Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Fiction

Pearls

I sat in the park watching a couple who were, like all lovers, only intent on one another. The girl was a beauty ripe for harvest, her hair a golden sheaf. The boy’s desire was visible in the way he kissed her. I felt a pang. I, too, had been lovely once and loved. My hair made jealous noises in sympathy. A man walked by, and I could hear the furious beat that was piped straight into his ears. His curious gaze slid over my sunglasses and cap, then the sketches on my pad. I loved the park. It had appeared in my work many times.

Fiction

Kiss of the Mouthless Girl

If you see the mouthless girl rise from your bed sheets you must never look her in the eyes or she will kiss you. “Is that some sort of urban legend?” I ask. The bloke with the eye-patch grins. He’s been stalking me for some time before coming to the bar and offering me a pint. I had been peering at the busty brunette two stools down when I became aware of his eyes—or rather, of his one eye. I got the impression he was like a human hound, sniffing out some secret scent I didn’t know I had on me. When he walked up to my stool, he leaned over and in a deep voice said he had a story for me.

Fiction

But Only Because I Love You

The sky above is impossibly blue, striped with bright bands of clouds tinged pink and orange with the coming sunrise. There are a few stars still sparkling in the heavens, and the moon, bigger than it looks beyond the borders of this land, hangs low and near. The pack of spotted jackals is also near. Their baying is a goad. If we do not find some shelter, some escape, we are done for. The wind whips our scent into their long noses, maddening them. They will tear us to pieces if they catch us. I am not worried. I have no reason to be. Not yet.

Fiction

Figs, Detached

I ate the child and fell in love with the mother; I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know, I was new to town. The placenta tasted like raw ahi fed only on honey and dandelion. Inside it was pomegranate, was roe, was blood orange, was lymph. If I could regurgitate his love (my love, our love?) I would, but I can’t. Lacticifer sold his children at the Tenhen farmers market. I was hungry from moving into the house on the hill and rode down on my bike, the brake pads worn thin and worthless. He was short and wore mismatched socks, clogs, and Carhartt overalls.

Fiction

The Adventurer’s Wife

It was not till after the adventurer had been interred that we learned that the man had been married. My editor, Cheltenwick, did not even let the graveyard mud dry decently on his boots before he dispatched me to the widow’s house with instructions for a full interview, which I had no doubt he would embellish even more than his wont. “Delicate sighs, Greene,” he said, hurrying me into a cab and pushing a fresh notebook into my hands. “A crystal-like droplet that rolls down her wan face. I want that, and a most particular description of the house, and don’t botch it up!”

Fiction

Red Hood

There was a young girl whose grandma loved her fiercely, and so made for her a suit of skin. Her grandma brined the skin, scraped it free of fat and flesh, and soaked it in a brainy mash until it was soft and milky as a baby’s breath. She crafted an opening in the suit with leather cords to tie the flaps. “Promise me,” said the girl’s grandma, while she adjusted the fit, “that you’ll always wear this when you go outside.” The girl shook her arm and the skin waggled. “It’s still loose.” “That way you won’t outgrow it. Now promise me . . .”

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.”