Horror & Dark Fantasy



Short Stories


Threnody for Little Girl, with Tuna, at the End of the World

The doorbell rang, and I knew that Matthew was dead. It wasn’t a remarkable sort of knowing, although maybe it should have been. It was too quiet for that, too sad, creeping out of nowhere and filling me from toe to tip with the knowledge that the world was different now than it had been a few moments ago. If I turned on the news, someone would be talking about it. That should have been a comfort, knowing that I wasn’t going to mourn alone. All it did was make me tired. I stood, leaving my computer to compile its code, ticking down the seconds of my working day.


Strange Scenes from an Unfinished Film

The sticky label had peeled off the videocassette, leaving behind only thin ragged scraps of dirty white paper. I peered at the stains on the paper, trying to make out what had once been written there, but could make no sense of the faint striations which remained.The wind moved heavily across the walls, pressing against the outside of the house. The window creaked, the glass shifting fractionally in old frames. I glanced outside, across the jagged tops of the trees in the park opposite, and towards the brightly lit expanse of the city.


The Taurids Branch

I wanted to tell you the truth, before the end. I’m sorry it took this long, and I’m sorry I’m too cowardly to tell you to your face, but I don’t think I could ever get it right, saying it all out loud. I hope you don’t hate me, but you might. I hope you can at least understand, even if you can’t feel the same about me after. It’s okay if you can’t. It had been three weeks and Ray still hadn’t come back. He was never an audacious man. His inflexibility, his aversion to risk or conflict of any sort, was the raw spot at the center of our relationship. But I liked him for that reason, too. He felt like a home. Solid.


In a Cavern, in a Canyon

Husband number one fondly referred to me as the Good Samaritan. Anything from a kid lost in the neighborhood to a countywide search-and-rescue effort, I got involved. If we drove past a fender-bender, I had to stop and lend a hand or snap a few pictures, maybe do a walk-around of the scene. A major crash? Forget about it—I’d haunt the site until the cows came home or the cops shooed me away. Took the better part of a decade for the light bulb to flash over my hubby’s bald head. He realized I wasn’t a Samaritan so much as a fetishist.


The Night Princes

“I’m going to tell you a story,” she says. “And when the story is finished, this will all be over.” There are four of them huddled on the floor of her living room: Francisco, like the saint; Michael, like the angel; Jerome, like the translator; and her, Batul, like the queen of heaven. The apartment—a second-story walkup above a music shop, low-ceilinged, smelling faintly of clove and lemon—looks very much like what it is, the home of a twenty-four-year-old woman who makes a fair wage at a pottery factory. A number of brightly glazed mugs, sunbursts and peonies and beetles and birds, dangle from a rod above her stove.



The door was thick. The room, well-made. I knew. I’d seen. Every step.I never heard Mother screaming in the night. I knew she was, it was obvious. I’d seen her with the cameras. Father had made me watch when I was young. Father had worried I didn’t fully understand. Fully believe. But I did. My favorite days were when it was over and Mother was allowed to return. Mine and hers both, I imagine. She was never happier than after. She would hold me and squeeze me tight, and I’d laugh and she’d pepper my cheek, neck, and forehead with kisses.


Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island

“There are few tales as tragic as that of the denizens of Ratnabar Island. When a British expedition made landfall on its shores in 1891, they did so armed to the teeth, braced for the same hostile reception other indigenous peoples of the Andamans had given them. What they found, instead, was a primitive hunter-gatherer community composed almost entirely of women and children. [ . . . ] The savage cultural clash that followed would transmute the natives’ offer of a welcoming meal into direst offense, triggering a massacre at the hands of the repulsed British . . .”


The Deer Boy

I never had a place. A girl, and the oldest of five. Two brothers and two sisters with howling mouths. Mother sleepwalking from home to work and back. Father was nothing but a flat hand and restless, punishing eyes. They were all noise and need, all shit-kick the dog and eat the last oily handful of lunchmeat from the fridge. All bony-knuckled punch through wood paneling and stinging slap on my cheek.


Malotibala Printing Press

I cannot understand why, but the young men of this generation have developed a new sport—to go and spend a night in a haunted house. Every three months or four, I receive a group of guests. It goes the same way each time. They arrive after sundown, bringing hurricane lamps, candles, sleeping mats, snacks and bottles of water lovingly packed from home. They come in groups of four or five, almost always the atheist, sceptical students of the Presidency College who remind me of my own youth. They sweep aside dirt and rabble from the floor, unfurl their mats, light a hurricane lamp at the centre of their circle, and settle down to tell ghost stories.


Shepherds’ Business

Picture me on an island supply boat, one of the old Clyde Puffers seeking to deliver me to my new post. This was 1947, just a couple of years after the war, and I was a young doctor relatively new to General Practice. Picture also a choppy sea, a deck that rose and fell with every wave, and a cross-current fighting hard to turn us away from the isle. Back on the mainland I’d been advised that a hearty breakfast would be the best preventative for seasickness and now, having loaded up with one, I was doing my best to hang onto it.