Back when my hair was longer, I lived in a village divided. East and West, night and day. I had taken an apprenticeship in loving, not done well, and lost three parts of myself. I searched the apartment from top to bottom but never found them. I did find a crusty bottle of absinthe smuggled back from Prague and quickly forgotten, stashed atop the refrigerator behind a crock pot and alongside of something that might've once been an onion. The green syrup tasted like essence of Scope and stung like iodine. Having sunk to the bottom and found some courage there, I set out for my local bar and dedicated my bum to warming the stool for the after-hours crowd.
As I waited for the twins Epiphany and Disgust (who escorted me home nightly), I noted a young man reading at the end of the bar. He found my eye and smiled. A black man, covered in grey and white face-paint and eyeliner, he wore leather pants and a good three pounds of sterling silver snakes and things wound around his neck and hands. He was horrible. And wonderful.
"Waiting out the storm?" he asked.
Was it raining? Well that explained all the water. I hadn't noticed before. I asked Mr. Greasepaint for a light. He grabbed a book of matches from the bar and slid down to assist me. Introducing himself as "Fang Alpahamayle," we agreed that I would call him "George."
George suggested that as the only two patrons waiting out the storm we should observe the long tradition of The Decameron and many before it and entertain one another swapping stories. I didn't think I had a story to tell, but George had a few (which I would share with you now, but I swore myself to confidence that night) and before long the clouds, both literal and figurative, parted. George thanked me for my company and as he left, laid his book before me.
"Keep it," he said and made his way toward the dawn.
The little paperback before me was a picture book, words and drawings in sequence like little movies on a page. The stories were fantastic - sea monsters and ghosts and faeries and Gods that walk across the sky - all spun in and around one another, related but unrelated, like separate threads that lay next to one another in a greater tapestry. There were characters there I recognized specifically from other tales and some that I only felt I knew, but couldn't place. There were stories within stories within stories, but sitting round the entrance to that rabbit hole were travelers waiting out a storm, telling tales in an Inn with the same name as on the matchbook before me: WORLDS' END.
Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.