A Birthday Gift

Kage Baker never actually stopped writing any story. She just stopped writing most of them down.

But she would still tell the stories, as they occurred to her. They all began as told tales, to the solitary audience of me; that’s how the addenda, codices and marginalia continued. Often in the car, of course – for Kage, forward motion translated literally into plot line. Others … in restaurants, or grocery stores, or while gardening, as something struck her fancy and initiated a phase-change cascade somewhere in her mind. It was a common beginning to conversation of an evening, when Kage would suddenly turn the sound down on Top Gear or Ghosthunters, and remark casually, “You know, there’s an active trade in bone jewelry crafted specifically for the markets of the Children of the Sun. Demons carve the stuff, and trade it to the Yendri.  The Yendri won’t work it, because they’re too prissy, but they’ll broker it to the Children. And then pay the demons on commission. And you know what the awful part is? The carvings are made from the bones of the Children of the Sun themselves.”

“Why? What happens if they find out?” I really wanted to know.

“I don’t know. Yet.” And Kage would look thoughtful and turn the sound back up.

I haven’t found the notes. Yet.

But this morning I found a charming note from Margaret (Hi, Margaret!) explaining that since they’d had some good lightning last night where she lived, she was happy to celebrate the Dread Gard’s birthday today. A philosophy with which I am in total agreement. And I sat down to tell her so, and this happened:

“The Dread Gard’s birthday: There will be many wild celebrations in the Black Halls, and the wine will run like … not blood, because not even demons sling good booze around on the floor. Water will have to suffice. Little sweet cakes (Not cupcakes! Kage snarled at me when I suggested that, once.) with cream frosting and custard filling and delicately piped skulls on them in black icing. In the Officer’s Mess they will be toasting him in Black Moons (Guinness and champagne, more or less). Last man standing and still able to say his name wins. It’s usually Gard.

But down in the top level of the cellars, where the household shrines are, there will be a constant stream of quiet visitors. These aren’t shrines the Family visits; the demons built and furnished them. This day, men and women of the household – especially the army – will go in and leave their prayers and thanks round the feet of a statue of Gard, notes and small bits of metal written on like potsherds; shards of weapons are the most popular. The paint over the chest of his statue will be worn right away from all the fond touches over his heart.

Tomorrow, hung-over, they will ceremoniously repaint it.”

That’s a gift from Kage. It came pouring into my head as clearly as if she were speaking it. While I was making the bed. Which is still sitting there unmade, as I went straight to the computer and  started writing in a white heat. And that’s how it was when she told me the stories, Dear Readers; bits and pieces that she said aloud and trusted to my ears to catch.

The notes she left – decades old, on cocktail napkins and that damned erasable typing paper, sometimes on the endpapers of books or candy wrappers turned inside out – are frustrating and myriad and all, all undated. But they are as pages of crystal engraved with incorruptible gold compared to the whispering in the back of my mind … still, sometimes it goes clarion on me and I get a bit like that.

String enough of them together, and there’s a story. In the meantime – Happy Birthday, Gard. Live forever, Master of the Mountain!

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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4 Responses to A Birthday Gift

  1. Margaret says:

    Thank you so much! I’m very glad that Kage told it to you and that you passed it on to us. A couple of times in my life, I’ve had those fits of “This is flowing into my head and I’m just writing it down NOW!” The euphoria was truly astounding. Do real writers feel like that a lot?

    Now we have a year to figure out how to manufacture the festive cakes – definitely not cupcakes. I’m seeing some of them as more long, narrow ovals, so you could have femurs on top, and the little skulls on other, round ones. Can they be chocolate, either the fabric or the filling? These would go over big for Day of the Dead celebrations, if it could be ascertained not to be blasphemy to use Gard-cakes for other purposes.

    Hail, Gard! (and Happy Birthday!)


    • Kate says:

      Margaret – I’m just glad and grateful you folks don’t think I’m nuts for saying such things. However, I am also somewhat reassured by the fact that I don’t hear Kage clearly or often. Since I would desperately rejoice to hear her, I assume the lack thereof means I am not slipping into comfortable dementia. But, you know, we all have voices in our heads – it’s perfectly normal to “hear” different points of view in appropriate voices. I hope that Kage will morph into one of those for me. In the meantime … my head is full of memories of what she said.

      And no, alas! This doesn’t happen often to *any* writers! We all live for those moments when our brains catch fire – but it doesn’t happen nearly often enough. The usual deal is track down your muse – drag him out of the bar – drag him back home – wrestle him into submission – and then, while he’s sleeping it off, get up and write like a madwoman.

      Although this experience may differ for writers with female muses …

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com


      • Margaret says:

        Oh, if I’d only known THAT was how it works with Muses….

        When it gets cool enough here to turn the oven on (post-September, probably), I have several experimental ideas for the making of Gard-cakes. If they work, I’ll share the recipe.


  2. Luisa Puig Duchaineau says:

    Oh what a lovely lightning strike from heaven! Thanks from me, too, here is fog shrouded Livermore, where we *might* have been able to see the sun rise, if Dread Gard’s household hadn’t been so hung-over from their festivities last night. Re-Paint the Icon Well, Children of the Sun! I’ll sip my offering of steamed coffee, and meditate on Kage’s celestial recording of the other stories to come.

    Praised be.


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