Online Fiction

The Death of Christopher Marlowe

They had been walking London all day and Marlowe’s feet were killing him. The other three men were used to gravity but Kit had been away a great deal recently, and the long stints in space had begun to tell on his joints and muscles. Each return was harder than the last. He recalled what it had been like to see the globe of Earth “above” and then to rise into that pit of gravity, ascent becoming descent, as what had looked like heaven turned into hell. He swore to himself that he had taken that plunge for the last time. One more journey outward, at the completion of his current mission, and then no earthly power could draw him back again. Read More

The Horror of the Hamptons

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….

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Loaves From Hell

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

To Lie Between the Loins of Perky Pat

(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

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

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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Great Breakthroughs in Darkness

(BEING, EARLY ENTRIES FROM
THE SECRET ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF PHOTOGRAPHY)

Authorized by

MARC LAIDLAW
Chief Secretary of the Ministry of
Photographic Arcana, Correspondent of No
Few Academies, Devoted Husband, &c.

“Alas! That this speculation is somewhat too refined to be introduced into a modern novel or romance; for what a denouement we should have, if we could suppose the secrets of the darkened chamber to be revealed by the testimony of the imprinted paper!”

— William Henry Fox Talbot

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Mad Wind

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Among his nightmares was a bulldozer driven by the so-called Doctor Dodo. Its growling worried his sleep; he muttered that it should go away, leave him to rot in peace in the Fombeh settlement, but his griping made no difference. He could hear it all the way from the paved edge of San Désirée, tearing up the ragged gardens, crushing cardboard roofs and walls to pulp, pushing the screams of the destitute ahead of it like so many cattle. There were not enough cattle left in all of Bamal, however, to make such a din. It almost woke him.

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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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