Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Podcasts

Fiction

The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer

Dear Susie: There are customary ways to begin a letter and end it, to address the envelope and set it to post. We have delivered to you (while you slept so prettily, your pale face a serene oval in the moonlight) this polite and improving manual of letters for the Fair Sex. We know you will be grateful. Do be aware that some correspondences may involve vows of fealty, freshly spilled blood, supernatural appeals to divine beings, and sacrifices of unusual scope. A modern lady avoids squeamishness about such matters.

Fiction

Bringing Out the Demons

I pull up in front of Stanley’s four-story Los Feliz apartment building at 2:57 ayem Angie and Jack are already out front: Angie pacing, a furious smoke in her hand. Jack smiles thinly, salutes as I block the grade school playground driveway next door (the only available parking left), leaving enough room for the back doors of Jack’s van to load in if need be. “Motherfucker,” I mutter, hitting my blinkers and climbing out.

Fiction

Princess

When the woman flips the visor down, a weak glow flickers on around the mirror. She reaches above her head for the dome light. “Turn it off,” the driver tells her. “I have to check my makeup.” “Off.” He squints at the road and the taillights smearing past like wet blood cells in the fog. “Can’t see where I’m going with that thing on.” “Walter, please . . .” The driver lifts one fist from the steering wheel and finds the switch in the headliner. Behind him, tiny electronic voices chirp in the dark.

Fiction

No Other Men in Mitchell

If I’m gonna tell this story, I’m gonna have to start with the men. In Queensland—right in the middle of it, bum-fuck-nowhere is the word—there’s a town called Mitchell. It has two pubs and a mechanic who services the road trains that pass through, and its only claim to fame is birthing Australia’s shortest-serving Prime Minister ever. I got to know Mitchell’s mechanic while I was driving road trains over the Warrego Highway between South Australia and Queensland.

Fiction

Vulcanization

Another black. A mere illusion, Leopold knew, but he flinched out of the half-naked nigger’s path anyway. Of course Marie Henriette noticed when he did so. The quick little taps of the queen’s high-heeled slippers echoed faster off the polished floor as she hastened to draw even with him. “My dearest—Sire—” Leopold stopped, forcing his entire retinue to stop with him. “What do you wish, my wife?”

Fiction

Angel, Monster, Man

Tom wasn’t fiction. He was not a lie. He was a higher truth, something we invented to encapsulate a reality too horrific to communicate to anyone outside our plague-devastated circle. Maybe myth, but definitely not fiction. Myth helps us make sense of facts too messy to comprehend, and that’s what Tom Minniq was supposed to be. A fable to ponder, and then forget. We birthed Tom at one of Derrick’s Sunday coffee kvetches.

Fiction

The King of Ashland County

Uncle Reggie couldn’t afford to fly to Ireland to find a selkie wife, so instead he drove across the country to Carmel-by-the-Sea and came back with a selkie queer. I was fifteen then, and so ready to get out of Perrysville that California sounded like paradise.

Fiction

The Judas Child

A kid in a baseball cap and a Ninja Turtles t-shirt is sitting on the park bench, swinging his legs. The boy stands off to the side until he’s sure there are no grown-ups nearby, and then he flops down on the bench, hiding his misshapen left hand while pretending to pick a scab from his knee with the other. Turtle leans forward, the hat’s brim turning his eyes to shadow. The boy guesses he’s eight, maybe, or close enough. Not too skinny either. The monster doesn’t like it when they’re skinny.

Fiction

Demon in Aisle 6

I first saw the demon the Sunday after you died. It was 11:53 p.m. Just seven minutes until I would have grabbed my knapsack and biked home to Mom and bed and a life of sound sleep. That night the flurries were drifting down like nuclear ash.

Fiction

Lacrimosa

The woman is a mound of dirt and rags pushing a squeaky shopping cart; a lump that moves steadily, slowly forward as if dragged by an invisible tide. Her long, greasy hair hides her face but Ramon feels her staring at him. He looks ahead. The best thing to do with the homeless mob littering Vancouver is to ignore it. Give them a buck and the beggars cling to you like barnacles. “Have you seen my children?” the woman asks.