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Notes for Chapter Eighteen
Behold, the last notes ever for Bone Shop.
I hope you've enjoyed it. And if you've been waiting until the end to donate, ahem, there's no time like the present. (Especially since my wife's hit a snag with her unemployment insurance, and we're going without her payments for at least a month, something that has thrown our household into a little something I like to call CRAZY FINANCIAL PANIC. We'll endure – there's some writing money on the horizon – but it's gonna be a rough few weeks.)
I'll be at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose California, doing a reading at 1:30 on Friday (opposite the Garth Nix interview! Alas!) If you're at the convention, do stop by. And if you can't make it, I'm sure I'll see you in the bar, at parties, or just wandering around. The con isn't that big.
I'm going to miss doing this weekly fiction. Though the timing is good – it looks like I'll be doing a work-for-hire gig that will take up a lot of my time for the next few months. Marla will continue to appear in short stories, though, and I hope to do more novels with her, too. Bone Shop will (probably) appear in audio form, and if/when it does, I'll twitter about it and put it in the RSS feed and blog it and all that. I'm working on getting a print edition ready too. So you haven't quite seen the last of this, though the Monday updates will go the way of the dodo.
Goodbye, farewell, I'll miss you all...
Okay, one more thing:
For those who've been wondering where Daniel previously appeared in the published Marla novels, I present you with a long extract from Dead Reign, during Marla's travels in the underworld with her valet Pelham:
Marla started to go around it, and then the pile of garbage reached out a hand, grasped her ankle, and moaned her name.
Marla jerked back, drawing her knife, but the thing on the street didn't attack her, it merely shifted and half-rolled over. She could make it out now, just, as a human being wrapped in torn rags, body broken, folded, spindled, dampened, splattered. A rather beautiful green eye rolled into sight and gazed at her.
"I didn't die for two days," the thing on the sidewalk said, and Marla's own stomach rolled over. "After you threw me from the roof."
I'm sorry," Marla whispered. "It was nothing personal. I was working for someone. You were working for someone else. They should have fought each other. We fought instead." She didn't even know this dead man's name. He'd been an apprentice, Marla a mercenary in someone's temporary employ, and they'd fought on a rooftop for possession of a deck of cards wrapped in a silk scarf that their respective masters both wanted very badly.
"I suffer, for the things I did." The thing on the sidewalk coughed wetly. "You will suffer too, when you are like me." It tried to drag itself toward her. "I will make you like me. I will pull you down here with me, and we will run into the gutters together when it rains."
"I'm sorry," Marla said again, meaning it, but knowing it was empty. "Can I–could I–put you out of your misery? A knife in your brain, would that give you peace, even here, for a little while?"
"Die with me. That's all I need." It inched itself forward again, the remnants of its fingernails breaking off on the pavement.
"Ms. Mason," Pelham said. "We should go. Forward, remember? Ever forward."
"He was like me." Marla stared down at the dead man. "Just doing his job, trying to take something from me, but I fought him off, I knocked him over, he fell."
"You threw me." The thing's voice was more ragged now from its efforts at locomotion. Marla knew she would dream of its pursuit forever, that her occasional nightmares of being chased would change to nightmares of this thing–this man–pulling himself along after her, endlessly, implacably, tirelessly.
"Ms. Mason," Pelham said again, and then, more loudly, "Marla!" She heard him, distantly, but mostly she looked at the streak of red left in the wake of the man she'd killed, the blood left behind as he dragged himself after her, and wasn't that just like her life, too? She moved forward, and left a trail of the dead behind her? A streak of blood on the pavement of her past?
Pelham slapped her face, and the shock made Marla gasp. He reared back to slap her again, and she grabbed his wrist, twisting it and dropping him to his knees. "I'm sorry, Ms. Mason, I was losing you, you haven't moved in nearly ten minutes, that thing wouldn't stop whispering –"
Marla released his hand abruptly. "Pelham, I didn't know, I. . . it's fine. You did right." She looked down again at the broken man on the pavement. If Pelham hadn't been here, would she have been mesmerized, trapped here until the thing reached her and pulled her down? "I left flowers. I poured whiskey on the grave. I tried."
"Not for years. You have not left those offerings for many seasons."
And it was true. Marla had let time heal her guilt. Killing this man accidentally had taught her not to kill casually, to only murder when her own life or the fate of her city were at stake, but while she'd remembered the lesson, she'd forgotten the man who inspired it. "When I get back, I will again. I promise."
"Die with me," it said again, and Marla could only shake her head, and turn away, allowing Pelham to guide her from the mess she'd made.
There you have it. And now, having read Bone Shop, you know why Marla didn't recognize him. As for why he didn't try to remind her of their past, there in the underworld? Maybe it was a twisted sort of kindness. Or maybe he knew she wouldn't remember him no matter what he said.
After all, as I've said often in the Marla stories: the dead know things.
But really it's because I didn't have the idea for Bone Shop until after Dead Reign was published. I couldn't figure out why I'd felt compelled to include this particular victim of Marla's early days, a guy whose name she didn't even know... and I thought there had to be more to his story, and to Marla's story, and to their whole story together. I realized I could write Bone Shop, a story that would throw new light on Marla, and reveal genuine secrets of her past, without violating narrative continuity and causality. And there was already precedent for Marla dealing with problems this way – at the end of Poison Sleep she arranges to forget the way making love to Joshua Kindler felt. That struck me almost as foreshadowing. After-shadowing. Whatever.
And now we're really done.
Back to Chapter 18