Summary: After an alchemy experiment gone wrong, a boy and his pet-god end up in twenty-first century Europe. Length: ~2,600 words.

 

Thump. Morgue leans back in his grandmother’s rocking chair and watches the world spin. It has not stopped since Lugnor hit him with a spade. “A test of mortality,” Lugnor said, “if you can get hurt, perhaps, so can I.”

Thump-thump. Dust motes circle above Morgue’s head like millions of little diamonds which glitter at odd angles then disappear. When he makes a grab for them, his hand comes back with nothing. Thump-thump-thump. The sound of Lugnor stamping up and down the stairs is beginning to grate on Morgue’s nerves. Breathing in deep and closing his eyes, Morgue tries to remember a time when Lugnor did not irk him like this.

At the beginning of the last century, Lugnor’s visits to the mortuary were the highlight of Morgue’s second life. Living as a revenant had taken some getting used to: the voicelessness, the unbeating heart, the whispers in his head that used to keep him up at night, the not-being-alive yet somehow alive enough to disqualify him from claiming afterdeath benefits. Aside from the goodly mortician, who had signed the adoption papers, Lugnor was the only bright thing in Morgue’s deathless life. He can still remember, even though it makes him cringe now, how embarrassingly smitten with Lugnor he was.

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Liam is well liked everywhere in Neverearth not because of his achievements but in spite of it.

Liam is perfect, it is all he knows how to be, and if there is despair behind it that is his business. Liam notices that his kindness intimidates some of his classmates, so he responds, moulding himself automatically to present the type of perfection they prefer. He modulates his speeches and actions accordingly, and after a while they forget that his eagerness to throw himself in the path of danger used to frighten them, that his curiosity had once been the talk of the school.

He is just like them now, if not always a little above, and he feels himself slipping into the role with despair. It is nothing, really, just as his life is nothing.

He is still as capable as he ever was, spotting the tiniest of inconsistencies and following them, leaping across the landscape of suicidal impulse, but he slows his thoughts, picks his words with meticulous care and is careful in how he presents himself. Hard work, devotion and dedication, not the fact that he simply is willing to die, is the reason he rises above them.

Liam Mirth will go far, they say, and Liam knows it also and does not care. Liam knows that if he just has the right tools he could leave this world, never mind being the greatest wizard, and all his achievements mean nothing with this knowledge.

He knows there has to be a way out, that there must be something else to strive for, but he gave up a long time ago, perhaps even before he fell into Neverearth — what does it matter? He might be broken inside but his veneer is perfect.

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War meant little to them. All they knew was that it took lives and that, in itself, was unjustifiable. That didn’t mean much though; everything grown ups did always was either cruel or unjustifiable, but their War meant both.

All Rue knew about War was that it robbed the softness of eyes and the gentleness of hands; War did worse than end people, it twisted them. And Rue knew this because she had seen it (Mrs Platt lost her son to War – she now used hands instead of heart to deal with Rue and the rest of the children), heard it (no longer could any of them bother between rainstorms and gunfires; this was how Rue knew that even she was War-damaged) and read of it (a selected few from the Home were taught to read at an early age; it all stopped after Enemy bombed System one night; any pretences of peace crumbled along with the wreckage. Rue learned much from the books she could get her hands on; she imagined the rest, filling in the gaps where words and phrases meant nonsense to her—what was Tranquility? It sounded a lot like a sister of Quarantine).

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lost child of gloom and gold
holds invincibility.
dark child who snuffs out fate
shall suffer eternity.
mind child of things unseen
swallows past harmony.
— part child oldest of all restores what laws divide.

young love shrivels to tomb
by doom affection owns.
hanging child haunts on under
lay bare over death’s bones.
— wretched soul above below to weep its dying tiber.
— every child broken by trial must borne its own murder.