Author : Liana Mir

The surgeon was laying out her scalpels in the tray when she dropped one, stopped cold. The pulse of the city washed through her beneath her skin, a sensation itching through her brain and mind, the power a sudden shock. She hadn’t started the operation yet. She hadn’t greeted the patient. There were other surgeons.

“Lanea?” someone asked.

Lanea looked up, unseeing. “My mother is dead.”

She turned and walked out of the operating room, down hallways suddenly alive and buzzing with an electric hum and the whispers of conversation. Her awareness left her insensate to any words thrown at her from human mouths. She left the ward, left the building, and stood on the drive out.

Her feet hit the concrete and she looked out over this city that her great, great, exponentially great grandmother had founded back when it was merely a ramshackle town in the colonial days and that had now fallen to her, with the power of all the graffiti marked upon it, all the energy of mortals poured into it, the movement and friction of subways and traffic for decades shoving through it, the myths and urban legends grown into its walls. It fell to her now.

“I wanted to be a doctor,” she whispered to herself. She was a surgeon, not the queen of this city.

Wind blew cool against her white coat. The street lamps the city over dimmed and went out for a long moment before shining warm and bright again, a moment of silence for the departed. They blinked again, the dip of a curtsy to the new queen.

An older nurse came bustling out of the open doors and clasped Lanea around the shoulders. “Come inside, Lanea. You’ll catch your death,” she exclaimed. Her hold was a comfort, or it would have been at any other time than this. The city held her now, uncertain whether the asphalt should rise to meet her, filling her with the energy and tide and swell of its breadth, whether it could offer her comfort of its own kind.

Was it grief bubbling up this laughter out of her throat—for her mother, for the city, for herself? It broke into choking sobs.

“Leave me, Nari,” she told the nurse. “Leave me.”

To the susurration of power lines and telephone lines overhead, to the clank and clatter of windows opening and shutting like the waving of hands or palm branches, and to the lights near the rooftops dimming enough to reveal the stars above.

The queen is dead. Long live the queen.