the smuggler’s bible

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.

Vlad Dracula

The moon is a bright foil disk that frames the castle perfectly, a flinty hand emerging from the hillside. When viewed from the crumbling switchbacks on the road that splits the pass. For, like, a few weeks in October.

And Vlad Dracula spends good money clearcutting the sightlines to preserve the effect. Firelight glows in the high window of one jagged tower where he holds conference.

“They’re pissed, right?”

“A little nervous. Things are very uncertain. Everyone agrees spooky is sort of having a moment.”

“All right,” Vlad Dracula says. “If anyone mentions the snowman, tell them to fuck off.”