FICTION: A Not Really Scary Story for @mlleghoul On Her Birthday, “The Vampire’s Lover”

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OUR HEROINE HAS GROWN BORED with the romance of bats and fangs, faces at the window, bad dreams. True, he is snappy dresser and never uses foul language—he has always been, if nothing else, a perfect gentleman—but endless midnight necking as the wolves howl satisfies for only so long, no matter how captivating his accent. It is nearly twelve and the moon hangs full of hunger in the raven sky; he will be appearing soon. She is unable to sit still; dressed in denim shorts and T-shirt and without a trace of makeup she pads from room to room, muttering half-words to herself, glancing from the clock to the window to the TV that flickers in bright rapid-fire silence. She pauses before the set and slips a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. Close-up of an extraordinarily handsome man grinding his teeth, then spinning black tires and slick neon streets. A car chase. A cop show. She watches for a moment, then looks at the clock.

Soon.

Too late for any thoughts of escape.

She moves to the stereo. The Bach Partitas that Vladimir insists she spin for his arrival sit ignored in their jewel cases; the stereo is pounding full tilt with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, music he can’t stand. She turns it up. Let him flip, she thinks, finishes her ice cream, throws the empty container at the wastebasket and misses. The container rolls on the kitchen floor, stops dead center. Her lips curl in defiance; she notes how effectively she’s trashed her apartment in the course of coming to her decision. Wet towels hang from doorknobs and issues of Cosmo cover the floor, a stack of dishes in the sink, overflowing ashtrays and empty Smartfood bags. And thrown in the corner, the puffed white Victorian gown she has come to despise. She touches her neck. The curl of  her lips become a snarl.

She wonders how she ever brought herself to play his loony game night after night, wonders how she actually got into that ridiculous gown—taking care to slip one strap off her shoulder—then lay in bed and pretended to sleep and waited for him, every night, for the last four weeks. It’s all so… weird! So old-fashioned! Which is exactly what her friends said in the beginning, cooing with jealousy, Oh it’s so dark and mysterious and romantic, etc. She smiled and blushed, lapped up their attention the way Vladimir lapped at her throat and coyly shrugged at their endless questions: Does he really speak French? Isn’t he too old for you? Is he rich, do you do it in a coffin, does he bite DOWN THERE? Now she lives for their fucking phone calls, like postcards from a lost childhood. She finds herself missing the goofy, normal things: razor stubble, musk, hairy backs, beer breath. She longs for the electric din of a nightclub in the company of strangers, the feel of Bob’s fingers inside her, Jasmine’s weird trick of talking like a guy and kissing like a girl but all the while… Oh. Her tongue pushes against her teeth. Oh yeah, the good stuff, pleasures her black-clad suitor never dreamed of.

When exactly did his spell fade? When he introduced her to his friends, maybe? No, after that, she realizes, probably the night they fought, the night she suggested they order pizza and Vladimir recoiled, lips curling back over his fangs. “PeetZAAA? You seriously expect a child of secrets and shadows to dine on greasy rounded slabs splattered with noxious spices and crisped in hellish ovens until they bubble and pop and ooze slime blah blah BLAH!” He bitched for hours. So uncool. She could have had a better time with somebody’s great-grandfather. He left her that night without drawing blood, only to slither through the window the following night with murmured words of apology. He would try harder to understand her, he said, it was, after all, a strange new world. The moment she saw the pathetic bunch of flowers in his hand she knew it was finished, he had blown it. The mystery, the thrill, the passion… it had all turned to dust.

She despised him.

She notices a sudden chill in the air, a prickle at her neck, a certain musky smell. She turns. It’s midnight, exactly. A thick grey mist is churning outside her window. She sees the soft ripple of shadow bones unfolding, taking shape. The Chili Peppers are pleading If you see me getting mighty, if you see me getting high, knock me down! Our heroine draws a long, slow breath, then goes to the window and slides it up.

The vampire pours himself into the room, a swirl of smoke and claws that curls around her lovingly, brushing against her ankles, her legs, her stomach. She barely holds back the grimace. Then there is the crush of a phantom kiss against her cheek and she stiffens, turns away, and his psychic mutter of confusion is almost audible. The image of a crow flashes behind her eyes, then a wolf, then some unnamable creature with teeth like a broken picket fence. She shudders, forces back the image, and he tears away from her in a roar and a rush to materialize in the center of the room, black cloak flaring as if in a tempest, his blue eyes caught somewhere between lust and fury. She takes an instinctive step back, wondering, not for the first time, what kind of man he was when he was just that, a man. Then she realizes with a start he’s speaking to her, his lips moving in a rapid angry way but she can’t hear him, the music is so loud. She shakes her head.

