they appear to be sharing a private joke. He reaches into his waistcoat and produces a gold coin. The woman plucks it from his fingers. He bows, and walks into the tent with a swagger. A sign flashes above the tent flap in letters that seem to be aflame: The Grindhouse, Dead or Live Girls.

    The Madam turns towards you and smiles. As she approaches, someone within the tent strikes a few keys on a tuneless piano, and begins to play Jelly Roll Morton's 'the Crave'. The light within the tent illuminates the interior, shining behind the silhouettes of naked women gyrating lewdly upon raised stages, writhing in time with the music.

    In the distance, behind the tent, you hear a whip crack, and a man's scream. Tittering laughter follows, and the screams continue.

    “Voulez-vous un morceau de la boîte de bonbon?” she asks, gesturing gracefully towards the tent.

    The Madam's perfume envelops you.

    Florentine iris, red musk, mimosa, magnolia, Damascus rose, clove, and vanilla bean.

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  • cdWEB-behind the veils

    Behind the Veils

    Blood-red light cascades through languorous folds of sheer cloth. Hell-bright embers breathe into the gloom as billowing ribbons of thick, dark incense wrap their tendrils of smoke around your body like the curious hands of a lover.

    Heady red musk, myrrh and honey, drops of cinnamon and crushed cardamom pod, the taste of opium-laced black wine, sweet oudh, and threads of saffron.

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++ THE GRINDHOUSE

  • cdWEB-aeronwen

    Aeronwen

    Fig, dark myrrh, amber, redwood, nutmeg, tarragon, black musk, and sweet orange.

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  • cdWEB-alisz

    Alisz

    5 out of 5

    Spun sugar, frankincense, white rose, mallow root, red currant, and vanilla mint.

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  • cdWEB-ashultum

    Ashlultum

    5 out of 5

    Babylonian musk, vanilla tea, tonka, tobacco, coconut, hyssop, and lilac.

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  • cdWEB-BRANGWY

    Brangwy

    Blackcurrant and cardamom with peru balsam, patchouli, leather, and oudh.

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  • cdWEB-Blóðughadda

    Blóðughadda

    5 out of 5

    Crushed Baltic amber, golden fig, oud wood, red patchouli, white clove, and saffron.

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  • cdWEB-cytherea

    Cytherea

    White sandalwood, patchouli, white amber, orris, bourbon vanilla, champaca flower, and kush.

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  • cdWEB-dionysia

    Dionysia

    4 out of 5

    Wild plum, pomegranate, raspberry, Siamese benzoin, plum blossom, patchouli, frankincense, and mahogany.

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  • cdWEB-daiyu

    Daiyu

    Moroccan jasmine, chrysanthemum, tea leaf, white musk, and acai berry.

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  • cdWEB-gwyneth

    Gwyneth

    Rose otto, tonka, orchid, Calla lily, skin musk, coconut, and Spanish sage.

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  • cdWEB-harper

    Harper

    Pale bergamot, labdanum, white incense, vanilla-tinged musk, Burmese oudh and tea rose.

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  • cdWEB-inez

    Inez

    Golden amber, vanilla musk, myrrh, cedar, carnation, and red sandalwood.

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  • cdWEB-JAALI

    Jaawi

    Sweet Indonesian patchouli, red benzoin, champaca attar, French lavender, coconut husk, bay leaf, tobacco absolute, lime, and honey.

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  • cdWEB-marcilla

    Marcilla

    Blue lilac, lily of the valley, golden musk, beeswax, white ginger, bergamot, green tea, and nectarine.

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  • cdWEB-marguerite

    Marguerite

    Rose, rose geranium, myrrh, ylang ylang, French gardenia, tuberose, red sandalwood, and palmarosa.

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  • cdWEB-marianne

    Marianne

    Red musk, bergamot, black currant, mimosa, orchid, patchouli, and lotus root.

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  • cdWEB-morana

    Morana

    5 out of 5

    Snow drifting on black pine, blood red apple, rosewood, osmanthus, and lemon peel.

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  • cdWEB-seth

    Seth

    Sudanese myrrh, papyrus, champaca flower, black lotus, amber, and honeyed leather.

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  • cdWEB-shakkari

    Shakarri

    White pear and absinthe, sea moss and patchouli, labdanum and crushed coral.

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A cluster of wooden wagons stands off to the side of the Midway, removed from the bustle of the dirt-caked makeshift street. A bonfire burns in the center of the lot, shining its light on a tattoo-covered woman. The images embedded in her skin writhe like living things, and the sigils that mark her glow faintly. She is filing her nails and smoking a cheroot while chatting idly with an impassive naked blonde who has been hoisted into the air by thick, gleaming meathooks. The blonde is pinioned; the blackened metal cables that bind her hang tightly from the branches of a massive grey oak. Her skin seems strangely translucent, and her veins and arteries are boldly visible. Two painted signs are propped, sideways, against the side of the tree:

THE ILLUSTRATED WOMAN

THE TORTURE QUEEN

The tattoo’d woman winks at you as you pass by. “Break time, honey,” she growls, as she blows a smoke ring in your direction.

