Imagine a TV dinner, baked to a crisp. Silver foil peeled back by the laser heat of a toaster oven. Charred clots of chicken stew, succotash, nameless dessert, further blurred by a microforest of recombinant mold like a diseased painter’s nightmare of verdigris. Read More
We sit and feel Fun City die. Two stories above our basement, at street level, something big is stomping apartment pyramids flat. We can feel the lives blinking out like smashed bulbs; you don’t need second sight to see through other eyes at a time like this. I get flashes of fear and sudden pain, but none last long. The paperback drops from my hands, and I blow my candle out.
We are the Brothers, a team of twelve. There were twenty-two yesterday, but not everyone made it to the basement in time. Our slicker, Slash, is on a crate loading and reloading his gun with its one and only silver bullet. Crybaby Jaguar is kneeling in the corner on his old blanket, sobbing like a maniac; for once he has a good reason. My best Brother, Jade, keeps spinning the cylinders of the holotube in search of stations, but all he gets is static that sounds like screaming turned inside out. It’s a lot like the screaming in our minds, which won’t fade except as it gets squelched voice by voice.
Old Rotcod’s cottage rose like a tombstone at the edge of the Merry Meadow, casting its gloomy image over the otherwise cheerful face of Glamorspell Pond. When the fairykids came down to frolic in the mud, they always kept to the stretch of shoreline farthest from the sagging gray house — not that they would ever say a word against it. When they saw old Rotcod himself scowling out through a dust-bleared window, they would wave and call for him to strip from his strict black garments and come join them for a naked swim in the crystalline pond. No one was offended when he ignored them, or made a face and pulled the blinds. Only the most radical fairies hinted that it was just as well he kept to himself, that his presence might dim the blue water like a bottle of black ink spilled into a sacred well. And not a fairykid took offense when, coming down to the pool on a hot day with their picnic baskets and water nymphs, they discovered that in the night the pond had been surrounded by a barrier of fairy-proof iron-thorn shrubberies. Instead, they shrugged and giggled at Rotcod’s humor, then wandered away in search of another spot in which to pass the afternoon.
In the dim recesses of his cottage, Rotcod waited until the sounds of merriment had expired in the depths of the forest. It was too much to hope that they had been devoured by carnivores, or snatched by starving fairy-traps, though the thoughts made him chuckle. “Maybe now I can get some work done.”
What are you dreaming, kid?
Oh, don’t squeeze your eyes, you can’t shut me out. Rolling over won’t help—not that blanket either. It might protect you from monsters but not from me.
Let me show you something. Got it right here. . . .
Well look at that. Is it your mom? Can’t you see her plain as day? Yeah, well try moonlight. Cold and white, not like the sun, all washed out; a five-hundred-thousandth of daylight. It can’t protect you.
She doesn’t look healthy, kid. Her eyes are yellow, soft as cobwebs—touch them and they’ll tear. Her skin is like that too, isn’t it? No, Mom’s not doing so good. Hair all falling out. Her teeth are swollen, black, and charred.
Yeah, something’s wrong.
You don’t look so good yourself, kiddo—
“Here,” Daniel said, handing Paula the photograph. “Take a look at this, then tell me you still want to meet my father.”
Paula hefted it in one hand; it was framed in dark wood, covered with a heavy rectangle of glass. A fringe of dust clung to the glass’s edges, under the frame, blurring the borders of the photograph into a spidery haze.
“What is it? Who is it?”
“Us. My family.”
I was disturbed from my leisurely pursuit of Leandro’s The Abstractions and Essence of Kaufer’s “Basaltic Culture” As Related to Quantum Mathematics, by the irritating jangle of my telephone. Setting that exquisitely rare and absorbing tome aside, I reached for the phone with one hand, while relighting my pipe with the other—not an easy thing to do, I assure you, as I have very often severely singed my moustache and caused the skin of my face great pain in so doing.
I was not at all displeased to discover that the caller was one Miss Avander, a charming young lady who dwelled alone—and vulnerably, I might add—in a small house a short distance down the avenue from my own. I was somewhat more than acquainted with Miss Avander, as in the past we had spent the long evenings in fascinating and intellectually stimulating conversations, and as these visits had been conducted in both of our homes, I was well familiar with her location.
“Ah, Miss Avander,” I enthused, letting the warmth I felt blend with the fine natural resonance of my voice, “it is indeed enchanting to hear your lovely voice—for indeed it remains lovely even through this awful electrical convenience: the telephone!”
With his eyes closed, she was beautiful. With them open, she was a scarred and withered hag, most of her skeletal form still covered as it would always be covered with burn scars and the beginnings of what might have been the mutant herpes. Since he had it himself, he didn’t worry. It was pointless to worry about any of it, this being now the world.
A thin crescent of skin along the side of her face remained unburnt where she must have turned it to a wall when the Flash came. Part of that eye was relatively unblemished, and now a tear slid from it as she whispered, “Must you go?”
“Darling,” he said, “there will never be an easy time to say goodbye, and so I say it with difficulty.”
(An Excerpt from Mock-Up,
An Abandoned Novel)
When Morris was seventeen, he didn’t see much of his parents. His stepfather was a hot tub salesman who spent most of his time either installing tubs or partying with his customers in those same tubs. Morris’s mother had accompanied her husband to some of these parties at first, but clearly her husband’s behavior–though she tried to endorse it in the spirit of the times–had uncovered some rigid puritanical scaffolding inside her, and she had taken to spending her own evenings at home, alone with her bottles of wine and a variety of value-neutral pharmaceutical companions. Read More
East of Patchogue, the shopping malls and tract homes give way to the last remaining forest on Long Island. This is not wilderness, nor has it been for many years. From the highway, you may glimpse ruined radio towers and abandoned cars crumpled like old tin cans; you will note the gradual ruination of houses as manicured lawns turn unruly, porches slump, colonial homes begin to seem^antigue but merely decrepit. Snatches of weedy ponds flicker past. Old men shamble through hedges, clutching paper sacks. A jailhouse sits in the county seat. Sand replaces fertile mulch; skeletal firs impinge on stands of hardy oak. Grass grows longer, sharper here, like quills jabbed into the sand. And then the road narrows, clotting traffic in its constricted artery, forcing you to crawl along with fellow motorists, inhaling their bluish exhaust. You have seen the familiar world falling away for miles now, green shade giving way to inhospitable hummocks: surely the culmination of all this will be something truly alien, a scene of lunar desolation if not the ripe festering of Bosch’s Hell. Over the roofs of cars made soft-seeming by the heat, over the tipped-back heads of beer-swigging teens in convertibles, you crane to catch sight of the end of the world, the abyss into which all these cars are streaming….
It was in a sweltering dusk that Charlie stumbled on a tombstone and lay panting in the grass. He longed to stay where he had fallen, to sleep for days in the peace of the old graveyard, but where the dead were buried, the living must be near. He needed a more secluded bed or else he would surely be discovered. Read More