Horror & Dark Fantasy

THE ROBOTS OF GOTHAM

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Fiction

Fiction

Crook’s Landing, by Scaffold

My brother was hanged on a Monday and two days later I followed him. When the trapdoor opened for the short drop, the sharp stop never came: instead, my soul slithered loose from my body and I fell through darkness, landing with a crash atop a mountain of junk. Odd battered shoes, gimmicked dice and prosthetic notes—the cheat’s cast-offs, the swindler’s knick-knacks. It all reeked of piss. I pulled the sackcloth off my head. A square moon in a black sky shed some light, but not much. 

Fiction

Mariners’ Round

It started small, as these things do, with a cheap glass jewel pried from the rump of a genuine Charles Carmel merry-go-round horse at Sydney’s Luna Park one cool autumn evening in 1977. A blue glass jewel set into a gold-painted wooden harness, many faceted, the size of a king’s thumbnail, a queen’s ransom, big enough to be easily visible and look so precious to kids watching the carousel turn. Easy to pry off, too, in a small enough act of vandalism by one of three fourteen-year-old schoolboys on a cool, just past summer evening.

Fiction

Dead Air

Nita: So you thought I made you sign a release as, what, foreplay? [Laughter.] Voice: I was, like, four tequilas deep by the time you walked in and probably at five when you waved that paper in my face. I would’ve signed my soul away to . . . uh, I didn’t actually sign my soul over, did I?

Dead Air

Fiction

A Haunted House of Her Own

Tanya couldn’t understand why realtors failed to recognize the commercial potential of haunted houses. This one, it seemed, was no different. “Now, these railings need work,” the woman said as she led Tanya and Nathan out onto one of the balconies. “But the floor is structurally sound, and that’s the main thing. I’m sure these would be an attractive selling point to your bed-and-breakfast guests.” Not as attractive as ghosts. “You’re sure the house doesn’t have a history?” Tanya prodded again. “I thought I heard something in town. . . .”

Fiction

Kylie Land

Do not make friends was not actually an explicit Rule, but it was implied by some of the others: do not do anything to draw attention to yourself and do not bring anyone to the house and do not stop anywhere between home and school. As a little kid, Kyle had thought his dad was a psychic. It was middle school before he realized that basically half the teachers in the school were just spying on him. It was high school before he realized they were doing it with the best of intentions, rather than entering into a vast conspiracy.

Fiction

Bones of Crow

Maggie tapped her cigarette twice on the pack before putting the filter to her mouth, an affectation she’d picked up years ago when she first started smoking. She’d seen it in a movie; it packed the tobacco tighter or something. Whatever the reason, it was as much a part of her habit now as sneaking up to the roof to enjoy it. Her lighter was a cheap throwaway, but it did the job. She cupped the flame, brought it to her cigarette, and sucked in the day’s first glorious breath of nicotine. Pocketing the lighter, she took the cigarette from her lips and exhaled the smoke with a sigh.

Fiction

Ways to Wake

I hear the sound before I open my eyes. Someone is eating, though I should be alone in my room, and it’s too loud, too close. When I look, I see the cat—the one we’re all supposed to adore, that’s meant to have us all therapeutically laughing, lowering our blood pressures by stroking its soft grey fur. I tried once, but it felt to me as soft as cobwebs, as dust, as decaying flesh. The cat is sitting on the shelf wheeled across the bottom of my bed. It’s eating my breakfast.

Fiction

The Anatomist’s Mnemonic

Samuel Wilson’s life wasn’t a search for love at every turn. There’d been girls he’d liked, with whom he’d managed fragile love affairs, but something was always lacking no matter how hard he tried. Something that failed to ignite. Sam knew what it was. He knew that love and objectification weren’t the same but he had a passion for hands. His arousal in every organ, the mind, the skin, the parts he’d once been told were made for sin, depended on the wrists, the palms, the fingertips.

Fiction

Red Rain

Have you ever found yourself on a midtown sidewalk on some warm July day when a plummeting body splattered on the pavement, directly in front of you? Close enough to feel the explosive shockwave of hot liquid air, pelting your trousers with meat pellets the size of quarters? Have you ever staggered backward, sodden with gore and spitting out substances you could not stand to identify, half-blinded because some of it got in your eyes, the screams of other pedestrians rising all around you, the smell of blood and shit hitting like a second assault almost as bad as the first?

Fiction

Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre

Last year, the people in charge of the picnic blew us up. Every year it gets worse. That is, more people die. The Frost Mountain Picnic has always been a matter of uncertainty in our town, and the massacre is the worst part. Even the people whose picnic blankets were not laid out directly upon the bomb line were knocked unconscious by the airborne limbs of their neighbors, or at least had the black earth at the foot of Frost Mountain driven under their eyelids and fingernails and up into their sinuses.