MEET ME IN THE FUTURE by Kameron Hurley preview: “The Plague Givers”

In celebration for the release of Kameron Hurley’s MEET ME IN THE FUTURE, Tachyon presents glimpses from “the literary sci-fi equivalent of a progressive rock album for punks.” (Starburst)


The Plague Givers

by Kameron Hurley

the tree, well insulated from the view of the two figures in the
boat, a thick, grubby woman raised her head from her work. In one
broad hand she held the stuffed skin of an eyeless toy hydra; in the
other, a piece of wire strung with a long white matte of hair. An
empty brown bottle sat at her elbow, though it took more than a
bottle of plague-laced liquor to mute her sense for plague days. She
thumbed her spectacles from her nose and onto her head. She placed
the half-finished hydra on the table and took her machete from the
shelf. The night air wasn’t any cooler than the daytime shade, so
she went shirtless. Sweat dripped from her generous body and
splattered across the floor as she got up.

forty-pound swamp rodent, Mhev, snorted from his place at her feet
and rolled onto his doughy legs. She snapped her fingers and pointed
to his basket under the stairs. He ignored her, of course, and
started grunting happily at the idea of company.

woman rolled her brown, meaty shoulders and moved up to the left of
the door like a woman expecting a fight. She hadn’t had a fight in
fifteen years, but her body remembered the drill. She called, “You’re
trespassing. Move on.”

voice replied—young and stupidly confident, maybe two years out of
training in the city, based on the accent, “The whole of this
territory was claimed by the Imperial Community of the Forked Ash
over a decade ago. As representatives of the Community, and scholars
of the Contagion College, we are within our rights in this waterway,
as we have come to seek your assistance in a matter which you are
bound by oath to serve.”

woman did not like city children, as she knew they were the most
dangerous children of all. Yet here they were again, shouting at her
door like rude imbeciles.

pushed open the door, casting light onto the little boat and its
slender occupants. They wore the long black robes and neat purple
collars of the Order of the Plague Hunters. When she had worn those
robes, long ago, they did not seem as ridiculous as they now looked
on these skinny young people.  

Addisalam?” the tall one said. That one was clearly a shoman, hair
twisted into braided rings, ears pierced, brows plucked. The other
one could have been anything—man, woman, shoman, pan. In her day,
everyone dressed as their correct gender, with the hairstyles and
clothing cuts to match, but fashions were changing, and she was out
of date. It had become increasingly difficult to tell shoman from
pan, man from woman, the longer she stayed up here. Fashion changed
quickly. Pans dressed like men these days. Shomans like pans. And on
and on. It made her head hurt.

kept her machete up. “I’m called Bet, out here,” she said. “And
what are you? If you’re dressing up as Plague Hunters, I’ll have
some identification before you go pontificating all over my porch.”

For info on MEET ME IN THE FUTURE, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover by Carl Sutton
Design by Elizabeth Story