  • cdWEB-blood garden

    The Blood Garden

    Vast open tents have been erected further down the lane. Ornately carved wooden poles support swaths of drooping black lace and blood-crusted burgundy velvet. Grapevines and ivy creep over the beams in the tent and curl like cocoons around bodies that hang upside-down in the caliginous gloom of the tents. Within the shadows, pale figures recline on divans covered in moldering, frayed fabric. As you pass, a feral, white-haired man hoists a tall-stemmed crystal glass of deep red liquid in a toast to you.

    Blood accord, bitter clove, English ivy, Tempranillo grape, red currant, oak, leather, blackberry leaf, and ginger lily.

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++ BPTP HAIR GLOSSES

Bedeck your locks (or snakes or horns or whatever you’re sporting up top) with scents gleaned from the Midway! Smell like you’ve stepped right off the platform of Carnaval Diabolique’s 13-in-One! Visit Black Phoenix Trading Post, our sister sideshow.

AMBER AND STEEL HOOKS
With a touch of oak bark and bourbon vanilla.

BOURBON & BONE
Clacking white sandalwood drenched in whiskey and a puff of cigar smoke.

CRACK OF THUNDER
Streaks of blue-white lightning slashing through a plum wine sky.

LA ROUE de MALHEUR
Red musk, blackened patchouli, opium tar, inky oudh, champaca flower, pomegranate pulp, frankincense, and tobacco.

MISCHIEF
Blood-spattered cotton candy.

NERVES AND SINEW, WOOD AND CLAY
Taut red strings of daemonorops draco and licorice root tugging on carved oak streaked with vetiver and clove with bright nerve-sparks of frankincense and elemi.

RAZORS IN A DOLL’S HOUSE
Rose water, cognac, and lace slashed with gleaming silver.

RED INCENSE
Red sandalwood, myrrh, cinnamon husk, and copal bound with blood, currants, and red wine.

SCREECHING REVENANT
Icy blue musk, eucalyptus, white pine, and opoponax.

WHO IS NIBBLING AT MY HOUSE?
“Save your slobbering,” said the old woman. “It doesn’t help you at all.”
Caramel apples, cardamom cakes, hazelnut cream, and butterscotch.

American Gods III + June Lunacy Update

  • 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-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-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-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-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-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-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-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-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-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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++ BLACK PHOENIX TRADING POST: AMERICAN GODS ATMOSPHERE SPRAYS

BONE-FIRE (ATMOSPHERE SPRAY)

… rib cages and fire-eyed skulls stared and stuck and jutted from the flames, sputtering trace-element colors into the night, greens and yellows and blues—was flaring and crackling and burning hotly.

Sparks of red peppercorns, blue-white eucalyptus leaf, and daemonorops draco against smoldering red amber and a copper sulfate-green licks of flame.

LAKESIDE (ATMOSPHERE SPRAY)

“There was a reason he hid me in Lakeside, wasn’t there? There was a reason nobody should have been able to find me here.”

Hinzelmann said nothing. He unhooked a heavy black poker from its place on the wall, and he prodded at the fire with it, sending up a cloud of orange sparks and smoke. “This is my home,” he said, petulantly. “It’s a good town.”

Perfect wholesomeness: green grass, summer daisies, spring daffodils, and bake sale cookies bought with blood and terror, all frozen beneath a sheet of thick black ice.

THINK SNOW FOR ME (ATMOSPHERE SPRAY)

“What we need,” said Wednesday, suddenly, “is snow. A good, driving, irritating snow. Think ‘snow’ for me, will you?”

“Huh?”

“Concentrate on making those clouds—the ones over there, in the west—making them bigger and darker. Think gray skies and driving winds coming down from the arctic. Think snow.”

“I don’t think it will do any good.”

“Nonsense. If nothing else, it will keep your mind occupied,” said Wednesday, unlocking the car. “Kinko’s next. Hurry up.”

Snow, thought Shadow, in the passenger seat, sipping his hot chocolate. Huge, dizzying clumps and clusters of snow falling through the air, patches of white against an iron-gray sky, snow that touches your tongue with cold and winter, that kisses your face with its hesitant touch before freezing you to death. Twelve cotton-candy inches of snow, creating a fairy-tale world, making everything unrecognizably beautiful . . .

Snow, thought Shadow. High in the atmosphere, perfect, tiny crystals that form about a minute piece of dust, each a lacelike work of fractal art. And the snow crystals clump together into flakes as they fall, covering Chicago in their white plenty, inch upon inch . . .

Snow upon snow upon snow.