Scary Monsters II-A

Kage Baker had a heart murmur most of her life.

We always assumed it was a side effect from a memorable multi-stage measles attack in early childhood – which turned out some years later to have been and/or included rheumatic fever. But she turned so many colours and had so many rashes that year, she might have mutated into a leopard and no one would have noticed. She finished up the marathon with chicken pox; and then didn’t catch mumps until she was in her 20’s. And she did that twice. Kage always moved in her own time zone.

The heart murmur never did her the least bit of harm. It was, as they say, benign, and only served to unnerve doctors. No, her noisy heart worked fine until it got tired of trying to deal with the blitzkrieg of her rare and intransigent cancer, and just – stopped. Between two breaths, between two beats: tick and no tok, she was gone.

And though by that time it was a relief in many ways, it was also the scariest thing I have ever seen. Because Kage was there – slowed like light in a layered prism, slowed so you could see the hummingbird-wing beat of life beginning to flicker – but she was there and then she wasn’t. It was like a firework in reverse, climbing and climbing on a tail of impossible shadow and then exploding into – not nothing, but nothingness. A something that was not not. A void. An absence.

This all comes to mind because I went to the doctor’s today, and realized that over the last year the waiting room has become a Chambre of Horrors. (“Dumb and Dumber” was also playing on the waiting room DVR, but aside from that …) I’m not afraid of needles or other medical paraphernalia. I’m afraid of memories, memories of the Kage-shaped vacuum that she left behind her so suddenly.

The essential transaction did not happen where we could see. I presume that Death was even more a gentleman than usually portrayed, and so arranged their tryst somewhere more private than Kage’s bedroom.

Nonetheless, there was not a moment’s doubt when it happened. If someone ever finds an accurate way to show that on a movie screen, it will the scariest monster ever. Audience members will turn to the vampires  beside them, and bury their faces for comfort in the bosom  of the Undead. Werewolves will pat people’s heads reassuringly.

Well, there you go, kids. Just a meditation on the vagaries of mortality, as we count down to Halloween and practice earthquake drills all over Los Angeles. We’re courting monsters and practicing for disaster today. And we have no idea what it will be like, but we’re sure – pretty sure – we’ll know it when we see it.


Tomorrow:The Acme Catalog of Monsters

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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3 Responses to Scary Monsters II-A

  1. Carol Hunt says:


    I was introduced to Kage’s work about 5 years ago and have since read much of her work–some of it two or three times. So it’s absurd and inexplicable and, in a way, horrifying that I only learned of her illness and death yesterday, while doing a rare and belated perusal of book titles on Needless to say, I am stunned and saddened, and wish to convey my condolences, however belated. But I also want to thank you for introducing me, through your blog (which I have just started reading from the start–am now almost through with August!), to a woman I never met but would have liked to know. It comforts me to think that I may get to read more Kage Baker, after all, as channeled by you. But I also want to say that I enjoy YOUR voice, as well, and am looking forward to catching up with and continuing my reading of your blog.

  2. wayne says:

    I recall a variety of things passing through my hyperactive imagination in those last moments. I was concerned for you of course, and everyone else in the house. When you went to get her other sister and I was alone with Kage, I actually turned to the corner of her room imagined her spirit standing there (invisible to the eye) and said, “You realize, in the movies right about now you’re body would heave forward and scare the crap out of me. I’ll just keep that bit between you and me for now.”
    Bear with me a moment, there’s this movie… “Zombieland” and in it a famous comedian passes away and he does so in a funny way, sad, but funny. One character giggles at the final passing and (everyone else is somber) and she says “Sorry he just gets to me.” Earlier this character had stated that this comedian had a direct line to her funny bone, and this illustrated that even in dying he could bring a smile to her face. I realize I digress, but let me circle back around for you.
    Kage was so VERY Kage at the end bless her heart. I don’t know if she “got” me, but I really feel like I “got” her sense of humor and adventure. She had a direct line into my brain at times (and my funny bone is located in my brain). I like to think, had she ears to hear me at the time, she would’ve agreed and pointed one finger at the sky giving me a nod. Again, part of me is glad she didn’t as it would have scared the crap out of me…

  3. I have had occasion to witness the binary alteration more than a couple of times and in a number of circumstances. It is, what ever else is going on medically, exactually as you describe it.

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