Kage Baker arranged her brain eccentrically, but with great deliberation. She didn’t agree with Sherlock Holmes, about carefully stocking it with only what you needed – like a well organized lumber room. Hers was more the used-by-six-generations attic sort of brain, room after room, full of everything she’d ever come across. Plus, strangers had shipped things to it from time to time (a box full of gorgets; sealed trunks with labels from Singapore and Mombhasa) and it was all still up there. And the windows were open, too, letting in whatever was floating by on the breeze or needed to hide from the moonlight. Or the sun.
Sometimes she went straight to the room she needed up there, using her Memory Mansion to find a specific fact. But she also liked surprises and chance encounters, and she trusted her mind to work away out of sight when she was busy. That’s why she left it arranged with such seeming confusion.
Seismic tremors and air currents kept it stirred, so you never knew what would have come to the front when you went to take a look. Kage liked it like that. She rather depended on convention currents to bring fresh nuggets of precious metal up from the core, and layer them accessibly in the mantle for her to find. She valued the power of free association highly, and lots of her ideas first formed that way.
Rocketing along the California Coast in the Pacific Flyer one December night (we were between cars then), Kage observed aloud that there was no stop for the tiny town of Summerland. “Why not, do you suppose?” she wondered.
“How the hell should I know?” I said in my usual helpful way. “The town is barely there anyway. All that’s there are antique shops.”
“No, there’s the Big Yellow House restaurant. It’s supposed to be haunted,” Kage said. “And the dining room walls are all hand carved out of eucalyptus. The town was founded by spiritualists, you know. Come on, speculate – what would the station be like in a town called Summerland?”
“There wouldn’t be one,” I said. (This was our habitual game.) “The train would stop by the empty side of the tracks.’
“Where the trees come right down to the rails. But not eucalyptus like everywhere else along here – they’d be oaks.”
“Not on a schedule. On nights with no moon .”
“In the autumn. And a limousine would be waiting, and the Faeries would get off the train and drive off in it.”
“In a limo?”
“Yeah, they drive limos now. They’ve evolved.” said Kage. “They’re The Beautiful People now, the perfect Ones that pass you on the road in classic cars, and all you see are white faces and furs and glittering eyes that look at you like you’re a bug on the windshield. Which they never have, by the way.”
“Bugs on the windshields. Baked-on bugs do not happen to the Fair Folk.”
A long silence while we both stared out the black windows. I am sure we didn’t see the same landscape.
“And sometimes,” Kage said finally, “there’s a child with them.”
When we got home, she wrote for 14 hours without a stop. The eventual story was called Her Father’s Eyes.
Tomorrow: more inventory. Thanks to Becky Miller for inspiring today’s title.