WHAT A WASTE
Their client is late. It isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last, but it irks them just the same. All that time and work on this custom order, made for one person alone. They wait and wait. Hanging over the cracks, the clouds threaten to spill. Cicadas burrow back underground. Screeching muffled by soil. The froth smells of petrichor, lip gloss, nail polish, a bouquet drying in a dust storm. Time’s up. The shapeshifter stops waiting. Shaking their head, they pour out the order. A shimmer in the air over hot sand. A vision of sunflowers blooming in the face of rain. It never gets easier, watching it go.
TRANSMASC WITCH SPELL
green queen queer gleam
tear seam glean spleen
slow dream hold beam
slip stream lips sing
sand fling dance king
dance king! pants cling
The electrician works out of a tiny, unkempt booth in a hidden back alley of Electric Town at Akihabara station. The shop itself may not look like much, but the person who runs it is no ordinary electrician. Customers go to them for a specific, unique service—to connect their phones or laptops, through glowing wires, to a mysterious machine that allows the living to communicate with the dead who had once been a part of the customers' lives. In exchange for this service, the electrician draws a small amount of the customer's life force, in order to track down the deceased. Something about the crashing waves of space-time and how we are all interconnected throughout the universe. It doesn't hurt a bit, promises the electrician's partner, who is also their best friend. And it never does. Together, the electrician and their partner have seen countless customers leave the shop wiping tears of sorrow and relief, postures changed from when they entered. Final farewells to deceased partners, parents, grandparents, children, friends, acquaintances, nonhuman companions. Customer by customer, they lighten the city, providing the opportunity to express feelings once left unsaid, to give one another the gift of gratitude one last time.
One day, the electrician's partner doesn't show up to work. A couple of us past customers hear the news and go out to that alley of Electric Town, concerned for the electrician. When we get there, the screen of the miraculous machine, usually alive with a waterfall of code in neon rainbows, is dark and silent. The electrician is disconnecting wires and packing equipment into boxes.One of us asks quietly if they called their partner on the machine. The electrician shakes their head and thanks us for coming. Flickering like a light bulb ready to fall asleep, they disconnect the last wire and go out.
lae astra (they/them) is an artist who calls Tokyo home. Their work appears or is forthcoming in fifth wheel press, Strange Horizons, manywor(l)ds, and elsewhere. Find them at laeastra.com/links.