You don’t need to click anywhere to read a story.
Roll your mouse
over the page number tabs in order
and the text will appear
To begin reading the story, roll over the page 1 tab
The page is designed to be read at this size. If the text is too small for comfort, however, it can be enlarged using your browser commands. As this means you will scroll out of the bottom of this page, there is also a link at the bottom of each page to take you to the next.
If there are more than seven pages, to see them, click on More>>
Click on the author's name to see a potted biography
To return to The West Pier Gazette contents page, click at the top of the page
To return to Other Stories of The West Pier Gazette, click at the top right of the page
To go to the Home page, click on Home
||EW COME THROUGH THE GATE THESE DAYS, across the sea of night, but I still look after the boat. There has always been someone to take care of the boat; it is the way that things must be done.|
I spend my days waiting by the dock, or wandering through the
black mirrored halls, though never venturing beyond the Weighing Chamber.
Like the boat, the Chamber is little used these days: the great canopics stand
empty, their machinery silent and ringed with dust; the scales and their delicate,
arcane mechanisms hang in an upset balance, one up, one down. This has always
irritated me, but there is nothing I can do to alter it. The base of the scales
lies more than a hundred feet above my head, gleaming bronze-black in the
light of the single lamp. One day, I suppose, the lamp will finally fail and
the Chamber will be plunged into darkness. I used to believe that the Hierith
might return if this happened: they are known to be methodical, disliking
wastefulness. But over the years I have come to realise that they may never
be coming back.
The judging seats are empty now, but I remember when the Hierith used to come and sit in session: Osir, Hadeth, Ise among them. Hadeth was the worst of them: brooding, melancholy, sitting hunched in the judging seat like a scavenger. It had never agreed with the practice of tokening: it said that it encouraged false ideas among the amorthai. Clearly, this was true enough, but Osir would reply that it was a convenient fiction in the absence of any real understanding, and until the amorthai gained a reasonable level of conceptual sophistication, the fiction was as good as any.
“Better gods than devils,” Osir would add.
“Better neither,” Hadeth replied. “We are functionaries, bureaucrats: it is not our place to be regarded as divine.”
“The amorthai will realise the truth in time.”
“If they are allowed to hang onto comforting stories,
they will never realise it. They will remain as First Beings. Do you not remember
how you thought, before you disaccreted?”
But Osir said nothing, perhaps recalling the violent nature of that ancient disaccretion.
I was not supposed to be privy to such discussions, but by that time the Hierith had long grown used to treating me as part of the Chamber furniture. I sometimes think that they had forgotten why I was even there: it is hard to judge how the Hierith regarded time. Perhaps they thought I had always been present, perhaps they forgot that I was in their employ. I cannot say. I have visited only one other station, and that was very different. I am told that they all vary, being suited to particular sections of the amorthai dimensions.
One of my tasks is to keep the Chamber clean: polishing the black glass surfaces on which the canopics stand, brushing dust from the jars themselves so that they glow lapis blue in the light of the suns beyond the Night Sea. Occasionally, I go to stand before the Sea itself: my bare feet on the galaxy’s lip, the spirals of dust and stars uncoiling beneath my feet. And I wonder how it all came into being, whether there was truly intelligence behind it. The Hierith, who after all hold the deepest secrets, claimed not to know. Then I turn from the crimson and gold, the harsh blue of starlight, toward the Chamber, and see myself reflected: a small dark figure against the immensity of the hall, my long, narrow head nodding as though too heavy for my neck, holding a polishing cloth.
I walk back, slowly, the tasks accomplished. But it is not enough. My family – my sister/wife, my daughter/niece – are long since gone across the Night Sea. It is many centuries since we all took the pilgrimage boat to Ankhur Ei and stood upon the edge of the sacrificial chasm whilst the larvae disported themselves below. It seems like a different life, and indeed, there are those who would say that this is so. But whenever I look out across the Night Sea, I am grateful: that my family have gone before me, on to a new life and a new time.
Liz has had many stories published in Interzone and four novels so far.They are all wonderful, with that delightfully wicked streak of Williams whimsy that gives all her work its distinctive character.
The novels available are
The Ghost Sister
Empire of Bones
The Poison Master
Nine Layers of Sky
Nightshade Books has also published a collection of her short stories –
The Banquet of the Lords of Night
Find out more at her own website