Opener of the Ways
On a bright, crisp Saturday, Margaret walked
through the dog park with Anubis. The jackal-headed guide of the dead,
the prince of Magic, used his royal Ankh to scratch the parts of his back
he couldn't reach with his hands.
Margaret bought them ice
cream from a vendor with a cart. Other dog owners crowded around with
their animals. A Russian wolfhound sniffed Anubis' ass. The god patted
the wolfhound on the head and let it lick from his vanilla cone. The
wolfhound's owner nervously pulled the dog away.
it always seven?" Margaret asked. "Seven deadly sins. Seven virtues.
Seven pillars of wisdom. Seven lines on a grave to erase the sins of the
"Seven segments of a rainbow," said Anubis, in a clear
very un-doglike voice. "Seven souls."
"Is that why?
Because we have seven souls?"
"Perhaps. Four parts of mortals are
connected to Earth, three to Heaven. If you add up the numbers one
through seven, you get twenty-eight, the same number as the cycle of the
moon. Of course, it could be simpler. It could be that everyone in the
universe hates six, so the gods just rounded up one."
old woman in a bulky plaid coat stood before them. "What kind of a dog is
"Actually, it's a god," said Margaret.
that like a Pekingese?"
"Your khu, your intelligence, is unusually
small," Anubis said. "This will not help you pass through the Judgement
Hall of Osiris and into the Western Lands where worthy souls live
"You have a very rude doggy," the old woman said, and
stalked off, pulling her cocker spaniel behind.
called, "He's not a dog. He's a god. And, I suppose, a
"I'm a jackal. Canis aureus. Related to dogs,
but a different sub-species."
"Yeah. The kind that can
"All dogs talk. They just don't talk to
"What do dogs talk about?"
Margaret pointed to a brown and white mutt touching
noses with a dachshund. "What's that one talking about right
"It's hungry and its human watches too much porn." Anubis
scratched his back again. "While I'm not a dog, I sure would like to
chase the nice red ball that pitbull has."
"I have a ball
in my bag. Should I throw it for you?"
"No, but thanks. It's
undignified for a god."
"I understand," Margaret said. She took a
last bite of her ice cream and breathed in the afternoon air. "This is
nice. Being back in the park."
"I thought you might enjoy
"When you first knocked on my door, I thought it was a joke.
I'm not used to meeting gods, much less ones who want to go to the dog
park with me."
"I'd seen you here before. After your
terrier died, I knew you must miss the place."
she said, then hesitated. "I'm not dead, too, am I?"
know. Did you feel dead when you bought the ice cream?"
guess not. I guess ice cream is confirmation of life."
pointed his Ankh at a meticulously-coifed poodle who was being vigorously
humped by a handsome German shepherd.
"See that poodle? In a
previous life, she was the greatest magician in human history. Almost a
god, she was, though she was a man back then. She became a little too
ambitious and challenged Amman Ra to a duel."
"When she was killed, she was reincarnated as mold on
the side of a tree in a mangrove swamp in southern India. It's taken her
ten thousand years to get back this far up the food
"Does she remember any of that?"
glanced at the busy dogs. "Not at the moment, I'd guess." They walked on
down the path. The god was very adept at pointing out dog shit before
Margaret stepped in it. He said, "That man you don't like. You should
forget about him."
"There are so many of them not to like. Which
specific man are you talking about?"
"The one who hurt
you. The one you bought the poison for. You shouldn't use it. I'm the
Opener of Ways. The one who leads souls to judgement. I know about these
"It's hard always being reasonable. Some people deserve
"I understand. I once flooded all of Upper Egypt to
get back at my brother, Set. Everyone was very angry with me. My family
wouldn't speak to me for a thousand years."
"I once stuck
my sister's Barbie in the garbage disposal. Not the same thing, I
"Of course it is. Attacks on those we love are
relative. And they leave us lonely and barren."
let air out slowly between her teeth. "I wasn't really going to kill him,
I suppose. It just felt good to know I could."
"And now you don't
have to," said Anubis. He put his arm around her shoulder. It was warm
and oddly comforting. "Remember that all debts are paid, in the
"Does everyone really hate six?" Margaret
"Gods and humans both. If we didn't need something between
five and seven, no one would put up with six."
ma'am," said a Regional Park cop. "Are you aware of the new leash law
that's gone into effect?"
Margaret's eyes narrowed. "Did that old
woman send you over here?"
"Your dog is too big to run around on
"He's not a dog. And he's not running
"He doesn't seem to have a license. Has he had his
"He's a god. He doesn't need
"You're going to have to leave the park, and I'm going to
have to give you a fine."
Anubis moved his enormous arm
from Margaret's shoulder and laid his hand on the park cop's head. "You
know, you bureaucrats were invented by Thoth, the scribe. But you were
supposed to help mankind keep its affairs in order, not fill it with
annoyance and fear."
"Good doggy," said the cop, and
"What happened to him?"
Margaret's arm and they walked on. "Since he didn't want to act like a
human, he won't be human again for quite a while. It takes a long time to
work your way up from tooth plaque."
"Can you stay for
"I'm afraid not, but—" Anubis
"Maybe I will let you throw that
ball for me. Just for a few minutes."
[ Previous ] [ Next ]
Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.