Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Fiction

Fiction

Seven Minutes in Heaven

A ghost town lived down the road from us. Its bones peeked out from over the tree line when we rattled down Highway 51 in our cherry red pick-up. I could see a steeple, a water tower, a dome for a town hall. It was our shadow. It was a ghost town because there was an accident, a long time ago, that turned it into a graveyard. I used to wonder: what kind of accident kills a whole town? Was it washed away in a storm? Did God decide, “Away with you sinners,” with a wave of His hand—did He shake our sleeping Mt. Halberk into life?

Fiction

You Will Always Have Family: A Triptych

Uncle says there’s a pit bull in Mbuyi’s old room, but he’s lying, and his eyes are scared. Dogs aren’t pets in Congo, they’re for guarding—it’s why Dad never got us one, and how I first knew Uncle had no pet dog. I tried to learn what he was hiding, but the more I asked questions, the worse his lies got, until I finally asked if I could just see the dog, and Uncle snapped. His fear and frustration exploded into an angry lecture about respecting my elders; and how I’m too much like spoiled American kids; and that I’d better be careful.

Fiction

Alice through the Plastic Sheet

Alan and Alice liked Barbara and Eric. Barbara and Eric were good neighbours. Barbara and Eric were quiet. Barbara and Eric never threw parties—or, at least, not proper parties, not the sort of parties with music and loud noise; they’d had a dinner party once, and Alan and Alice knew that because they’d been invited beforehand, inviting them had been such a good neighbourly thing for Barbara and Eric to do. And Alan and Alice had thanked Barbara and Eric, and said that it was a very nice gesture, but they wouldn’t accept, all the same.

Fiction

Things Crumble, Things Break

Sitting at the minefield’s edge, I held Dana’s hand and tried hard not to break it as we waited for the sunrise. Despite the barbed wire crossing back and forth in front of us, we kept a good view of the horizon. Another five, maybe ten minutes, the sky would turn purple and then red and then orange before gold washed over the trees and grass. Dana wrapped a hand around my bicep, squeezing as much as she dared, and rested her head on my shoulder. “Thanks for meeting me.”

Fiction

Word Doll

Every morning I take the back way to town, a fifteen mile drive on narrow two lane roads that cut through oceans of corn. The cracked and patched asphalt is lined on either side by telephone poles shrinking into the distance. Sometimes I pass a hawk perched on a fence post. Every few miles there’s a farm house, mostly old, like ours. In the winter, the wind is fierce, whipping across the barren fields, and I have to work to keep the car in its lane, but in summer, after I get my cigarettes in town and stop at the diner for a cup of coffee and a glance at the newspaper, I drive home and go out back under the apple trees, sit at a little table, and write stories.

Fiction

Youth Will be Served

There’s nothing more awful than watching a child you love dying. Janey tosses a handful of sand onto my bare belly. She must’ve noticed me brooding. “Auntie, don’t be glum! It’s my birthday. I’m thirteen. So be happy, or else I’ll bury you up to your neck!” She smiles her big, toothless smile. Myra’s paid good money to have sets of dentures made for her, but Janey complains they hurt her gums. Getting her to wear them regularly is as hard as getting other teenagers to clean their rooms. Her eyes are still the same sparkling gray-blue color they were when she was born. But they’ve developed the beginnings of cataracts, and they’re surrounded by wrinkles now.

Fiction

The Dying Season

At dawn, the leisure resort was still and quiet, prefab cabins and trailers jumbled together and sleeping soundly, and along the harbour all was peaceful. The peace would not last; the unseasonably warm and sunny weather so late in the year as October, and particularly for an English seaside village, meant that soon it would be jammed with dog-walkers and families and couples strolling up and down the concrete seafront, taking in the last of the light and the warmth before winter closed in altogether. It was, on the face of it, an unbeautiful shoreline: massive concrete steps leading in low tide to piles of dead black seaweed washed up between large wooden groynes.

Fiction

The Garbage Doll

At first it was a fireman. A fireman was leaning over me. “Do you know your name?” Yes of course I know my name, what kind of silly question is that? But I couldn’t speak. I was in a vehicle, lying on my back. Oh, it’s an ambulance. But then I’m not there at all; I’m in a hospital. “Didn’t you used to be a writer?” asks the nurse, leaning over me, or is she a party clown? She’s wearing bright lipstick and her face is too close to mine and she smells of cigarillos. “Weren’t you a writer?” and I replied, “I used to be a writer.” She said, “Then what are you now? What do you do now?”

Fiction

Blood Mangoes

The minute Shanti saw the dead fruit seller, she knew her prayers had been answered. She had been praying for this particular miracle all her short life. She had even done the unthinkable on her eighth birthday last month. Despite all the taboos drilled into her since she was old enough to go to temple, she had dared to prostrate herself before the dark goddess, the one whose name Maa had warned her never to speak aloud. The one whose effigy was kept in a separate altar, behind the main temple. Shanti had left her pallet at night, crawling past her six siblings, parents, grandparents and uncle.

Fiction

Redcap

Three poor sisters lived in a cottage at the edge of a wild place. The elder, Rose and Lily, started each day in a furious bustle, storming around the kitchen before dawn preparing for the day, frying bread for breakfast, slicing cheese for lunch, scrubbing the table, which was already clean, and pestering the youngest, Violet, about her chores. Had she collected the eggs yet, had she milked the cow, had she made sure the iron and rowan were still above all the doors to protect them from the Fair Folk so the hens would keep laying and the cow keep giving milk?