The Public Domain (Finale)

(reading time: 36 minutes)

A House-boat on the Styx

A protest raged outside the home of Bill Smithers.  A hundred boots stomped up and down on the sidewalk in rhythm.  Bottles, eggs, and fruit sailed over the hedges.  The crowd would’ve preferred rotten fruit, but when there’s an apple or a pear on your page it usually came out looking ready to sit in a bowl for a portrait instead of mushy and covered in maggots.  Cardboard signs waved in the air or hung around the neck by rope, their messages written sloppily in big splotchy swipes, which made it impossible to tell if they were written in haste or written with the ink from an open wound.  Everyone shouted the same sorts of things on the signs. Continue reading

The Public Domain (Part Three)

(reading time: 1 hour, 3 minutes)

The Ticking Tunnel

Tick tock tick tuck tick teck tick tick tick tick tack.  Every other tick sounded a little bit different.  She was starting to hear variation in something mechanically identical and she knew it probably wasn’t the best sign for her sanity.  Tai Chen forced her eyes open.  She still couldn’t see anything.  Tickticktickticktickticktickticktick.  She hopped to her feet, banging her knees on a groaning pipe in the process.  Something fluttered against her nose.  She smacked herself in the face to stop it and came away with a note written on lined paper. Continue reading

The Public Domain (Part Two)

(reading time: 46 minutes)

The Ambulance Taxi

Carlo’s hospital was a small building combined with the local doctor’s office.  It had only three operating rooms.  People in Carlo, when they got sick, usually stayed home and let the webs take them over instead of troubling anyone for an aspirin.  There was no doctor on duty that day, just the nurse.  Even she was absent when Tai Chen awoke. Continue reading

The Public Domain (Part One)


There’s a place, not much of one, where all the characters too old and insignificant to copyright wind up.  It’s a town fading into obscurvy, the disease of irrelevance, but Wai Tai Chen is still making a go of it.

She’s a tenner, meaning her name showed up in her original work ten times or less.  The reference page over her heart, all she got from her author, barely has any usable words.  She mostly winds up smacking people with fish.

Still, she tries her best and minds her own business, but all that changes when the copyright company comes to town, offering jobs that seem too good to be true.  All of the nobodies from the classics are falling for it, but not Tai Chen.  She begrudgingly investigates, finding questionable contracts, a few old flames, and murder.

(reading time: 54 minutes) (reading time for entire novella: 3 hours, 25 minutes)

The Public Domain


Blaine Arcade

The sail-barrow bucked forward on the last concrete step, sending Tai Chen and her cargo spilling onto the sidewalk.  She hissed and swore, not at her ripped pants and skinned knees dripping black ink, but at the sight of the dented boxes and broken glass she was trying to deliver.  She grabbed her fisherman’s cap off the ground and tucked her short hair back under it. Continue reading