Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

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.

Fiction

The Midwife

Though his estate had fallen upon difficult times, my husband Geoffrey retained the midwife to nurse me through my delirium, for Marguerite Willette had knowledge of the illnesses which come upon a woman who has borne and lost a child. Marguerite little resembled the crude, dull-witted folk who lived in the town, but her humble breeding was evident in the cast of her face, which revealed her French ancestry, and in the swarthy hue of her complexion and raven darkness of her tresses.

Fiction

And With Her Went the Spring

They searched for weeks, but never found her. It was decided without words that “weeks” was the appropriate unit of time. Some girls are “weeks” and some girls are “days.” And some girls are missing posters that get seen by too few and ignored by too many. But she had done so well. Tried so hard. She followed all the rules that girls were meant to follow. She deserved weeks.

Fiction

Brushdogs

Junior wasn’t even forty-five minutes into the trees when his son Denny called him on the walkie, to meet back at the truck. Denny was twelve, and Junior could tell he’d got spooked again. He wasn’t going to get any less spooked if Junior called him on it, though. So, instead of staking out a north-facing meadow like he’d been intending, waiting for the sun to glint off some elk horn, Junior tracked himself back, stepping in his own boot prints when he could.

Fiction

Promises of Spring

It was a freezing day in January, so Cody was surprised when Tay answered the door to his apartment without a shirt. His wet hair was still slicked down from the shower. “Um, hey,” said Cody. “It’s good to see you.” “Huh,” said Tay. “Come in, I guess.” Cody expected the scar in the middle of Tay’s chest. It was raised and shining, a ragged knoll that Tay crossed his arms over as soon as he noticed Cody looking. What Cody hadn’t expected was the other one.

Fiction

Hollow Choices

What struck me was that I didn’t feel happy in any way at all when they walked me down the hall. I’d seen other prisoners whoop and cheer they were paraded through the doors and gates and checkpoints, nodding to friends or even foes as they made their final exit. I’d seen smirks and shit-eating grins and knowing smiles. But I didn’t feel like celebrating. I couldn’t. I couldn’t even imagine how. Maybe it was who was walking me out. The guard on my right I knew well, or at least I knew his baton, which I’d felt on my shoulder or cheek occasionally when I didn’t look at him the right way.