“That noise!” he shouts, and it is like a knife in each ear: two windows shatter, a picture falls from the wall, the CD player spits sparks and the music, predictably, dies.

“Great,” she says, slowly lowering her hands from her ears. “That’s real good.”

He looks at the damage he’s caused. He licks his lips. His eyes narrow. Then he turns his gaze on her.

“You,” he begins, “are supposed to be in bed, pretending to be asleep.”

“Oh yeah?” she says. “Well, that’s the type of girl I am, full of surprises. Didn’t you once say you like surprises?”

“Surprises, sometimes. The timbre of your voice, no.”

“The what?” she snaps. “The timbre of my voice?” She rolls her eyes. “Listen, Vlad, we’ve got to talk.”

He draws closer but she steps out of his reach. He stops, one hand frozen before him.

“Come to me,” he says.

She shakes her head.

His fingers curl slowly into a fist. When he speaks his voice barely above a whisper. “You… dare… not!”

She laughs. “I’ll dare what I please, pal. I must have been blitzed out of my face the night I met you!”

“Do not say these things!”

She allows her mouth to become cruel. “I’m saying them. It’s been, ah, unreal, but look, it’s done. Come on, pack up those bat wings, let’s not make it any messier than it has to be.”

“I have spoken words to you that have not fallen from my lips in seven hundred years, shared secrets the manner of which undreamed of by paltry mortal minds, brought you to heights of rapture that would leave lesser women babbling and senseless!” She cuts him short by pretending to stifle a yawn. He seethes in silence for a moment, then says, “And you would throw it all away, for what?!”

She pretends to think about it. “A stiff dick?”

“Aarrgggh!” he screams, his features boiling. “I knew it!”

“Vlad,” she begins but stops; she’s laughing too hard.

“I thought you were a woman of sensitivity! Of substance!”

“Come on Vlad,” she manages to gasp around her laughter, “it’s just a joke,” but he isn’t listening, he’s a sudden blur of black and teeth and then she’s flying through the air, the wall smashes into her and she crumples to the floor.

“Is this what you want?” she hears him say through her pain-wracked skull. “This is what my lovers usually expect. It’s usually what they get. But you…!”

She manages to focus her vision in time to see him cross the room in a single pounce; he reaches down and yanks her up and holds her aloft. Her feet dangle above the floor.

“Is this what you want?” His once-blue eyes are burning desert yellow, his teeth jutting broken plates. “Tell me, dearest,” he says, his voice shaking. She panics. She twists against him, tries to kick him, punch him. A shudder passes through him. His mouth quivers. He slams her against the wall. Then he does it again. Then again.

Then again.

Scream! Scream! Scream! Some part of her brain thinks, but his nails are digging into her throat, she can barely breathe, she can barely think, each crack of her head against the wall is a car crash, and she thinks stupidly of the handsome man in his car on TV, she thinks of the first she saw Vladimir, how tall and unbreakable and cruel he seemed, how he wiped the steaming blood on the back of his hand and let the husk of his victim drop at his feet and how he turned, slowly, to face her, how his eyes seemed to fill with the sight of her, the need of her, and how she felt the red flood rush though her, the deep warm red pushing the single word from her lips, Yes, until it became a pulse, an ache, and she moaned it, Yes, and he came to her, wrapped his arms around her and he kissed her.

He just kissed her.

She realizes he’s released her and she’s sitting on the floor, coughing.

Vlad is crouched halfway across the room, watching her. She sees that he’s a miserable heap of shakes and blood-red tears.

“Did it,” he sputters through his sobs, “did it ever occur to you that I could break your bones in twos and threes, that I could drain you to dust?” His shoulders tremble; he spits a curse in some ancient, foreign language. “I could have!” he says. “I can! But…” his voice cracks. He reaches toward her. “I can’t make you what I am,” he says. “I… love… you…”

Something turns inside her, like over-ripe food at a summer carnival. And even through the throb of her head and ache of her throat, she manages to say, “You know, I used to wonder what kind of man you used to be.”

His eyes lock on her.

“Now I know,” she says, and forces herself to swallow. “Get out.”

He doesn’t move.

She closes her eyes and draws a long, ragged breath. Then she staggers to her feet and looks down at him. “Get out,” she says. “Get out, you fucking faggot.” He stops shaking and stares at the floor but doesn’t move. She steps toward him. “Get out of my sight, you fucking dickless wimp.”

