Horror & Dark Fantasy

Trouble Department

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Fiction

Fiction

The Plague Puller

Stopping by the canal to piss, and only a third of his way back to the House of Death, Ah Keng found his friend Leung, dead of the cholera. He recognized his oldest friend immediately, even in the darkness; even in this state. Leung’s sickness-shriveled body lay a few feet from brackish water, pallid face upturned towards the moon. Leung. It was really Leung.

Fiction

Murder Tongue

The question “what’s your mother tongue” is forever being asked in India. In a country divided into linguistic territories, it’s a deeply significant question. The answer places you, signals your fundamental origins, wherever in India you now live. I started thinking about how much we take for granted being multilingual, yet tied to that basic mother tongue identity. 

Fiction

Inkmorphia

For my eighteenth birthday, I get a tattoo. A small red heart on my shoulder, Loot inked across it in black cursive. Loot was my brother’s nickname. He was twelve years old when he disappeared. I was seven. The next morning, I peel off the bandage to take a look. A vine with thorns where there was no vine with thorns. It wraps around the heart, above and below Loot’s name.

Fiction

Glimpses in Amber

My visitor gazes at our family bookshelves. I perceive right away that this is less the helpless bibliophile’s habit of scanning the titles of any shelf encountered in the wild, than an exercise in measuring me, of finding the best means of approach. We are in the family living room, a welcoming space with, among other things, three double bookcases. It is not an extraordinary book collection to find in the home of people who read.

Fiction

I Summon You

I’ve never written a short story this short before. I wrote this one for a Halloween event at a great independent bookstore in Asheville (shout out to Malaprops!). There were four or five readers scheduled, and we were each asked to read a very short Halloweenish piece. I set mine in the late Victorian era because I’ve been spending a lot of time there working on a historical novel (still in process) and the period is right now much in my mind. Plus, I’m fascinated by the spiritualist movement.

Fiction

Flight 389

This time I will definitely die, Jeffords thinks. He feels that this conscious thought affords him a certain immunity from such a fate, though logically he knows that’s nonsense. As always, he chooses a window seat, not the aisle or—worst of all—the middle seat. The window seat is essential for a simple reason: Jeffords must remain in control of the window shade being up or down throughout the flight. At certain times it must be closed. At certain times he must open it, even though he dreads doing so, for, when he does, he finds himself trapped in one of three familiar nightmares.

Fiction

Caw

He looks at me, and I am his. A steady rhythm of flickering light cast from above, pursuing me like a shadow. I scurry through tunnels, crawl through gutters and across fields, and always he is there. Relentless, wearing me down, toying with me. I escape it, breathless and relieved. But when I look down into the puddle of water at my feet, he is me. Black eyes slowly displace my brown, like thick tar pouring slowly into my pupils. Soft red lips stretch into a hard, pointed beak. Oily black feathers spread across brown, hairless skin.

Fiction

Still Life with Vial of Blood

In 2006, I did an internship at the Museo Universitario Leopoldo Flores in Toluca, Mexico, my hometown. The museum itself was built on a hill, almost inserted in the rock that serves as canvas for some very interesting pieces of art. Our biggest mural—a behemoth of twenty-two thousand square meters—had to be seen from a window. It shaped my way of understanding art and artists.

Fiction

Frost Bloom

I would call her beauty “otherworldly,” but that doesn’t really describe her cheekbones like scalpels, the ice that rimes the bird’s nest knots of her hair, or her ghost-cold touch when she visits me. “Beauty beyond description” or “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” just means the viewer, personally, finds her pleasing. What does a description like that tell you about the bored, dark dip of her eyes, the curve of her lip, and the forward thrust of her nose?

Fiction

Ode to My Brother’s Sadness

The first draft of this poem was written in a haze of grief not long after my brother took his life in 2010. The only thing I could do to keep functioning at the time was take refuge in writing, and so I scribbled these verses down without thought to form. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, the music of R.E.M. was, and still is, a balm for my soul—something soothing about the bright tones that also carry undercurrents of sadness and dissatisfaction.