Donny gets to work with the quick-setting cement; it will probably have hardened before most of the blood has congealed in the chest’s cavities. The brass lion’s feet on the antique bathtub gleam from his attentive polishing, as does the porcelain interior, scoured so many times with Bon Ami that the scratch marks of steel-wool pads appear in places. Shiny black plastic-wrapped parcels almost fill the basin.
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.”
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!”
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—
A Film by Vernor Hertzwig
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.
Sitting at the entrance to the Tomb of Abomnis, dangling her legs like tempting morsels over the dark and moaning stony mouth, Jinrae thought she saw the head of a black-haired man rise into view at the crest of the hilltop behind her. She leapt to her feet with her sword drawn and ready.
Echoing her startled cry, a raven swept up and over her, flapping twice and then gliding toward a distant tumble of faint brownish buildings in the middle distance.
Stop jumping at shadows! she told herself. 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.
He wasn’t used to the cell phone yet, and when it rang in the car there was a moment of uncomfortable juggling and panic as he dug down one-handed into the pocket of his jacket, which he’d thrown onto the passenger seat. He nipped the end of the antenna in his teeth and pulled, fumbling for the “on” button in the dark, hoping she wouldn’t hang up before he figured this out. Then he had to squeeze the phone between ear and shoulder because he needed both hands to finish the turn he’d been slowing to make when the phone rang. He realized then that for a moment he’d had his eyes off the road. He was not someone who could drive safely while conducting a conversation, and she ought to know that. Still, she’d insisted he get a cell phone. So here he was.
Driver approached the main gates, hunched low against the cold clouds and the eerie onrush of music that crept out over the escarpments of the amphitheater, thin groping notes like the claws of wintry trees made of black sound. Colored lights, auroral, pulsed against the clouds in time to the music, reminding him of something older than memories of childhood Hell-dreams. He imagined his grandfather’s evangelical words driving down at him like a pelting brimstone hail, and thought how the old man would see the theater as a concession erected around the mouth of Hell, into which the damned were lured with music and screams which passage through the gates had transfigured into wild, seductive laughter. He pulled up his collar against the storm of invisible coals, and wished he could have stayed in the bus. But it had broken down completely, the prognosis was terrible, and he needed help.
They brought Foster to the boy by a route of back alleys and parking garages, changing him from car to car several times, until eventually, although he’d thought he knew the city very well, he found himself uncertain of his whereabouts. They were near the airport, he knew that much. Condemned buildings, empty shops, and the rumbling pall of jet trails over all. A massive extension of the runways planned, this part of the city had known it was doomed; the exodus occurred before delays set in. A perfect place to hide the boy without seeming to hide him.
The final car, a black sedan with dented doors and fenders thinned by rust, drew to a stop at the rear of a building that had too many windows to be a warehouse, too few to be a residence. The man riding shotgun stepped out and opened the door. Foster slid from his seat in back, clutching his worn black bag to his gut. Along the alley, tips of garbage poked through humps of snow. There was just enough warmth in the air to carry a threat of the sourness and rot waiting beneath the ice. A black wrought iron gate swung open in the rear of the building, and a third man, large and heavy browed, appeared there, beckoning. Foster recognized features of gigantism, but felt no thrill at the fact that he was seeing his first giant. Read More