His jaw flexes, and she thinks for a moment he’s going to cry. She sees he’s searching for something, anything to say, and she feels a momentary twinge of pity.

“Just leave,” she says.

He turns, and is gone.

A sigh rattles out of her. She rubs her throat and stands at the window for a long time, looking out into the night.

Then our heroine is tearing through her apartment, wondering where she left her fucking cigarettes.

Ω

FICTION: From DOOMTROOPERS, The Part When Gloriana Catches a Glimpse of Her Mother on the Ocean Floor

Episode 5

Aboard Apocalypso, Jasper and Negative and Ziff huddled transfixed over a monitor displaying a yellow dot that beeped ever earthward in an alarmingly sharp trajectory.

“Shit shit oh SHIT they’re coming in too steep!”

“Too fast,” Negative mumbled. “No chance.”

“Wrong, idiots,” Ziff said, feigning disaffection though his interest was keen. “They’re going to run out of ocean…”

The yellow dot went down beep beep beep…

Blur of fire, splash of crimson across the sky. The sphere shot long overhead like a finger stretching toward the distant horizon, reached the point where the ocean met the sky, and the hot sphere kissed the cold water in a massive eruption of spray and foam, kum-DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSH!

“Touch-DOWN!” Jasper howled.

“The term,” Ziff sneered, “is splashdown.”

“Bite me bitch,” Jasper snorted. “You sure it’s them?!”

“I’m sure it’s their Battlesuits, one can only assume it’s them!”

“Works for me.” Jasper swung around. “Helm! You got their cords?!”

“Aye, sir! Latitude four zero niner—”

“Save it, man,” Jasper snapped. “Let’s go get ‘em!”

Blue and white waves rose and fell, evaporated instantly against the burning shell of the sphere. The sky rumbled; there was a soft whisper of rain. The glowing sphere bobbed and lolled as coils of steam rose with a hiss.

Within, the scream of angels subsided. The electric fire withdrew. The fierce energy Gloriana had unleashed went shooting back inside her, a fury-driven host of phantom blades zooming at her clenched eyes—

Her eyes snapped open. Her pupils had returned, blue and cracked with a black hole at each center, eyes full of wonder, perhaps a little terror. She sucked air that wasn’t there.

The ocean rose and fell. The glowing skin of the sphere fluttered like the lashes of a sleepy infant, then vanished.

What remained of the Firing Chamber lay revealed as a massive black globe of Nytemare metal, cut and pockmarked with holes and severed sections where the sphere had ignited and sheared away everything beyond its fiery perimeter. And at once the black metal globe began to sink.

Water came surging into the Firing Chamber, water from every angle. Gloriana looked about, scarcely able to believe. This… this really is the surface of the ocean, right? We actually…

A wall of water surged, knocked her off her battleboots.

No time. Glori got to her knees in the fierce swirl of water, stabbed gloved thumbs into the underside of her helmet. The interior displays triple-flashed em release and there was an explosive blast of mini-charges at her neck. She wrenched the helmet up and off, Air! She panted. Her face was drenched with sweat. Her hair was a glossy blonde skullcap. She threw the helmet aside and splashed toward her friends. They lolled like mannequins made of driftwood in the frothy rush of seawater.

“Come on, Sasha! Time to go swimming!”

In a furious blur Gloriana ripped the Battlesuit from her staggering and semi-conscious friend. Bolts popped and broken plates flew as Gloriana peeled away layer after layer of reinforced armor until Sasha was down to her essentials and Gloriana slapped her twice, blurred stings across her face.

“Sash, wake up! Help Clive. Get his goddamn helmet off!”

The water was waist-high. Through the cut and severed sections the Atlantic sky was getting smaller, darker; their very heavy re-entry vehicle had a definite appointment at the bottom of the ocean. Glori turned, confirmed that Jack was awake and moving, slow and clumsy in the pummeling water, yet still reaching to blast his helmet clear from his neckbrace. Good. She grunted, reached down, hauled up Perry.

“Move it, trooper! The Edmund Fitzgerald is sinking, dude!”

She sheared Perry out of his armor even faster than she’d freed Sasha from her suit, mwaa-KRANG! and ka-KRENCH! and shum-rrakaarakka-RIIIIP! and when she was finished she gave him a good shake. “All hands on deck?!”

Perry’s head lolled, but his eyes focused. “Fuck yeah, Captain!”

“Ultra. Help Sasha with Clive, he’s way screwed up!”

