Dawn had barely broken when the meter maid gathered her buckets and started down the main highway to where her meters were waiting, silently, as if completely spent. Their little red flags stretched up, tall and expired. All were swollen with coin from the night before. As the meter maid emptied their iron bellies, one by one, she was careful to pick out the occasional slug that fell into her bucket. The Collector wouldn’t trade for slugs. Even so, her buckets grew heavy very quickly, and soon it was time to head to market to trade the coin for milk.
When I walk into my dentist’s office, it’s like walking into a peaceful aquarium. Every patient’s chair has a window-size monitor in front of it where CG fish glide lazily over sun-dappled coral and miniature sunken ships. Today, however, the monitors were black, and the back hallway was dark.
“What happened to all the fish?” I asked my hygienist, Carrie.
She sighed and chose her words carefully. “Uh… Our computer guy was let go.”
“So what, he deleted the aquariums?”
“No, he reprogrammed them so the fish die and float to the top. Once an hour.”
“I want to see.”
The royal bed was a marvel. Countless golden partridges seemed to spring from the headboard and take flight right before one’s eyes. The Queen delighted in the hunt, and so it was the carpenters’ masterpiece, and his revenge, for the cruel Queen.
You see, while the Queen slept, the slightest movement, even the slightest breath from her lips, stirred a sound in the hollow cage of the headboard that only she heard, mimicking the far off call of partridges. In her dreams, she hunted, and in her dreams, they always endured. It unsettled her, and soon she grew quite mad.