Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Fiction

Fiction

The Dying Season

At dawn, the leisure resort was still and quiet, prefab cabins and trailers jumbled together and sleeping soundly, and along the harbour all was peaceful. The peace would not last; the unseasonably warm and sunny weather so late in the year as October, and particularly for an English seaside village, meant that soon it would be jammed with dog-walkers and families and couples strolling up and down the concrete seafront, taking in the last of the light and the warmth before winter closed in altogether. It was, on the face of it, an unbeautiful shoreline: massive concrete steps leading in low tide to piles of dead black seaweed washed up between large wooden groynes.

Fiction

The Garbage Doll

At first it was a fireman. A fireman was leaning over me. “Do you know your name?” Yes of course I know my name, what kind of silly question is that? But I couldn’t speak. I was in a vehicle, lying on my back. Oh, it’s an ambulance. But then I’m not there at all; I’m in a hospital. “Didn’t you used to be a writer?” asks the nurse, leaning over me, or is she a party clown? She’s wearing bright lipstick and her face is too close to mine and she smells of cigarillos. “Weren’t you a writer?” and I replied, “I used to be a writer.” She said, “Then what are you now? What do you do now?”

Fiction

Blood Mangoes

The minute Shanti saw the dead fruit seller, she knew her prayers had been answered. She had been praying for this particular miracle all her short life. She had even done the unthinkable on her eighth birthday last month. Despite all the taboos drilled into her since she was old enough to go to temple, she had dared to prostrate herself before the dark goddess, the one whose name Maa had warned her never to speak aloud. The one whose effigy was kept in a separate altar, behind the main temple. Shanti had left her pallet at night, crawling past her six siblings, parents, grandparents and uncle.

Fiction

Redcap

Three poor sisters lived in a cottage at the edge of a wild place. The elder, Rose and Lily, started each day in a furious bustle, storming around the kitchen before dawn preparing for the day, frying bread for breakfast, slicing cheese for lunch, scrubbing the table, which was already clean, and pestering the youngest, Violet, about her chores. Had she collected the eggs yet, had she milked the cow, had she made sure the iron and rowan were still above all the doors to protect them from the Fair Folk so the hens would keep laying and the cow keep giving milk?

Fiction

The H8TE

I give the chain attached to the radiator in her bedroom another tug. There’s enough slack for her to move about the room but not enough for her to get out. Her breath stinks like spoiled milk, so I inhale through my mouth. I try my best not to look directly at her face because if I do I won’t be able to go through with it. There are two thick layers of aluminum foil and garbage bags covering her bedroom windows. To secure the layers tight, I nail the quilt from off my bed to the wall. This has to work. Tomorrow I go back to school.

Fiction

Loneliness Is in Your Blood

This is how you live forever. You cup your fingers under your chin, dig your nails into the soft meat and peel your skin away. First up and over your head, letting it fall on your back like a hood, and then sliding your fingers beneath the skin on your clavicle and slipping the lifted layers of tissue over the curve of your shoulders. You squirm and shimmy and writhe, curling your skin away from the sticky braids of muscle on your arms, your ribs, your stomach, your hips, your thighs. You let the wet membrane fall in a heap, stepping out of it like clothes.

Fiction

The Opera Singer

The cold had blown in early on Sunday morning, too early for the fall. People shivered in their purple-and-black sweatshirts; so did Circe. She had taken to pushing her wheelchair, as a form of unofficial rehabilitation. She had managed to get it to the music school’s practice buildings this time. “You can’t practice here,” the security guard said, after Circe’s wheelchair had gotten stuck in the door. “You’re not a student.” Circe first stood up and got the chair out of the door jam. She then placed her fists on her hips.

Fiction

The Low, Dark Edge of Life

Translator’s note: these are the only extant, unburned, and legible (for the most part) pages retrieved from what was apparently the diary of one Lilianett van Hamal, an American girl who apparently lodged at the Grand Béguinage shortly before the Great Summoning of 1878 that left much of the city of Leuven in ruins. No other items from before that event have been recovered from what is now the Leuven Exclusion Zone, which as of this date remains permanently off-limits to the outside world.

Fiction

The Blood Drip

They had stumbled upon a town and tried to approach it, but had been driven off with stones. Or Karsten had. Nils had stayed there, at the base of the wall, pleading, and had been struck, and then struck again. When Karsten had shouted to him to come away, Nils had turned and then been struck yet again, in the head this time, and had fallen. There was blood leaking out of his head when he fell, and in the brief flash he caught of him on the way down, Karsten thought he had seen bone.

Fiction

I Was a Teenage Werewolf

Before Miss Ferguson found Maude Lewis’ body in the school gym, none of us believed in the teenage werewolf. There had been rumors, of course. There always are. But many of us viewed Miss Ferguson’s discovery as confirmation of our worst fears. Not everyone shared our certainty. There had been only a fingernail paring of moon that late February night, and a small but vocal minority of us argued that this precluded the possibility that Maude’s killer had been a lycanthrope.