Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (American Gods #1.5 included)

By Neil Gaiman; Published In 2006
Genres: Fantasy, Short Stories, Fiction, Horror
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story. (from 'Instructions')

Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had told — told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything.

Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.

Here: an exercise in choice. Your choice. One of these tales is true.

She lived through the war. In 1959 she came to America. She now lives in a condo in Miami, a tiny French woman with white hair, with a daughter and a grand-daughter. She keeps herself to herself and smiles rarely, as if the weight of memory keeps her from finding joy.

Or that's a lie. Actually the Gestapo picked her up during a border crossing in 1943, and they left her in a meadow. First she dug her own grave, then a single bullet to the back of the skull.

Her last thought, before that bullet, was that she was four months' pregnant, and that if we do not fight to create a future there will be no future for any of us.

There is an old woman in Miami who wakes, confused, from a dream of the wind blowing the wildflowers in a meadow.

There are bones untouched beneath the warm French earth which dream of a daughter's wedding. Good wine is drunk. The only tears shed are happy ones.

If you were to try and pick him out of a group of boys, you’d be wrong. He’d be the other one. Over at the side. The one your eye slipped over.

In a perfect world, you could fuck people without giving them a piece of your heart. And every glittering kiss and every touch of flesh is another shard of heart you’ll never see again.

In every way that counted, I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the lips and face and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smile and kept moving. If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door I would have done. But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.

I think...that I would rather recollect a life mis-spent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt.

I thought I was your destination. Looks like I was just another stop on the line.

It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls; while the beat of the wings of a butterfly in the right place, we are told, can create a hurricane across an ocean. Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkable difficult to kill.

Nobody gets through life without losing a few things on the way.

Nobody will ever hurt her. She’ll just smile her faint vague wonderful smile and walk away.

Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.

On the whole, stories don't write themselves.

Recounting the strange is like telling one's dreams: one can communicate the events of a dream, but not the emotional content, the way that a dream can colour one's entire day.

Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that witches are often betrayed by their appetites; dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always; hearts can be well-hidden, and you can betray them with your tongue. (from "Instructions")

She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.

She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.

Some of us claim that he was a messiah, and some think that he was just a man with very special powers. But that misses the point. Whatever he was, he changed the world.

Stories are made up by people who make them up. If they work, they get retold. There's the magic of it.

Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds' eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas-abstract, invisible, gone once they've been spoken-and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.

There are a hundred things she has tried to chase away the things she won't remember and that she can't even let herself think about because that's when the birds scream and the worms crawl and somewhere in her mind it's always raining a slow endless drizzle.

There are so many fragile things, after all. People break so easily, and so do dreams and hearts.

There are some as are what they are. And there are some as aren't what they seem to be. And there are some as only seem to be what they seem to be.

The view changes from where you are standing.
Words can wound, and wounds can heal.
All of these things are true.

The World

"You know the saddest thing," she said. "The saddest thing is that we're you."
I said nothing.
"In your fantasies," she said, "my people are just like you. Only better. We don't die or age or suffer from pain or cold or thirst. We're snappier dressers. We possess the wisdom of the ages. And if we crave blood, well, it is no more than the way you people crave food or affection or sunlight - and besides, it gets us out of the house. Crypt. Coffin. Whatever."
"And the truth is?" I ask her.
"We're you," she said. "We're you with all your fuckups and all the things that make you human - all your fears and lonelinesses and confusions... none of that gets better.
"But we're colder than you are. Deader. I miss daylight and food and knowing how it feels to touch someone and care. I remember life, and meeting people as people and not just as things to feed on or control, and I remember what it was to feel something, anything, happy or sad or anything..." And then she stopped.
"Are you crying?" I asked.
"We don't cry," she told me. Like I said, the woman was a liar."

Fifteen Painted Cards From A Vampire Tarot

We save our lives in such unlikely ways.

We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.

Writing's a lot like cooking. Sometimes the cake won't rise, no matter what you do, and every now and again the cake tastes better than you ever could have dreamed it would.

You know how is it when you love someone? And the hard part, the bad part, the Jerry Springer Show part is that you never stop loving someone. There's always a piece of them in your heart.

You're a poem?' I repeated.

She chewed her lower lip. 'If you want. I am a poem, or I am a pattern, or a race of people whose whose world was swallowed by the sea.'

'Isn't it hard to be three things at the same time?'

'What's your name?'


'So you are Enn,' she said. 'And you are a male. And you are a biped. Is it hard to be three things at the same time?