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Featured Story • November 2014

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Anonymity

 

Sonya Taaffe

 
 

As cutpurses in his good queen’s day were branded and false coiners clipped of their ears to noise their shame, there are times when Will has considered suggesting that Kit have tattooed somewhere memorable about his person the legend SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET, but he knows it to be a practice of sufficient provocation it must appeal to that same Marley who praised Lucan before Vergil and once called the presbyter John Christ’s bedmate, and then he would have to look at it every night. He has written out instead in his cleanest hand DON’T FEED THE TROLLS and fastened up the paper, like a latter-day Luther, with the small brass tacks that glint like his fellow’s hair, and observes Marlowe ignore it as studiously, with the same straight-backed self-assurance as looks out of the portrait he swears he did not sit for, except that Will has seen him take the identical stance in arguments, which he loses. He types badly, with quill-callused fingers; he appears at times to be giving his notebook the Agincourt salute. “This cannot go on, Kit—” Will hears himself like a fretting prompter, the players recalcitrant and the papers all foul, though he has as much temper at these small hours of the night as Kit has left coffee in his cup. “Thou’lt come to another reckoning—not greater than Deptford’s, I grant thee, but neither so swiftly dispatched. Come to bed, mad Kit. It will not end. What profit in it, if Faustus scape Hell’s fire to be anatomized upon a pin?” But though he has seen him stage-manage the passions of others with little more than a tousling look and the dare of a word or two, the ironical tempter of scholars and kings (and not a little conscious of the part), he never has seen Christofer Marlow of Canterbury and the Admiral’s Men stand down from a fight, not with swords in Shoreditch or Cambridge scoffing, and he has besides a green curiosity for the by-trees of foolery that he cannot stomach any longer to plash or prune himself: the rumors so subterranean they have bottomed out of earth, the secret chains of inheritance with no blood in them, the castles of ramshackle air. By the screen’s corpse-casting fox-glim, Marlowe has a ghastlier look than Mephistophilis, but he sounds as tirelessly sardonic: “Throat-cut in Southwark, Will. And by thy hand, over a matter of authoring. God’s light, if I read another line, I shall have conceived of Jonson and fathered bastards on Tom Nashe.”—“And murdered farting Oxford, Kit, I know. Have done, for pity,” and Kit with his intelligencer’s wryness sighs. “They are still wrong, Will, whether I come to bed or no.” But he must laugh when he does, because Will is laughing, laying aside his book, a small neat-bearded man, bright-earringed, with nothing much else of the portrait about him: “Ay, Kit. Tomorrow. Thou dost know, they’ll not have gotten it then. Nor ever this.”

 
 

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Sonya Taaffe

Sonya Taaffe’s short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), and in anthologies including Aliens: Recent Encounters, Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction, The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, and The Best of Not One of Us. She is currently senior poetry editor at Strange Horizons; she holds master’s degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and two cats.

About this story she writes, “So in 2011 Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous came out. And it was mind-boggling Oxfordian claptrap. And I said to Greer Gilman that at least she could look for a silver lining in all the Yuletide fic sure to grace that season in which various relevant historical figures see the movie and have to get badly drunk in Deptford to cope. And she requested I write it. And because I’ve never been to Deptford, but I spend a lot of time on the Internet, it turned out like this.”

 

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