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Look At This Perfect Character

The Delicate is pale, limbs pipe-cleaner thin, with a head as shiny hard as beetle-back. Violent, in utero skull tectonics have led to a precipice of brow, a compression of matter past the point of truth. His eyes are crow eyes, and his ear holes winding tunnels to nowhere. He comes in the latter days of afternoon, through blowing snow, dressed in black, while Schubert’s “Eighth” plays magically in the background. He comes to suck the breath out of passing fancies and to treat the infirm of mind, the particularly annoying, to a long sleep. “In order to take the waters,” as he explains it, he comes to a resort town on the edge of reason. Beyond it, the wilderness stretches north to the frozen pole. God has never drawn breath there—the domain of bat-winged demons whose skin is the ringed wood of oak trees. These creatures fly out of the forest at night to snatch up children, their little legs kicking to the moon. To live in Absentia is to live with a soul that is liquid lead.

—Jeffrey Ford, “The Delicate”

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