Online Fiction

Sleepy Joe

The plan must have come to Rog fully formed that first morning, as he stepped off the elevator into the lobby of Szilliken Sharpenwright and saw the old soldier newly stationed there in his omnichair between the potted silk ferns and the coffee tables.

“Oh. My. God. I am in love.”

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Cell Call

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.

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Total Conversion

On his way home from CompUSA with the latest overdrive processor and another 128 megs of RAM chips in the tiny trunk of his Alfa Romeo, Barton Needles cruised slowly past the high school and gazed through the chainlink fence at his so-called peers. It was a scene that should have set him tingling with nostalgia, like something out of a PG-13 teen romance movie: sociable kids taking lunch in the quadrangle, running laps on the track, throwing themselves at football dummies, laughing and shouting. But as the bell rang, calling the students back to classes, Barton mouthed the word “Losers,” and stepped on the gas. Read More

Nether Reaches

To our right, the Reaches fell away into bottomless blackness. We struggled down a narrow trail, hugging close to the rock, every hundred yards or so coming upon the mouths of inner caves that coiled away where our lights could not penetrate. We hurried past, feeling the exhalations of dry air from deeper galleries, no one wishing to linger on those thresholds despite the escape they offered from the brink. Read More

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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The Black Bus

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.

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Mad Wind

-1-

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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The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio

“It’s very thrilling to see darkness again.”

—Diane Arbus

 

“You’ll like this,” said Schaeffer as he let Brovnik into the apartment. “She was a photographer.”

Brovnik chuckled unhappily till the smell hit him; it fit right in with the buzzing of flies. The other cops’ hard shoes clapped on the uncarpeted boards of the hall; their voices echoed in the cluttered flat. Brovnik walked slowly, as if in a sweltering museum. Dozens of unmounted photographs were thumbtacked to the walls, curled by the July humidity. Schaeffer went into the bathroom with everyone else. Brovnik wasn’t in any hurry to learn the cause of the splashing he heard. He bent close to a picture of a white girl standing against a canvas tent, her head thrown back, arms spread wide, the hilt of a sword and part of the blade poking out of her gullet. The other pictures were just as freakish. He liked them.

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His Powder’d Wig, His Crown of Thornes

Grant Innes first saw the icon in the Indian ghettos of London but thought nothing of it. There were so many gewgaws of native “art” being thrust in his face by faddishly war-painted Cherokees that this was just another nuisance to avoid, like the huge radios blaring obnoxious “Choctawk” percussions and the high-pitched warbling of Tommy Hawkes and the effeminate Turquoise Boys; like the young Mohawk ruddies practicing skateboard stunts for sluttish cockney girls whose kohled black eyes and slack blue lips betrayed more interest in the dregs of the bottles those boys carried than in the boys themselves. Of course, it was not pleasure or curiosity that brought him into the squalid district, among the baggy green canvas street-teepees and graffitoed storefronts. Business alone could bring him here. He had paid a fair sum for the name and number of a Mr. Cloud, dealer in Navaho jewelry, whose samples had proved of excellent quality and would fetch the highest prices, not only in Europe but in the Colonies as well. Astute dealers knew that the rage for turquoise had nearly run its course, thank God; following the popularity of the lurid blue stone, the simplicity of black-patterned silver would be a welcome relief indeed. Grant had hardly been able to tolerate the sight of so much garish rock as he’d been forced to stock in order to suit his customers; he was looking forward to this next trend. He’d already laid the ground for several showcase presentations in Paris; five major glossies were bidding for rights to photograph his collector’s pieces, antique sand-cast najas and squash-blossom necklaces, for a special fashion portfolio.
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Gasoline Lake

The dachshund looked like a slab of ancient beef jerky, dabbed with glue and rolled in lint. It teetered on three stumpy little legs that had dried in unnatural positions while the fourth had cracked clean off, leaving a bit of slightly ragged hem, dog fringe. Though there didn’t seem to be much need for a flea collar, one hung around the petrified neck like a reminder of better days for dog and fleas alike. The eyes were dusty raisins. There was no way to examine the mouth without broken jaw bits ending up in either hand, but the muzzle was slightly parted, and the tongue could be seen to have receded all the way back into the dark cavity of the throat like a frightened snail. The dachshund felt warm to the touch, but that was from being left sitting in the sun. If you sniffed your fingers after stroking the hard brown flanks, you could still detect a faint, undeniable odor of dog.

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