Gloriana spun Perry around and shoved him toward Sasha. The water churned, chest-level. Sasha had successfully removed Clive’s helmet and upper armor. Perry grabbed at something Gloriana couldn’t see, then he half splashed, half swam to Sasha’s side, and together they began to tow the semi-conscious Clive toward the nearest opening. Glori turned to Jack—

Jack still hadn’t removed his helmet.

His gloved hands clawed desperately at his neck and jawbone, fingers splayed and pushing, pushing.

Damn it, and damn her! She’d forgotten; Jack’s Battlesuit was fucked!

She lunged toward him but a sudden canopy of water fell over her, smashed her under the surface with a hard slap of Atlantic blue. Roar of bubbles and crushing cold; the submerged chamber was thick with broken wreckage, wires and cables curling like eels.

Gloriana pushed through the freezing clutter with desperate strokes, boots and armor suddenly heavy like rocks lashed to her legs. She grimaced, knived through the hard water toward the blur that was Jack, and there was a blast of escaping pressure.

Jack ripped his helmet free. Even under the frigid water his face was gaunt and handsome and strong; his eyes locked with hers and he reached toward her, his lips split with defiant teeth. Glori seized his hand, pulled. She wrenched Jack up. They kicked furiously, they swam blind toward one of the submerged holes of the Firing Chamber, a blue circular window with a descending ceiling of black. Gloriana shoved Jack out before her. They surfaced amid broken gasps and sharp Atlantic waves, the lolling shadow of the sphere behind them.

Sasha and Perry splashed nearby and Clive coughed. The sky rumbled with thunder. The ocean swelled, lifted the troopers up, threatened to sweep them apart. Gloriana struggled to stay afloat in the dragging tug of the body armor. She forced her tired legs to kick and kick.

“Y-you—” Jack started, spurts of seawater dribbling from his mouth.

“No, you,” Gloriana said. She reached toward him, gripped his chestplate. “Get naked, man.” But it was far more difficult getting Jack out of his suit while she doggedly treaded water, waves slapping her repeatedly in the face, her head falling again and again under the surface. “Damn it! Shit!” She pressed both knuckles together, pushed her fingers through the seams and plated sections, then ripped the Battlesuit both up and out. She peeled Jack out of his armor even as she kept him from sinking like a stone, thinking without cessation I can do this I am Gloriana Blitz I can do anything

The final plates fell away. Jack was free of his suit. She pushed him off and he splashed away clumsily.

My turn, Gloriana thought, and she dug gloved fingers into the space between her reinforced collar and the pale skin of her throat, she was ready to tug with all that remained of her strength when Jack’s eyes turned sudden saucers and he lifted his bare arm out of the Atlantic chop and he spurted a warning that sounded like “GWOWY—!!”

Sasha screamed.

Behind her—

Gloriana had only removed her helmet.

She was still in full body armor.

She turned. The waters sucked past as a vast shadow fell. It was the looming hull of the Firing Chamber in its final gurgling plunge. The metal globe rolled over her like a giant black marble and the blunt edge of the hull struck her hard, the blow of a hammer to the bell of a cathedral. Gloriana wanted to cry out in pain and surprise but couldn’t because her mouth was full of water and everything was black and roaring and cold, massive weight pressing, pinning her limbs, forcing her down, no no but consciousness slipped…

Then she was sinking, arm over arm, a marionette cut from her strings and there was no light, just the roar in her ears, relentless, a river, a waterfall, the end of everything. And. It was. Okay. She thought. Beside her the sphere of metal spun slow and dreamlike toward the lush sandy bottom. Gloriana fell and fell in the black. She wanted… She wanted… Oh, it was okay. She’d pretty much done it, this wasn’t too terrible of an ending. The metal globe struck bottom with a thud and a deep reverberation, crunching coral and kelp as it rolled like a disgruntled giant, then settled with a deep hollow groan. Glori’s head tilted, lolled. And she hit the ocean floor as if she were a heavy metal puppet, sand rising in a soft plume.

She lay still.

She lay on her back, unmoving for long seconds, her eyes open.

Then she sat up.

Bubbles of air clustered at the corner of Gloriana’s mouth. She lifted her face, pale in the black and green, her short yellow hair flowing like a slow motion candle. Her lips parted. Strange, there was no need for air, no need to breathe. Glori looked around. It was midnight at the bottom of the ocean but still, she could see…

She saw the verdant submerged landscape with its rolling hills of sand, jutting crops of black rock, its fabulous plants. And now Glori smiled. It was beautiful. So quiet. The living Earth, still here, still alive. Her heart felt finally at peace.

