The smartest frog in the world sat for his portrait. Red velvet upholstery nicely set off his green skin tone, while a potted fern and a blue-gray cloudy backdrop provided tonal balance to the composition.
Rare tomes of law, philosophy, and medicine stood as reminders of his accomplishments, all the more rare as they were bound in the hides of his rivals, as was a slim volume of cat cartoons.
He was taking a risk from this session, as most people seeing the photograph would not recognize him as the author of all of the diverse books, or the artist behind the subtle subliminal imagery in the backdrop. If he were recognized for all of that, it would reveal his true age and nature. That might start the Salem Witch Trials all over again, and he’d seen how that worked out the first time.
A singing fish hovers before me, silent at the moment; the last notes of Livin’ La Vida Loca are still ringing in my ears.
The fish blinks slowly, and turns as if swimming lazily. It is a rich brown shade, with bright red stripes and even brighter red lips. It glistens in the light, which seems to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. It just hangs there, waiting for another request. I’m afraid to ask for more.
The space I’m in is cavernous, with faintly purple walls far enough away in all directions as to not be sure which wall is closest. The ceiling, too, is far above, and shines a little like the surface of a pond on a bright summer’s day.
But this is no pond: there is no water.
There is gravity, and it feels normal enough. The floor is down, and covered in some sort of smooth, shiny, nearly black material. It has just enough texture to look like the surface of a pond on a still day. And yet again, it is not water.
This doesn’t explain the fish.
It also doesn’t explain how I came to be here.
Or why the fish has such a good singing voice and stage presence. Not to mention where the backing orchestra is hiding.
It is just a fish, and I seem to be trapped in its nightmare.
Being on a mission did not have to mean I was too short of time to admire this year’s fashions. Especially when the case took us through the core of the district and all the shop windows were freshly decorated.
It stood there on a mannequin, one that lacked details like head, hands, or feet. It was also an unnatural pale blue color. Often, that odd color would throw off the clothes. This time it mostly held the eye long enough for the figure to resonate. Perhaps the black fabric had a hint of the blue cast on it?
The window also held a ballgown or two, probably in blues as that was the fashionable color. But they were secondary. The only thing that mattered was the tuxedo. It called out to me on some base level, perhaps through the use of some subtle magic to reinforce the call, or perhaps just because I suddenly wanted to own that tuxedo.
Regardless, the jacket only needed a touch of tailoring for comfort, almost as if they had sized it to catch my eye then conceal my weapon. Or perhaps some old trickster knew I could be captivated.
Beer is the magical drink that created civilization. Fermenting grain makes water safer to drink. Finding enough grain to ferment drove agriculture. Tending the grain made it more practical to remain in one place year round. Brewing also encouraged cultivation of yeast, and certainly lead to reliably leavened breads. Bread and beer lubricated many social gatherings, to such an extent that “breaking bread” is still a metaphor in use today.
Tea, on the other hand, only appears after beer and bread are established. It is often seen alongside silly dainty sandwiches with the crust cut off.