This month we’ve got original fiction from Theodore McCombs (“Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women”) and Emily Cataneo (“Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice”), along with reprints by Laura Anne Gilman (“Exposure”) and Joe McKinney (“Sabbatical in the Ohio Methlands”). Douglas Wynne brings us the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus we have author spotlights with our authors, and Terence Taylor reviews a pair of new horror novels.
In This Issue: Feb. 2018 (Issue 65)
Be sure to check out the Editorial for a run-down of this month’s dark content and to get all our news and updates.
Mill—a charmer and a rake of no respectable talent whatever—insinuated himself into the home of the widow Annie Holcomb and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alice. But Mrs. Holcomb turned him out, once she realized he’d been gallanting Alice as much as her. Mill spent the next four nights chanting obscene tirades under her window and left a dead rat in the mail slot on the fifth. Night patrols chased him off park benches; friends robbed him. Sleepless and humiliated, he broke into the house and strangled Mrs. Holcomb with her tin necklace, and when it snapped, with a pajama cord.
The timer clicked, a cicada in the dark. Lifting the tongs off their rest, he swirled the paper gently; watching, judging. Good to go by the rules, better to work by instinct. Finally judging it complete, he lifted the sheet out of its bath, placing it in another shallow tub and turning the water on, cold, over it. The music played, one CD after another, continuous shuffle so that he never knew what would come up next: Melissa Etheridge, Vivaldi, the exotic noises of a rain forest.
Last summer at NecronomiCon Providence, I moderated a panel called “Faithful Frighteners,” in which we discussed whether or not it’s harder for an atheist to be frightened by a story in which the horror depends on the trappings of a religious worldview. Faith is by definition the suspension of disbelief, so it struck me as related when at the same convention, renowned anthologist Ellen Datlow commented that she finds supernatural horror more effective in short stories than in novels because it’s harder to sustain that suspension of disbelief for an entire novel.
She’s born in a pine-wood cottage, birches tangled over its roof, snow burying the log pile. When she’s still young, her father disappears in a war of musket-shot and horses screaming into the gunpowder dark. Her mother scrapes a living by stealing flowers from the gardens of the fine half-timbered houses round the fountain and hocking them in the market. Mornings, the girl accompanies her mother, the armfuls of pilfered calla lilies leaving pollen-smears on her skin. Afternoons, the girl returns to the cottage to sweep the front step with a crooked willow-broom.
Not really zombies. Not like in the movies, anyway. To begin with, they’re alive. And they don’t eat their victims. They’ll rape you, rob you, murder you, sure, but not eat you. The rest of it’s the same, though. They lurch around looking dead. They smell dead. Boils, abscesses, old infected injuries; they all do their part in approximating putrefaction. Sometimes a murmuring haze of flies will surround their eyes and mouths. They look like skeletons in leather sheets. Their knee joints have a bigger circumference than their thighs.
This month, Terence Taylor goes looking for fresh stand-alone fiction and finds He Digs a Hole, by Danger Slater, and Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Ahmed Saadawi.