Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Fiction

The Emperor’s Old Bones

One day in 1941, not long after the fall of Shanghai, my amah (our live-in Chinese maid of all work, who often doubled as my nurse) left me sleeping alone in the abandoned hulk of what had once been my family’s home, went out, and never came back . . . a turn of events which didn’t actually surprise me all that much, since my parents had done something rather similar only a few brief weeks before.

Fiction

Demon in Aisle 6

I first saw the demon the Sunday after you died. It was 11:53 p.m. Just seven minutes until I would have grabbed my knapsack and biked home to Mom and bed and a life of sound sleep. That night the flurries were drifting down like nuclear ash.

Fiction

Soft

I was lying on the floor watching TV and exercising what was left of my legs when the newscaster’s jaw collapsed. He was right in the middle of the usual plea for anybody who thought they were immune to come to Rockefeller Center when—pflumpf!—the bottom of his face went soft.

Fiction

Lacrimosa

The woman is a mound of dirt and rags pushing a squeaky shopping cart; a lump that moves steadily, slowly forward as if dragged by an invisible tide. Her long, greasy hair hides her face but Ramon feels her staring at him. He looks ahead. The best thing to do with the homeless mob littering Vancouver is to ignore it. Give them a buck and the beggars cling to you like barnacles. “Have you seen my children?” the woman asks.

Fiction

Dispatches from a Hole in the World

I’m standing in the elevator. The elevator isn’t moving. Neither am I. It seems, for the moment, like simply staring at what’s in front of me is the simplest and therefore the best immediate project. Far simpler than the dissertation that’s supposed to start here. But I can’t avoid it forever. I’m not sure what I expected, but the place is small. It’s tucked into three floors of a generic office building a few blocks from the Library of Congress. From the outside it doesn’t look like much of anything; they probably wanted it like that.

Fiction

The Lord of Corrosion

Josh Hagee took a chair as the school counselor composed herself on the other side of the desk. He noted the dandelion yellow file folder, too thick for the average five-year old, and blanched internally when the woman reached out plump fingers to open the cover. Her lip twitched and her mouth set in a slight smile that was meant to project tolerance and patience. She gazed at him over the frames of her glasses, and then returned her attention to the file.

Fiction

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers

As my date—Harvey? Harvard?—brags about his alma mater and Manhattan penthouse, I take a bite of overpriced kale and watch his ugly thoughts swirl overhead. It’s hard to pay attention to him with my stomach growling and my body ajitter, for all he’s easy on the eyes. Harvey doesn’t look much older than I am, but his thoughts, covered in spines and centipede feet, glisten with ancient grudges and carry an entitled, Ivy League stink.

Fiction

Golden Hair, Red Lips

I’m not in the photograph. I was off to the side, picture of disinterest, smoking a cigarette, watching passers-by. That was how I passed my days in that part of the century, hovering on the street corner in sight of all those colours. I remember the photographer—button-down shirt, round glasses, mussed hair, the look of someone born away from this city. He was beautiful. The men were clenched around the window, where the sign had been taped.

Fiction

The Skins

I first met Syd and Peggy Brinton in August 1977 on the Sunday after Elvis Presley died. It was a sultry evening at the Pier Pavilion Theatre, Scarmouth, and an argument was simmering before the show in No. 5 dressing room which Victor Bright and I occupied. We had come in early that day to gorge ourselves on images of the doomed star in our shared Sunday papers. Details about hamburgers and drugs, the distended, tawdry glamour of Graceland, were pored over with sickened fascination.

Fiction

Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions

They say goodbye. They say it with a strange smile like a kid who overheard a secret. But they don’t share what they know. They just walk out the door. Maybe it’s a cabin door. Or an office door. Or a plain screen door in suburbia. They walk out and they don’t come back. My Uncle Ray’s the first in my family to vanish. It happens in the early weeks when the chattering faces on television and the mindless voices online still claim it’s some newfangled fad that will taper off like acid-washed jeans or hula hoops did.