Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Fiction

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He had been given a notebook to write in, and the lawyer had loaned him a brushed-steel mechanical pencil with golden accents that he claimed were real gold. “I am loaning you this,” his lawyer told him when he handed it over, “so you will know how important and serious the matter is, and so you will do your best to remember everything you possibly can and write it all down as it actually happened.” The lawyer leaned down close and looked at him without blinking, his eyes steady. He doesn’t blink as much as normal people do.

Fiction

Don’t Turn On The Lights

Stories are mongrels. It don’t matter whether they were lightning-cut into stone or whispered over the crackle of a dying flame; no story in the world has pedigree. They’ve all been told and retold so many times that not God himself could tell you which one came first. Yes, every story in creation. Including this one. Especially this one. You might have heard it before. There was a girl once. Her name was Sally. It could have been any other name, really. But let’s go with Sally. It’s solid. Round-hipped and stout, the kind of Midwestern name that can walk for hours and don’t mind it much when the sun burns its skin red.

Fiction

Art Is the Devil

It was Charlie Sheen night at the Hyaena Art Gallery. One actor’s implosion was every other man’s meat. And Kristy had to admit she wished she’d been in on it, despite her automatic sell-out reservations. This was one hilarious, legitimately badass show. In retrospect, she was kicking herself for not having even tried. Art was supposed to be provocative and fun. Otherwise, what was the fucking point? Excite the eye, and you excite the soul. Everything else was pretense.

Fiction

No One Prays to the Goddess

He took a wrong turn on P.M. Road and found himself face to face with it. “Devi,” he said, touching his forehead in the Hindu genuflectory gesture similar to crossing oneself. And took a step back. Then another. It was a small temple. A shrine, really. Perhaps seven feet high and five feet broad. Built, like most temples in India, at the base of a tree. Two tiny marble arches framed the front portal. An elaborately carved bunting ran around the top of the roughly squareish structure.

Fiction

He Who Takes Away the Pain

“Get back in that bed, girl. You go on to sleep.” Mama said, clinging tightly to her apron. Hattie Mae let the curtain fall back into place and ran to bed with her tiny ebony feet patting on the hardwood floor as she went. She scooted in next to her sister, Betsy, and snuggled under the tattered covers, awaiting Mama’s kiss. And of course Mama didn’t fail her. Her lips were soft and moist despite the worn, tired look on her face. She sighed as she stood back up, holding her back. Evidence of a long hard life, Mama always said.

Fiction

Jade, Blood

Yellowed bones tangle with jade necklaces and gold bracelets in the depths of the cenote, where blind fish and crayfish swim. She stands near the edge of the waterhole, observing its beautiful depths, her hands clutching her long skirt. At her feet there is a burlap sack. A pig squirms and squeals inside. She ignores its protests. She is a novice at a convent near a small town baked by the harsh sun, a town south of Mérida; a town where all buildings are painted yellow and white.

Fiction

Shift

“Did you sleep well?” she asks, and you make sure that your face is fixed into a dreamy smile as you open your eyes into the morning after. It had been an awkward third date; a clumsy fumbling in her bed, both of you apologizing and then fleeing gratefully into sleep. “I dreamt that you kissed me,” you say. That line’s worked before. She’s lovely as she was the first time you met her, particularly seen through eyes with colour vision. “You said you wanted me to be your frog.” Say it, say it, you think.

Fiction

The Spook School

It was the twenty-hour flight on which neither Gordon nor Melissa slept a wink, and the strong Greek coffee at the Athena Tavern they both chugged down at Melissa’s request, and the long-seeming walk in the plish across Kelvingrove Park at Gordon’s insistence that took them to the museum. A wayward cinder got into Melissa’s contact lenses, and she was exhausted, and jittery from the caffeine, and excited to finally be meeting her lover’s parents, and it was her first trip to Scotland.

Fiction

Senbazuru

Paper, scissors, rock. That’s the way we’ve always made decisions. And settled arguments, for that matter. Marriage is all about compromise after all; I put something forward, he puts something forward, and our hands do the rest. My husband jokes if only diplomacy were so easy. When we play we are back in the playground of St. Gabriel’s again, with the Catholic sisters hurrying us in opposite directions towards the boys and girls dormitories and my husband is my darling childhood Teddy.

Fiction

The Devil of Rue Moret

The boy grew up in the tangle of the bayou, in a township known as Rue Moret. His mother had married a farmhand, but his father wasn’t the same man. The boy told himself that these things happen when life loses its luster and we create complications to bear it. He wore a small woven hat wherever he went, and he went many places for a boy of his age. He walked to school most days, alone because his half-sister had been lost in childbirth. The boy still spoke to her.