A light approached. Bars of blue shot past a stalk of kelp, soft and incandescent. Something was burning, shimmering, a light in the dark. It was the glow of crystal, the shimmer of a diamond.

Gloriana frowned, tried to decipher what she was seeing: was it a chemical discharge, a piece of wreckage, a bit of the star she had rode down from the sky? The soft light came closer with soft definite steps, bare feet blue on the ocean floor. What—

Gloriana starred.

A woman with ice blue skin stood tall and regal at the far end of the oceanic plain.

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The tall woman at the bottom of the ocean wore a simple dress of gossamer and silk. Her long white hair flowed like wheat in a gentle wind. The woman’s eyes were ancient in a face resplendent with eternal youth and undying beauty, eyes that looked upon Gloriana with uncomplicated love. The woman held a trident in her right hand, a straight staff in her left.

Well done, the woman told Gloriana without speaking. The amber eyes were bottomless with affection. Now the real battle may begin

Gloriana wanted to ask, “Who.”

She wanted to plead, “Why.”

But there was a sudden pulse of static in her brain, the shriek of an alien frequency, her fatherhermotherherfatherhermotherherfatherhermother and Glori’s hands went to her head, teeth clenched hard in pain. And as quickly as it came the pain passed, slipped away. Glori shook herself, and the woman was gone.

The spot where the woman had stood was empty, a bare spot in a garden of kelp and coral and the disintergrating bones of a trillion fish.

Gloriana lowered her hands, lowered her eyes with… not regret. Nor disappointment. She didn’t have a word for it. It was a piece of her heart that had been missing for so long she had learned to accept its absence as a condition of existence. It’s all right, she told herself with only a little bitterness. The vision was gone. And now something else was coming.

A shadow fell like a sheet pulled over her face.

The waters pulsed with the thrum of a mighty engine.

With slow and sullen eyes, Gloriana looked up.

Apocalypso loomed above her, bow tipped toward the surface, straight shaft of the hull stretching long and powerful, distorted blur chopping at the stern.

Gloriana gazed up at her submarine, scarred ship of a hundred battles—and she realized there would be a thousand more battles to come. The submarine would be her shield and her lance, a sleek deadly chariot she would ride through darkness to victory. She would rally her soldiers. They would mend their wounds. Despite the spectre of radiation that promised nothing but inevitable death, they would stand at her side and together they would drive the enemy from their home. The wounded Earth would bloom again. Apocalypso. The submarine hung above her, waited like a sword ready for her hand. She would rise. She would fight. And she would win.

But now Gloriana’s lungs felt ready to burst.

It was time. She gripped her armored neckplate, grimaced, pulled. The neckplate broke with a muted snap. Layers of armor came free in a soft yet violent frenzy. Black steel and white flesh—the chestplate fell away. The nipples of her breasts were pink and swollen. Her long legs flashed pale as she pulled off the big heavy boots. At last she was free; Gloriana shoved upwards in a shaft of bubbles, bare feet flapping hard, bare arms and legs pumping as she swam with powerful strokes toward the waiting silhouette of her ship.

And the woman at the bottom of the ocean watched with sad eyes and a whisper of disapproval.

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Original art by Paul DiNovo and Virgil Finlay

Ω

FICTION: What I WON’T Be Working On During The Pandemic

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No way, True Believer. I opened up Gravity to kick it around the other day, read through it, and basically groaned. No thanks. The book’s about a rock band coming within inches of getting signed to a major label against the backdrop of a global crisis. I just said No Way. Uh uh. Not now. It’s both a question of “too close to home” and the dismaying sense that so much of my portrait of how society would behave during said global crisis was simply wrong. I’m focusing on works set far, far away from pandemic and lockdown, Dark August and MaxVonSydX3.

That is all. Carry on.

Ω

FICTION: EXIT VECTOR Free Kindle and Contest, Giveaway, More Free Shit…

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Dreamed up a contest/incentive for the Free Kindle Edition of EXIT VECTOR! First person to pen a review on amazon/goodreads/anywhere will receive a personalized signed copy of the paperback! Which is very pretty. Brilliant!

Exit Vector Kindle Edition

This offer expires SUNDAY NIGHT AT MIDNIGHT EST, and all that.

Ω

FICTION: EXIT VECTOR Kindle Edition FREE FOR FIVE DAYS!

