Horror & Dark Fantasy



Short Stories


Beyond the High Altar

A note to the reader: I purchased these letters at the bazaar outside the gates of the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2006. I was working that winter for a humanitarian organization in Kabul. The bazaar was a row of shipping containers and battered tarpaulins along the road to the base’s fortified gates. Military vehicles rumbled past, splattering sleet and mud. Inside the containers, merchants warmed their chapped hands before makeshift propane heaters and haggled over cold piles of misappropriated objects.


The Word-Made Flesh

My friend Austin’s distress was apparent to me before I even reached our table. His twitchy mannerisms and his mask of worry troubled me a great deal, since I knew the tragedies he’d recently endured. He was stationed in the corner, where the only light source was the dwarfish lamp on the table. This meek, fever-yellow glow made every furrow in Austin’s brow seem gorge-deep and hazed his flesh in a ghoulish pallor. I extended my hand. “Happy Christmas,” I said, hoping that my somewhat saccharine tone might lift Austin’s spirits. He gave my hand a limp shake and bade me to sit.


The Skin of a Teenage Boy Is Not Alive

Parveen isn’t there when Benny falls off the roof. But everyone knows the story. Benny and his dumb demon cult. It happens at one of their houses, a place built like a modern-day cathedral. The kind of hovel that has a saltwater pool with a vanishing edge and a wine cellar with someone’s entire life savings down there and red-glazed tiles cutting swoops into the Los Pueblos skyline. Six-day-old moon, a wide goblin grin from above. The hot strobe of synth-pop booming everywhere. The hazy, electrostatic currents of teenage bodies thrilling with vodka and happiness hormones.



“I got it from my girlfriend,” the boy says. “Ex-girlfriend.” Color rises in his light brown cheeks. “Wow, that makes it sound bad.” I shift in the unforgiving molded plastic chair, fighting a sigh and winning—just. My face feels awkward, as though my sympathetic-interviewer expression is about to tilt and slide off. I glance toward the window, but the glass gives nothing back. Outside the study room are tables littered with stray books, students with earbuds sprouting from their skulls, and the cramped rows of bound periodicals in the library basement. A fluorescent tube flickers in one corner.


The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide

I want to tell you about the bleeding maze at the center of our town. People who aren’t from around here don’t know anything about it. It’s not referenced on any website or in any travel book, and most of us like it that way. We don’t share the knowledge of its existence with just anyone because it’s a very personal thing, the maze. We all have longstanding relationships with it that began at a young age. See, when kids in our town turn eighteen, we force them to enter it, like our parents did to us and their parents did to them. Inside the maze we have unique experiences, formative experiences.


At the Riding School

“Come quick,” she said, in a voice so leaden, each word took a year off my life. “Bring the black bag . . . There’s been an accident.” The call woke me up, and I knocked over a water bottle getting out of bed. For an instant, the glimmer of my ex-husband’s terrified countenance flashed through my murky thoughts. Shaking his horrible visage off, I realized that the cabin was freezing, then I began to worry about what really mattered: getting to Madame fast enough . . .


No Other Life

Cities like her make men leave their hearts on their shores. “Seeing you,” the men say, “I want no other life.” Each night, as the diadem of the Bosporus drifts into slumber, violet shadows drape the narrow streets of Eminönü. I watch the window, thinking of you moving through the sleeping city, your footfall silent as the breathing of dreamers. I imagine you slipping velvet mist over your shoulders, sweeping past mosque and meyhane, sleeping beasts and sleeping houses. Full houses. Empty houses. I was born in this city, raised on a tongue of land embraced by swift straits and glittering seas.



There are four of us left huddled in the cabin: me, Jerry, Carina, and Kyle. And we’re terrified the door won’t hold. Carina shivers so uncontrollably, her teeth sound like stones rattling down a metal chute. Kyle begs her to quiet down. But her teeth aren’t making enough noise to matter. Not compared to the howling storm. It comes in gusts that build in slow waves, rhythmically increasing in both volume and strength until a gale overtakes the cabin, pelting the windows with hard rain. A cold draught pushes past us while we tremble on the floor, wishing we were anyplace else.


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.