Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Fiction

Fiction

We Are All Monsters Here

So disappointing. After decades of movies and TV shows and books filled with creatures by turns terrifying and tempting, it was a guarantee that the real thing could never live up to the hype. We knew that. Yet we were still disappointed. When the first stories hit the news—always from some distant place we’d never visited or planned to visit—the jokes followed. Late-night comedy routines, YouTube videos, Internet memes . . . people had a blast mocking the reality of vampires.

Fiction

Quiet the Dead

Stray spirits stirred in the dark. They lay like oil slicks across the asphalt, pulled their misty bodies in and out of the doors of Swine Hill’s pork processing plant, and drifted storm-like in Kay’s wake. Her every hot breath was full of the dead. The man had crossed her. Had shouldered into her on the crowded butchery floor where she leaned over a workstation and hacked through bone and bleeding pig meat. Had stolen knives and gloves from the locker that everyone knew was hers.

Fiction

Bitter Perfume

I kissed my great-grandmother on the top of her dusty black wig and asked what she would like for her birthday. I had already sewn her a jewelry roll and mixed her a new skin-softening oil—the best I could afford to do since I had lost my job—but you don’t turn a hundred and twenty-five every day. Abuelita turned her milky eyes to me and lifted a trembling, withered hand from her rosary to beckon me closer. “Quiero morir,” she whispered in my ear. I want to die.

Fiction

On the Origin of Specie

In the tower where the tax collectors go, I am taken blindfolded up steps and through passages and through interminable pauses in open spaces, myself stumbling and held upright through a firm grip on my upper arm. In those pauses, and sometimes in passing while we move, the master of that grip speaks to others, their fellow bailiffs. The content of these exchanges is indistinct to me, a mumbling burr that I can only distinguish from other noises as the recognizably unnatural rhythm of human speech. My other senses have muffled themselves in solidarity with my vision.

Fiction

Headstone in Your Pocket

The sun is high but it feels low, its heat close and heavy enough to push heads down and slump shoulders. Border Patrol Agent Joe Marquez runs his hand along the tractor-trailer, and chips of white paint break off and crumble to dust under his fingertips, like dried leaves from a dead houseplant. There are rustling noises inside the truck, trapped spirits, humanity in a tin can. He wonders if they’ll emerge in any better shape than the trailer’s paint job.

Fiction

What It Sounds Like When You Fall

It’s Uncle Pete’s funeral today, so he puts on his good brown suit with the brass buttons, and we all set out for the cemetery before the sun is up, because we don’t want to get too hot in our good clothes on our way there. Uncle Pete and Pa walk in front, me and Ma follow. When we get there, Uncle Pete’s grave is waiting, shallow and open, and the plaque has already been engraved with his name. Under it, there’s his date of birth and today’s date, even though we don’t know how long it’ll take him to really die.

Fiction

Universal Horror

The game was the same as every year. Rachel could have called it in July, if she’d wanted. For every age-inappropriate costume that knocked on the door of their no-kids party—six-year-old sexy nurses, second-grade saloon girls—Bill had to do a shot. For every comic book or television character, Nalene had to do a shot. Usually David got drunk off ethnic-insults-on-parade—kids in headdresses, kids-as-pimps—but three months ago his girlfriend “Carrie” had given birth to a bouncing baby boy, so he wasn’t even at the party this year.

Fiction

The Island of Beasts

She was a bundle on the bottom of the skiff, tossed in with her skirt and petticoat tangled around her legs, hands bound behind her with a thin chain that also wrapped around her neck. She didn’t struggle; the silver in the chain burned her skin. The more she moved the more she burned, so she lay still because the only way to stop this would be to make them kill her. They wanted to kill her. So why didn’t they? Why go through the trouble of rowing this wave-rocked skiff out to this hideous island just to throw her to her likely death?

Fiction

Nanny Grey

Oh low estate, my love my love, the song’s hook went, or seemed to, through the wall of the Ladies’. Bill Koslaw felt it more than heard it, buzzing in his back teeth through the sweaty skin of his jaws as he pushed into this toff tart—Sessilie, he thought her name was, and the rest began with a K—from behind with her bent over the lav itself, hands wide-braced, each thrust all but mashing that great midnight knot of hair against the cubicle’s tiling. And he could see her lips moving, too, half-quirked in that smile he’d literally never seen her lose thus far.

Fiction

The Ten Things She Said While Dying: An Annotation

Her name was Robyn Howlett, and she was twenty-two years old. Robyn was an alien creature to me, product of conditions wholly at odds with those that produced my kind. She spoke in a language I had never heard. Nevertheless, I understood everything she said. It is the nature of my kind to understand everything that is spoken in our presence, a necessary adaptation given that we are often summoned by creatures as alien to us as we are to them, creatures who often cannot expand their minds enough to even perceive us.