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Mori Kim Marr’s personal force-field of drugs and drink has worn thin: she’s a burned-out teenager in a burned-out world, an Earth wracked by wars and rumors of wars, plagues and disasters, the hopelessness of every human heart. Mori couldn’t care less; just bring her the next fix, please. But when an artificial woman from the 19th Century and a boy with psionic powers wander into the smoke and squalor of Mori’s favorite watering hole, gore-drenched violence and city-wide destruction erupts, catapulting Mori and her new-found “friends” into the thick of a battle that began long ago, a war that has raged since before the dawn of civilization, a blood-feud fought and overseen by the sole-survivor of an ancient, pre-human race: Trista Ska Shearn, last of the Cantarans. Trista has been waiting 65,000 thousand years for this, the final battle; she has waited millennia for this glum, sallow teenager, Mori Kim Marr. For Mori is… the Exit Vector.

Kindle Edition FREE until Midnight Sunday 4/19!

Ω

FICTION: FREE DOWNLOAD, “NUMINA”

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I LIKE TO THINK OF “NUMINA” as a modest triptych of “mood pieces,” nothing major. Three tales linked by associations and imagery, three dreams dreamt in a single night. Careful readers will note that the third tale, Fade, made a prior appearance in these pages as a “Flash from Hell.” But Haunted, The Storm, and Fade were always meant to be read together, in this sequence. I hope you like.

Download the free PDF Numina

Ω

FICTION, WIP: “World Without Bowie,” Chapter Five — GOD BLESS THE GIRL

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Synopsis. It is Monday, January 11, 2016, the day after David Bowie died, and Derek Winterson wanders alone, penniless, hungover, and in dire need of alcohol. Drifting into a cemetery, Derek encounters a strange old man who delivers a menacing prophecy: this is the last day of Derek’s life. He is a given a key to a crypt, and within Derek finds exactly what his heart fervently desires: an abundant supply of alcohol and cigarettes, as well as a fetching young woman bound hand and foot, the fire of Derek’s libido. She is the “gift” for Derek on his last day, crafted by a mysterious, para-human secret admirer from Derek’s long lost past. Derek will give her a name— Jean Genie. Derek is perplexed and disgusted when he learns Jean will cease to exist after his demise; she’s sentient, she has emotions—he must find a way to save her. He must summon the Old Man, the Messenger.

 

5: God Bless The Girl

“There was a sequence in Tomb of Dracula #41 by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colon,” Derek explained as they made the short walk back to his favorite spot, back to the ashes of The Messenger. “Dracula had been destroyed and burnt to dust! But he was resurrected by the tears of a ‘virgin pure.’”

“And you think…”

“Well, you are, aren’t you?”

“But I have to cry?” she said.

“Well,” he faltered. They crested the slope, looked down. There lay the overturned lawn chair and black ring of the dead fire, the white crystal ashes of The Messenger.

“Was the messenger a vampire?” Jean asked as she carefully navigated the slant of the slope in her bare feet, her hands tied behind her. “Have you done this before? What makes you think a spell from an old comic book will actually work?”

“I don’t,” Derek said. “But it’s no less crazy than all the other shit this morning’s thrown at me. Here,” and he helped her kneel close to the pile of ashes.

“Now what?” Jean wondered.

Now I make you cry, Derek thought. But how?

“Maybe if you hit me,” she said softly.

“I’m not going to hit you, for Christ’s sake!”

“Do you want this to work? Don’t you want to save me?”

“What, ‘cruel to be kind?’”

CRUNCH. “‘Means that I love you, baby.’”

“Nick Lowe,” Derek winced. “Now I’m really going to be sick.”

“Hit me!” she cried.

He tapped her across the cheek.

“Oh, come on! That was pathetic. Hit me!”

Still wincing, Derek drew back his open palm to strike her again, harder this time, but a crude voice intruded,

“So what the fuck is this kinky shit?”

Derek looked up. Jean swiveled at her waist.

It was the working dudes, swaggering down the slope toward them. They wore smirks and wielded shovels, pick-axes, rusted cutting shears. One of them grinned toothlessly and spat tobacco. “Hit me, hit me, ayuh, sound to me like some real kinky freak shit ayup.”

“Fuchen’ perverts.”

“No respect for the fuchen’ dead.”

In a flash Jean rose to one knee and faced them, her calves tense, the sole of her right bare foot aimed behind her at Derek.

“Leave us alone,” she said, her fingers furious at the impossible knots binding her wrists.

Derek said, “We were just—”

“Fucking around?” said the tall gravedigger in front, obviously the leader. He had a moustache and longish red hair and hadn’t shaved in what appeared to be days. They were all white, dressed in flannel, filthy jeans, tan workboots. Their smiles promised one thing: cruelty.

Jean’s fingers became a blur as she twisted her wrists, the rope uncurling, falling like cables snapped from a suspension bridge.

