by Michael B. Tager

The children run through the door and I squat in the thick green carpet that smells of distant rum and instruct them on their next mission. You vanquished the monster, I might say or, I received word from the Queen of Andromeda and she is pleased with your efforts, and they beam, the adulation of suns in their little eyes and I send them off again after they have rested and relaxed in my castle. They rest their feet on plush Ottomans and eat grapes and drink all the soda they could possibly want. I spoil these children before I send them through another of the thousand and one doors in my office, my place of power. The children are not uniform; they are children of Abraham and Ham; they reside in Alpha Centauri and the heavens and each time they defeat one of my enemies, they grow stronger, ever imbued with mother’s milk, that stuff of the stars and I tell them you are growing ever more beautiful, I am so proud of you, we are so close. And inevitably, they return through a door and greet me, famished and breathless, and I sit at my mahogany desk and open a drawer and within it is my monocle and I appraise them and tell them, it’s the time for the final mission and they scream and laugh–they’re so young, so small–and they’re ready, they tell me, they will please me, they want to make me proud and I smile and point with my withered finger and with my heavy dagger-nail at the black door, the one they’ve asked about since they first met me (through their dreams or prayers) only to be answered with my secret smile and a patient, when you’re ready. Their little feet beat heavy tattoos on my floor and they exit through the black door and I let my flesh melt away and so does the castle and I take my place again amidst the aether and within what would be my stomach but is instead nothing but a black hole of ravening I feel the sister-door open and they fall through and they’re so filled with energy and youth and light that I grin, my mouth a galaxy, my teeth the spark of the universe.

Michael B. Tager is a writer and editor from Baltimore. His work has appeared in Hobart, Barrelhouse, Electric Literature, Necessary Fiction and elsewhere. He does not enjoy the Oxford Comma.
Artwork by: Sarah Shields

Sarah Shields is an artist and writer living in Southern California with her family and one very naughty cat. Her artwork has appeared in The PinchFigroot Press, and Gigantic Sequins among others. She is lost and sometimes found on Twitter @saraheshields.

Website: www.saraheshields.com
Twitter: @saraheshields