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Content warnings: mild body horror The morning after his seventy-fourth birthday, Iosif Stolyarenko woke up dead. He found this somewhat inconvenient, as he had not planned to die. He had planned instead to wake up precisely at dawn, hobble towards his radio-set, and howl for his grandson to prepare his morning tea (taken black), as the arthritis had long ago rendered him incapable of operating his Kashmiri kettle. This was his routine. From there he would hobble through the village market howling at strangers about his hatred of stairs, or the discourtesy of the sun's glare, or else about how everyone in the old Imperial army would be walking around with faces full of shrapnel were it not for him, spitting out chunks of metal into their morning porridge. "Egads," they'd supposedly say. "Praise be to Stolyarenko, glorious carpenter, temporary saviour of the empire!" The old man had spent most of his twenty-year retirement pontificating about such escapades.

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