Online Fiction

Liberty

Late in the overcast afternoon, they came upon a cluster of housekeeping cabins, otherwise deserted in this season between skiing and hunting. They were given the cabin farthest from the road. He could hear water through the trees as he followed her in with their luggage. She carried only the small white box. First she set it on the dresser near the TV, then she shifted it to the middle of the one small table, pushing aside an ashtray and ice bucket. He had dropped his overnight bag on the table, but when she moved the box there, he slid the bag to the floor. He told her he needed to check the car and went back out alone.

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Viewfinder

 

[Author’s Note: Some years ago, or decades rather, Larry McCaffery bemoaned the fact that while pop songs were subject to “covers” by a variety of performers, there was no literary equivalent. Larry planned to assemble a collection of covers of Raymond Carver stories, and solicited work from a number of writers to create a cover version of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The project was eventually nixed or otherwise cancelled, and I have no idea who else wrote stories for it, but I was assigned Carver’s story “Viewfinder”…and had forgotten all about the piece until I found it last week, among the scraps in a salvaged 5.25” floppy. Offered here merely as a curiosity. But if you read it, please don’t stop here. Go read the real thing. Go read all the Carver.]

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Viewfinder

(a “cover” of the story by Raymond Carver)

A boy with no hands came to my door to sell me a messed-up picture of my house. Except for the cool chrome hooks he was just a regular kid, about my age.

“What happened to you?” I wanted to know. Read More

Twisted

—Let’s go to the air now with Chuck “The Boz” Dickens in Chopper Five. Boz, we understand you’ve got the suspect in sight.

—That’s right, Sikes has just come into view. We’re all amazed to see him back in London, returning so soon to the scene of the crime. And what a brutal crime it was! The kind and sympathetic Nancy, adored by all fans of Oliver Twist, found dead on the hearth of Sikes’s shabby flat, her skull shattered by a blunt instrument. Police have positively identified the murder weapon as a heavy club which Sikes apparently tossed into the fire when his gory deed was done. No, the light of day has never seen such a gruesome, such a horrible— Read More

Bonfires

The shore was dark when we showed up, but it would soon be blazing, and that thought was all I needed to warm me while we built the bonfires. The waves slopped in and sucked out again like black tar, and I went along the waterline with the others, pulling broken boards and snags of swollen wood out of the bubbling froth and foam, hauling it across the sand and up to the gravel where the road edge ran.

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Forget You

She came into his life the way his cats crept into his lap. One day he was alone, had been alone for years, his life and his home empty of anyone but himself and a few friends who didn’t visit all that often anyway. And then at some point he realized she had been there for a while, in his house, in his bed, in every part of his life, having accomplished the transition so subtly that he could never say exactly when or how it had occurred.

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The Frigid Ilk of Sarn Kathool

The wizened and sagacious wizard Sarn Kathool had put behind him all the whims and errant passions of youth, and in his estimation it was time the Earth did likewise. He had seen an end to the warm spring days of Hyperborea’s juvenescence, and knew the coming age of glaciation would unavoidably end this early flowering of man’s innate capacity to fling forth what all agreed were the highest achievements of civilization (never counting those ruins of prehuman megaliths occasionally excavated from the ancient lava fields of Voormithadreth as anything more than the uncouth, accidental conglomerations of mindless ophidians). Humankind’s autumn was inarguably upon it; winter would be harsh for the species; and Sarn Kathool squandered no opportunity to instruct his captive acolytes and inform his squirming visitors that none but he were prepared for the grinding doom that at this and every moment bore down upon them from the northern reaches of Polarion: a demonic glacier. Read More

The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft

“Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.”

—“The Outsider,” H.P. Lovecraft

Douglas sits alone at the side of the house, waiting for the Aunts to call him in, alert to the slightest creak of the front door or to one of their hard-toed shoes sounding upon the porch. They cannot see him from inside the house, so he always has time to hide the magazine, shoving it into the crawlspace along with the rest of his collection. There is a trace of autumn in the Sunday evening air, and the summer-blanched leaves of the old sycamores send a rustling shade over the crumbling pages he turns so slowly and savoringly. The paper feels soft and rough as a kind of leafy bark, not dissimilar to the earth where he crouches and thumbs through his issues of Weird Tales again and again.

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Pokky Man

A Film by Vernor Hertzwig

VERNOR HERTZWIG

FILMMAKER

In 2004 I was contacted by Digito of America to review some film footage they had acquired in litigation with the estate of a young Pokkypet Master named Hemlock Pyne. While I have occasionally played boardgames such as Parchesi, and various pen and paper role playing games involving dwarves and wizards, in vain hopes of escaping the nightmare ordeals that infest my soul, I was hardly the target audience for the global phenomenon of Pokkypets. I knew only the bare lineaments of the young man’s story—namely that he had been at one time considered the greatest captor of Pokkypets the world had ever known. Few of these rare yet paradoxically ubiquitous creatures had escaped being added to his collection. But he had turned against his fellow trainers, who now hurled at him the sort of venom and resentment usually reserved for race traitors. The childish, even cartoonish aspects of the story, were far from appealing to me, especially as spending time on a hundred or so hours of Pokkypet footage would mean delaying my then-unfunded cinematic paean to those dedicated paleoanthropologists who study human coprolites or fossil feces. But there was an element of treachery and tragedy that lured me to look more carefully at the life and last days of Hemlock Pyne, as well as the amount of money Digito was offering. I found the combination irresistible.

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Leng

Expeditionary Notes of the Second Mycological Survey of the Leng Plateau Region

Aug. 3                                                            
No adventurer has ever followed lightly in the footsteps of a missing survey team, and today’s encounter in the Amari Café did little to relieve my anxiety.  Having arrived in Thangyal in the midst of the Summer Grass Festival, which celebrates the harvest of Cordyceps sinensis, the prized caterpillar fungus, we first sought a reasonably hygienic hotel in which to stow our gear. Lodging accomplished, Phupten led me several blocks to the café—and what a walk it was! Sidewalks covered with cordyceps! Thousands of them laid out to dry on tarps and blankets, the withered little hyphae-riddled worms with their dark fungal stalks outthrust like black mono-antennae, capped with tiny spores (asci). Everywhere we stepped, an exotic specimen cried out for inspection. Never have I seen so many mushrooms in one place, let alone the rare cordyceps; never have I visited a culture where mushrooms were of such great ethnic and economic importance. It is no wonder the fungi are beloved and appreciated, and that the cheerful little urchins who incessantly spit in the street possess at their tongue-tips (along with sunflower hulls) the practical field lore of a trained mycologist; for these withered larvae and plump Tricholoma matsutake and aromatic Boletus edulis have brought revivifying amounts of income to the previously cash-starved locals.  For myself, a mere mushroom enthusiast, it was an intoxicating stroll. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for my predecessors, treading these same cracked sidewalks ten months ago.

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Jane

The first we knew of the travelers was the tinkling of our falcon’s silver bell. She landed on our Father’s glove, and he leant his whiskered cheek against her beak. When he raised his head there was a look in his eyes I had not seen before.

He sighed and put his hand on my head and said, —Jane, go tell your mother we have visitors.

I walked across the wet grass to the house, and I heard him whispering to the bird as he clipped the leash to the silver varvels in her leather jesses. He climbed the porch and set her on her perch, and sat beside her in his rocking chair, oiling his glove and watching the bamboo thicket through the afternoon, while I stayed inside and played with little Anna to keep her out of mother’s way. Read More