by Stanley Lieber


Exclusion had been the last straw for Maude. Contrary to legend, climbing up the mountain had not polluted the site, nor had it turned her into stone. Maybe her calves had gotten a little stiff, but still, she’d been able to keep walking, drawing herself up from base to peak, a familiar maneuver given the bent of her particular expertise. Discovered other women up there, too. Officiating.

Someone had been lying to her, and for a very long time.

So, this is where the men went when they were supposed to be working. All of the many design setbacks, launch delays, testing failures, budget overruns—all of it, all along, had been a made up ruse on account of their preoccupation with... whatever this was supposed to be. Admittedly, she could see the appeal. It was no wonder most projects never reached a state of completion. No wonder the contractors’ club in the mancamp was always deserted. How could anyone down there hope to compete with this? And on top of it all they drew a regular paycheck from Mold Industries, Inc. She paid their salary.

Nobody was happy to see her atop the mountain. Plinth, of course, was swaddled in sycophants, showing out in a repurposed shrine that now bulged at the seams with all his usual comforts. Postmodern furniture, but he’d tasked his personal narrator with documenting the event sans serif. She’d been taking all of this in when Piro snuck up behind her and slowly lowered a visor into her line of sight, like a blindfold, compromising her interpretation of the scene. Instinctively she blinked, her mind and body rejecting the instrumentation as one.

When her eyes popped open again she was back in her apartment, jacketed in black mold.


Her period had started up again for the first time in nearly fifty years.

Maude rummaged in the cabinets for a clean mug, toppling several wine glasses in the process. She crunched over the broken glass in her slippers and wandered into the living room, worrying absentmindedly at her tea. Collapsed onto the couch. Defeated, but still clinging to her numerous complaints.

Her visor chirped.

MĂ­mir’s disembodied head appeared, floating before her, demanding a status update on Plinth.

Of course.