“Too much ichor,” said red-faced Jack Magnusson, scowling into a playbook. “The whole tragedy is sopping in it. Blood, blood, blood. No, it won’t do for a student production. We’re not educating little vampires here.”
Bad news for the janitor; good luck for Dr. Malikudzu. Sometime in the middle of the night-shift, after a fight with Max the supervisor over who was to empty biohazard bins in the animal experimentation labs, young Mr. Coover let go his already slender grip on discretion and began unadvisedly opening random drawers in the offices of the principal investigators. He had seen too many bad things peeking at him emptily from the plastic shrouded hollows of the laboratory bins; he wanted to know what got into the heads of these doctors to make them go after living meat the way they did. Drawer after drawer yielded nothing but paper and paperclips, the occasional stash of change for the vending machines, stale fragments of pastry. But finally, in the office of one Dr. Malikudzu, he came upon a cache of tiny liquor bottles, of the sort distributed by airlines. With a grin he settled back in the squeaky office chair, unscrewed the cap on a vodka bottle, and tipped the contents down his throat, never noticing that the paper seal on the neck of the bottle had already been broken.
Mama had been good all day, but at suppertime she went mad again and spoiled everything. It was the chicken that did it this time, the good chicken Pop had killed that afternoon by stepping on its head with his boot heel and yanking up on the talons, everything happening in slow motion under the August sun, as if the whole world wanted Jory to see exactly how it was done: the sound of the spine pulling apart, and the taffy-stretched squawk, the slow drizzle of blood on the green grass where the dead cock flapped and twitched among the hens while their heads gawked and eyes and beaks gaped as wide as they would go in the bottom of the bucket that Pop gave Jory to dump in the crick. They hadn’t gone out to kill the rooster, but it’d given Pop a few good scratches when he went in the coop for a couple-three hens, and Pop had just gone crazy himself right then and swore like hell, grabbed that cock and stepped down . . .
Milt Random had put a few beers under his belt, sitting alone in his dark little apartment, when he noticed that the grains of his wooden coffee table were subtly rearranging themselves. Blinking through his alcoholic haze, Milt cleared away the magazines and ashtrays that littered the table, and peered closely at the scarred surface:
RANDOM Read More
YOUR STYLE GUIDE—USE IT WISELY
by Marc Laidlaw
Director, Style Enforcement Agency
The sky above the spork was the color of a TV dinner, burnt 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.”