Horror & Dark Fantasy





Great Black Wave

Staff Sergeant Walker steps away from the Ridgeback, wipes sweat from his eyes with a dust-grimed bandana, and tries to make sense of the scene before him. The heat has grown punishing. For a moment it twists the air, so that grey walls and desiccated bushes and sun-scorched faces above dark shalwar kameez all shiver unsettlingly. Walker wipes his eyes again and gradually the shimmering steadies. Yet still, the prospect doesn’t quite add up.



Clarissa watched from the wings as the Great Bertoldi sawed a woman in half. Down went the saw through the coffin-like box, then up, then down again. A cigarette burned at the side of his mouth, on the edge of his smile. The saw broke through the box. He put it down and slid metal plates between the two halves, then rolled the sections apart. The woman’s head poked out from the end of one of the sections, feet from the other.


The Old Horror Writer

He’s harder to find than most. I have the basis for comparison because I’ve gotten to all of them sooner or later, from the big names to the obscurities. There are some who give up so thoroughly, and disappear so completely, that it’s as if they never existed at all. This guy’s far from the worst. He’s an old man now, twenty years removed from his last novel and ten from his last short story; he’s no longer a member of HWA or SFWA, and the agency that used to handle his interests now has him in their estate file.


The Girl Who Escaped From Hell

I thought when they handed over a kid there’d be some complex system of interlocking safeguards, like they use to transport a nuclear warhead across the country, but her mom just plopped the girl into my car. I asked if I needed to register her with someone, and my ex looked at me like I was crazy, so I hopped on I-80 and drove west, out into the desert. Abby was six years old, a mini-person, and she could talk in full sentences and everything.


Reaper’s Rose

Unpleasant? No, I wouldn’t say that. In fact, quite the opposite. You know the smell of pot? Well of course you do, you’re a policeman . . . No, I didn’t mean anything by that. It’s just that in your line of work you’re bound to have come across it, that’s all. What I’m trying to say is that this smells a bit like pot but without that horrible sweatiness; you know, it has a sort of oily, herbal smell, less acrid and a lot more floral and, well, nicer than pot. Sorry, I know I’m doing a terrible job of describing this.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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?”