Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Fiction

Exposure

The timer clicked, a cicada in the dark. Lifting the tongs off their rest, he swirled the paper gently; watching, judging. Good to go by the rules, better to work by instinct. Finally judging it complete, he lifted the sheet out of its bath, placing it in another shallow tub and turning the water on, cold, over it. The music played, one CD after another, continuous shuffle so that he never knew what would come up next: Melissa Etheridge, Vivaldi, the exotic noises of a rain forest.

Fiction

Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women

Mill—a charmer and a rake of no respectable talent whatever—insinuated himself into the home of the widow Annie Holcomb and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alice. But Mrs. Holcomb turned him out, once she realized he’d been gallanting Alice as much as her. Mill spent the next four nights chanting obscene tirades under her window and left a dead rat in the mail slot on the fifth. Night patrols chased him off park benches; friends robbed him. Sleepless and humiliated, he broke into the house and strangled Mrs. Holcomb with her tin necklace, and when it snapped, with a pajama cord.

Fiction

Different Angels

In the swelling, oppressive heat of a Georgia midday, Jolie came home. She choked on the red clay dust clouds billowing from beneath the wheels of the old Chevy that dropped her off a half-mile past the end of the paved road. They had picked her up walking on the Calhoun Falls highway headed out of town. Jolie could see the concerned faces of the snot-nosed kids with whom she’d shared the back seat pressing against the window, until the car dipped down a hill and out of sight. Her fingers were slick on the strap of the overnight-sized suitcase she carried, and she let it slip to the ground.

Fiction

The Owner’s Guide to Home Repair, Page 238: What to Do About Water Odor

Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summmer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey and erupted with crawling pink worms that scavenged the flesh, until one day in August when you opened the jar.

Fiction

The Family

The family’s house was a rambling white-frame farmhouse set on a hill. It had attics and dormers and porches. To her it seemed like there were twenty, forty, even fifty children in the family, but the actual count was thirteen. Like a family of rabbits in a warren on the hill, instead of underneath it. Not all the children lived at home; a few were off at university or had jobs in the city, but there were still enough to make the house feel perpetually in chaos.

Fiction

A Head in a Box, or, Implications of Consciousness after Decapitation

This is not about the movie. The movie that launched her career, where she played the pretty wife of a headstrong cop. Pretty, blonde, smart, convincing. Unhappy. The dutiful wife, killed, dismembered, beheaded. Just like the only other woman in the film, the fatal object of sin manifest. How ironic was it that The Actress first made such a strong cinematic impression with her portrayal of a character whose severed head does indeed end up in a packing crate in the middle of a field so that The Actor—her boyfriend at the time—can have a crisis of conscience?

Fiction

Poppi’s Monster

Poppi had hurt her bad this time, worse than usual. She’d known it would be bad as soon as he’d walked in the door. It was after ten p.m., he was late and her baby-sitter Heather from down the street had left at seven. She was sprawled in front of the blaring TV, working on an Aladdin coloring book she’d bought last year with lunch money she had secretly saved. She hadn’t seen the movie, of course, but she liked to look at the bright printed scenes on the cover and the line drawings inside and pretend that she had.

Fiction

Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?

She stands on the side of the road in the dewy high grass and waits. She wanders among the tangled weeds heavy with crickets, and waits. She drifts among the gathering fireflies blinking their yellow-green light into the darkening forest. And waits, and waits, and waits. They will come, she knows. They will come and see her and take her away from this dreadful place. They will clothe her and feed her and wrap her in a warm blanket, and everything will be perfect again. She knows it’s only a matter of time.

Fiction

The Woman in the Hill

This is the last time I intend ever to write to you. Though you may take this letter as a freak or crank, I ask that you reconsider how likely it is that I would write such madness—that is, unless I knew it were the truth. In my need to convince you I will lay out the events using only fact—what I saw with my own eyes and have subsequently acted upon based on rational belief—and at the last, pray to God you believe me. I know you heard the gossip and the insinuation surrounding my young friend Elizabeth W—.

Fiction

Which Super Little Dead Girl™ Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!

Everyone knows and loves the Super Little Dead Girls™! These feisty girls are all gutsy, gallant, and gung-ho about fighting monsters and undead menaces, but they’ve got their distinct personalities, too. Take our quiz to find out which Super Little Dead Girl™ is your super alter-ego! (1.) On a Friday night, where could a potential murderer or evil spirit most likely find you?