the smuggler’s bible

Dancer

Rain falls across the park as a fine white mist, obscuring the path to either side of the footbridge. Dancer, alone in the gentle, quiet cloud, stands at the balustrade. A paddle boat floats by in the current below—empty.

“The weather has turned.” A voice and unurried footsteps emerge from the fog. A dark form begins to take shape.

“The world turns,” Dancer says, “so must everything in it.”

The shape, an old man wearing a Mackintosh, leans beside him. Just for a moment, they watch the water together. When he turns to go, a slender, iron key remains.

Dancer

The weather has warmed, but only just. Dancer trudges down a sidewalk in a gritty rut between knee-high ridges of snow. The wind jackknifes wildly through the alleys, catching him broadsides, threatening to tip him into the slush.

More than a year since the snowman disappeared and the game is locked tight, no movement whatsoever.The big man considers stalemate a species of defeat, so Dancer’s job is to wedge himself in and pry it loose. Something. Anything.

That spooky old castle is top priority, but how do you get into a place like that? Well, you’ve got to be invited.

Turkey Tom

The porch lights dim on Halloween night and suddenly there is a great weight pressing firmly upon Turkey Tom’s chest. The wheel is turning, and attached to the wheel is a gear ratcheting tighter and tighter, drawing the calendar into itself, shortening it. The mistletoe is hanging already. It may never have come down at all.

“Tom,” he says, deep voice gusting with laughter, “go and prepare the way for me.”

So he does. Tom stands at the November gate. Pass here, it is implied, and you pass forever. There’s no way back, only through. And the wheel turns again.

Dancer

Dancer sits in a booth by the window, drinking coffee alone and watching the traffic crawl by in the rain for two hours.

Keep an eye out for anything suspicious, he mutters, stubbing another cigarette in the ashtray. We don’t want to be embarrassed again.

The waitress comes and Dancer settles up. He steps out into the weather, belting his coat tight, then turns up the street toward the pumpkin patch.

Sure, whatever. Easy assignment. But at no point—never—did anyone even attempt to explain how to distinguish suspicious from the general day-to-day nefarious tomfoolery popular among the October crowd.