“One last time,” she growled. “Leave us alone.”

Derek stepped around and in front of Jean. He faced the leader, faced them all. “We were just—” he started again, but the leader feinted with a half-turn and mock smile to his posse, then swung fast and clocked Derek square on the jaw, boom. Derek staggered, caught a glimpse of Jean fiercely writhing her shoulders, ropes flailing, and then she was free and rushed past Derek in a blur.

She plowed into the four men, her arms scythes; they toppled like brittle stalks of corn, slammed onto their backs with thrashing limbs and sputtered curses. One of them reached to grab Jean’s ankle but she pivoted and kicked him in the head with the flat of her heel so hard a bloody tooth flew, landed on the pile of white ash.

“Leave us,” Jean growled, “alone.”

The working dudes swore and clambered to their feet. “Now you’re gonna fuchen’ DIE you fuchen’ whore—!”

With an angry sigh Jean bent to the nearest tombstone and wrenched it from the earth, clods of black dirt flying in an arc and dropping in clumps as she held the stone over her head.

“I mean it,” she said.

The working dudes bolted.

“Ha,” Derek grinned, though his jaw and face already throbbed. “Look at that!”

“Yes? Well, watch this,” Jean breathed, and with a grunt she heaved the marble tombstone, sent it sailing over the heads of the fleeing workers where it crashed into their CAT machine with a metallic crunch and spectacular shattering of glass.

Derek watched the workers scatter in opposite directions.

“We had better leave,” Jean said. “The authorities…”

“Not a chance,” Derek said. “What would they tell the cops, that a tied-up girl freed herself faster than Houdini and beat the living piss out of them? Don’t think so.”

Jean thought about it for the barest of seconds, then nodded in agreement. Her gaze blinked past his shoulder. “Derek.”

He turned.

Vapor rose where the bloody tooth had fallen on the white ash. The vapor swirled, coalescing, a soft pulsing glow at the center.

“Crazy,” Derek whispered, and he glanced at Jean. Her upper body was intricately bound once again, as if in the blink of an eye the ropes had snapped from the ground and encircled themselves like jealous lovers about her wrists and arms and chest.

re7IMG_7425d

“What—how—?”

“Default setting, for lack of a better term,” Jean explained. “Unless you change it.” She nodded. “Look!”

The vapor shifted, fused, came together to form the likeness of a brittle white figure, an old man, naked and standing before them. The Messenger.

His voice was the snap of dried bones. “You again!”

† † †

Model: Honey from Restrained Elegance

Ω

Edited to add: Apologies for the strange highlight effect on the text. Don’t know how that happened, and I can’t get rid of it.

FICTION: A Sad Love Story for the Plague Year—EAT ME by Robert R. McCammon

A question gnawed, day and night, at Jim Crisp. He pondered it as he walked the streets, while a dark rain fell and rats chattered at his feet; he mulled over it as he sat in his apartment, staring at the static on the television screen hour after hour. The question haunted him as he sat in the cemetery on Fourteenth Street, surrounded by empty graves. And this burning question was: when did love die?

Thinking took effort. It made his brain hurt, but it seemed to Jim that thinking was his last link with life. He used to be an accountant, a long time ago. He’d worked with a firm downtown for over twenty years, had never been married, hadn’t dated much either. Numbers, logic, the rituals of mathematics had been the center of his life; now logic itself had gone insane, and no one kept records anymore. He had a terrible sensation of not belonging in this world, of being suspended in a nightmare that would stretch to the boundaries of eternity. He had no need for sleep any longer; something inside him had burst a while back, and he’d lost the ten or twelve pounds of fat that had gathered around his middle over the years. His body was lean now, so light sometimes a strong wind knocked him off his feet. The smell came and went, but Jim had a caseload of English Leather in his apartment and he took baths in the stuff.

The open maw of time frightened him. Days without number lay ahead. What was there to do, when there was nothing to be done? No one called the roll, no one punched the time-clock, no one set the deadlines. This warped freedom gave a sense of power to others; to Jim it was the most confining of prisons, because all the symbols of order—stoplights, calendars, clocks—were still there, still working, yet they had no purpose or sense, and they reminded him too much of what had been before.

As he walked, aimlessly, through the city’s streets he saw others moving past, some as peaceful as sleepwalkers, some raging in the grip of private tortures. Jim came to a corner and stopped, instinctively obeying the DON’T WALK sign; a high squealing noise caught his attention, and he looked to his left.

