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
At first little Hugh thought it was rats. Rats in the wall by his head, down low on the floor where his mattress lay. He had seen them often enough, darting down the hall to the kitchen, coming upon their nests in the narrow crawlspace where he sometimes went for privacy. He imagined their curved teeth gnawing away, almost the same stained yellow color as the crumbly plaster they chewed. Read More
The first we knew of the travelers was the tinkling of our falcon’s silver bell. She landed on our Father’s glove, and he leant his whiskered cheek against her beak. When he raised his head there was a look in his eyes I had not seen before.
He sighed and put his hand on my head and said, —Jane, go tell your mother we have visitors.
I walked across the wet grass to the house, and I heard him whispering to the bird as he clipped the leash to the silver varvels in her leather jesses. He climbed the porch and set her on her perch, and sat beside her in his rocking chair, oiling his glove and watching the bamboo thicket through the afternoon, while I stayed inside and played with little Anna to keep her out of mother’s way. Read More
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.”