Horror & Dark Fantasy

PRIMITIVES

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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

Every Atom Belonging to Me as Good Belongs to You

We came down to Independence in the afternoon. The sky as we descended was white, gray, pink smeared on a dirty canvas. I had the sense—because that morning we had been very high, above 13,000 feet, and everything had been very still as we balanced on hard, flat, brown rocks—that we were walking through the sky, and that we might come down from the sky painted white, and gray, and pink, ourselves.

Fiction

What the Dead Birds Taught Me

The first time I saw him, I was crouched in a ditch by the highway, lancet poised, holding a crumbly-paged book open to the words to reanimate a dead owl. Anne leaned against our dad’s old car on the shoulder, just a few feet past the impromptu memorial some of Mom and Dad’s students had put up. The flowers were wilting and the photos were fading, just like our parents’ ghosts in the ditch where they’d died. I walked all up and down it, grasses itching at my legs despite my jeans.

Fiction

The Closet Game

You know the game, don’t you? All you need is a closet, and a book of matches—and a willing participant. Not much to it, considering. Jesse first heard about it at twelve from his older sister, after she came home drunk from a party and was trying hard to scare him. Sleepover shenanigans when you lacked a Ouija board, bullshit kid stuff, he knew that much. A game of pretend. Still, she managed to strike a nerve. You can open a door to another dimension, she whispered across the kitchen table.

Fiction

Dr. Wasp and Hornet Holmes

Dr. Wasp and Hornet Holmes were gathering nectar one day when Holmes made a startling observation. “The Queen has been behaving rather oddly in recent days,” she said. Dr. Wasp pulled her proboscis from the flower and regarded Holmes with surprise. “However do you mean?” she said. “Do you ever feel that not all is as it seems?” Holmes said. “That what we see is illusory, that dark forces move unseen behind the bright façade of the world?”

Fiction

The Last of the Juggalos

My grandfather was a clown prophet. I mean he was a clown. A literal clown. He wore clown makeup. And he foretold the end. Accurately. John, the Puranas, Snorri Sturluson, Nostradamus, any of those apocalypse writers—they didn’t know shit. The guy who really knew the magic, the guy who really knew about how the end of the world would come, was my grandfather.

Fiction

Esther (1855)

The Saints saw nothing but rock and scrub, the one lone Joshua tree dead, its arms defeated. They traveled by wagon, the four still alive, their clothes stiff with their own stink and with the smell of dirt. The dead they buried or thought they buried along the way. The animals gone, all but one, and that one fading. They tied casks to the wagon, dragged the wagon themselves, the wagon lighter now because mostly empty.

Fiction

And All Their Silent Roars

“But why?” Charlotte whined. In the front seat, our mother consulted the map. “I’m not going to keep answering that.” Anyone who’d come within shouting distance of our old house the week before could have done it for her, given how often it had been repeated. Mom’s office was moving her to Binghamton, and Dad had found a new firm there, so that was that.

Fiction

Where the Heather Grows

Clara drinks from water bottles so she doesn’t have to hear the tap running. She puts all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and leaves the building until it’s done running, just so she doesn’t have to hear it. She does everything she can to avoid the sound. Showers, though—those are trickier. She can’t avoid washing herself forever. So she starts the tap, plugs the bathtub, and waits several rooms away until it’s full enough that she can shut off the tap.

Fiction

Synchronous Online

It could have been ketchup. Or sriracha sauce. V8 or cranberry juice or pinot noir. It could have been Karo syrup with food coloring as it had been in Carrie or Bosco Chocolate Syrup as in Psycho. It didn’t matter. My dissertation had been on suspension of disbelief in scripted violence, and I knew that as long as the audience agreed that the red scarf pulled from Juliet’s breast was her blood dripping from Romeo’s dagger, it didn’t matter that it was a scarf.

Fiction

The First Year

When you were inside me, I knew you were mine. Now, I’m not so sure. Cradled in my arms, you are an assemblage of parts I recognize: Noah’s cleft chin and narrow ears, my heart-shaped lips and upturned nose. But your eyes are something else. I angle you this way and that, your milk-drunk mouth smearing saliva across my hospital gown while I search your slumbering face for the pull of attachment, waiting for the surge of affection.