Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Podcasts

Produced by Skyboat Media, and under the direction of Grammy and Audie award-winning narrator and producer Stefan Rudnicki, our podcast features audiobook-style recordings of two of the four stories we publish each month in Nightmare, released more or less on a weekly basis. To subscribe (free!) to the podcast, you'll either need our podcast RSS feed and put that into your favorite podcast client, or you can just subscribe via iTunes.

 

 

Fiction

Ally

It’d been a warm, sunny spring afternoon. The grass in the cemetery was green, the roses and lavender in the wreaths fragrant. Iqbal’s funeral had been a quiet affair, all things considered. Our circle was getting too old for the type of soap opera drama that had marked our younger years. We’d lived for enough decades that my friends and I had settled into some kind of rhythm, had dared to allow some of our sharp edges to be burnished smooth. So by the time of Iqbal’s funeral, Grey had long since given up staging drunken screaming matches in parking lots with Jésus.

Fiction

Bride Before You

Such a beautiful boy, Cornelius Clay. Pity no woman’ll marry him. And to think it ain even his fault, sweet baby, born into money and beauty both, like the good Lord couldn’t part with his blessings fast enough. Lord, this boy. Skin so bright he looks anointed, hair straight as an Indian’s and black as molasses. There’s four generations of freedmen in that skin and hair, and he can name every single one of them. He got a body so fine, even the angels cryin out: silver screen silhouette in a tailored suit and two-toned wingtips, hat brim so crisp its shadow slices butter.

Fiction

Don’t Pack Hope

The horde is attracted to bright colours, so when you put together your bug-out bag, you pack the drab outfits you’d sworn never to wear again once you’d finally, breathlessly, emerged as your true, radiant self. You pack a heavy hunting knife, because what you carry looks valuable. You’re glad that your arms are gym-strong and intimidating, because the idea of hurting someone, even in self-defense, makes you want to vomit. You leave behind your old name. You try not to wonder if you’re the only one left who remembers it. You don’t know how you’d feel if that were true.

Fiction

Pitcher Plant

The mansion is a study in architecture at war with itself. It’s not just the windows that don’t match and the turrets that don’t overlook anything and the roof that sits flat here while looming at impossible angles there. Nor is it just the exterior walls that, seen from one angle, seem rotted and decrepit and about to collapse, and seen from another, gleam like jewels. Nor is it the gnarled skin of the columns that support the overhang at the front entrance, or the glistening scarlet door that seems poised to open until you see that it’s not a real door at all.

Fiction

Crave

Taina crawls underneath the shack to unearth her wooden cigar box. She opens it and places the items in front of her: a piece of leftover mundillo lace from an unfinished handkerchief, an ivory ribbon she stole from Don Victor’s store, and the rosary beads given to her by Abuela. Everything is right where she left it. She carefully places the items back and covers the box with dirt. “Shhh,” Taina whispers, hugging the dog Choco. Choco licks the side of her cheek and nuzzles his cold wet nose on the crevice of her bony elbow.

Fiction

Mr. Try Again

Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wouldn’t be cajoled with sugar.

Fiction

Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice

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.

Fiction

Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women

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.

Fiction

The Owner’s Guide to Home Repair, Page 238: What to Do About Water Odor

Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summmer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey and erupted with crawling pink worms that scavenged the flesh, until one day in August when you opened the jar.

Fiction

A Head in a Box, or, Implications of Consciousness after Decapitation

This is not about the movie. The movie that launched her career, where she played the pretty wife of a headstrong cop. Pretty, blonde, smart, convincing. Unhappy. The dutiful wife, killed, dismembered, beheaded. Just like the only other woman in the film, the fatal object of sin manifest. How ironic was it that The Actress first made such a strong cinematic impression with her portrayal of a character whose severed head does indeed end up in a packing crate in the middle of a field so that The Actor—her boyfriend at the time—can have a crisis of conscience?