Rats were scurrying wildly over one of the lowest forms of humanity, a half-decayed corpse that had recently awakened and pulled itself from the grave. The thing crawled on the wet pavement, struggling on one thin arm and two sticklike legs. The rats were chewing it to pieces, and as the thing reached Jim, its skeletal face lifted and the single dim coal of an eye found him. From its mouth came a rattling noise, stifled when several rats squeezed themselves between the gray lips in search of softer flesh. Jim hurried on, not waiting for the light to change. He thought the thing had said Whhhyyy? and for that question he had no answer.

He felt shame in the coil of his entrails. When did love die? Had it perished at the same time as this living death of human flesh had begun, or had it already died and decayed long before? He went on, through the somber streets where the buildings brooded like tombstones, and he felt crushed beneath the weight of loneliness.

Jim remembered beauty; a yellow flower, the scent of a woman’s perfume, the warm sheen of a woman’s hair. Remembering was another bar in the prison of bones; the power of memory taunted him unmercifully. He remembered walking on his lunch hour, sighting a pretty girl and following her for a block or two, enraptured by fantasies. He had always been searching for love, for someone to be joined with, and had never realized it so vitally before now, when the gray city was full of rats and the restless dead.

Someone with a cavity where its face had been stumbled past, arms waving blindly. What once had been a child ran by him, and left the scent of rot in its wake, Jim lowered his head, and when a gust of hot wind hit him he lost his balance and would have slammed into a concrete wall if he hadn’t grabbed hold of a bolted-down mailbox. He kept going, deeper into the city, on pavement he’d never walked when he was alive.

At the intersection of two unfamiliar streets he thought he heard music: the crackle of a guitar, the low grunting of a drumbeat. He turned against the wind, fighting the gusts that threatened to hurl him into the air, and followed the sound. Two blocks ahead a strobe light flashed in a cavernous entrance. A sign that read THE COURTYARD had been broken out, and across the front of the building was scrawled BONEYARD in black spray paint. Figures moved within the entrance: dancers, gyrating in the flash of the strobes.

The thunder of the music repulsed him—the soft grace of Brahms remained his lullaby, not the raucous crudity of Grave Rock—but the activity, the movement, the heat of energy drew him closer. He scratched a maddening itch on the dry flesh at the back of his neck and stood on the threshold while the music and the glare blew around him. The Courtyard, he thought, glancing at the old sign. It was the name of a place that might once have served white wine and polite jazz music—a singles bar, maybe, where the lonely went to meet the lonely. The Boneyard it was now, all right: a realm of dancing skeletons. This was not his kind of place, but still … the noise, lights, and gyrations spoke of another kind of loneliness. It was a singles bar for the living dead, and it beckoned him in.

Jim crossed the threshold, and with one desiccated hand he smoothed down his remaining bits of black hair.

And now he knew what hell must be like: a smoky, rot-smelling pandemonium. Some of the things writhing on the dance floor were missing arms and legs, and one thin figure in the midst of a whirl lost its hand; the withered flesh skidded across the linoleum, was crushed underfoot as its owner scrabbled after it, and then its owner was likewise pummeled down into a twitching mass. On the bandstand were two guitar players, a drummer, and a legless thing hammering at an electric organ. Jim avoided the dance floor, moving through the crowd toward the blue neon bar. The drum’s pounding offended him, in an obscene way; it reminded him too much of how his heartbeat used to feel before it clenched and ceased.

This was a place his mother—God rest her soul—would have warned him to avoid. He had never been one for nightlife, and looking into the decayed faces of some of these people was a preview of torments that lay ahead—but he didn’t want to leave. The drumbeat was so loud it destroyed all thinking, and for a while he could pretend it was indeed his own heart returned to scarlet life; and that, he realized, was why the Boneyard was full from wall to wall. This was a mockery of life, yes, but it was the best to be had.

The bar’s neon lit up the rotting faces like blue-shadowed Halloween masks. One of them, down to shreds of flesh clinging to yellow bone, shouted something unintelligible and drank from a bottle of beer; the liquid streamed through the fissure in his throat and down over his violet shirt and gold chains. Flies swarmed around the bar, drawn to the reek, and Jim watched as the customers pressed forward. They reached into their pockets and changepurses and offered freshly-killed rats, roaches, spiders, and centipedes to the bartender, who placed the objects in a large glass jar that had replaced the cash register. Such was the currency of the Dead World, and a particularly juicy rat bought two bottles of Miller Lite. Other people were laughing and hollering—gasping, brittle sounds that held no semblance of humanity. A fight broke out near the dance floor, and a twisted arm thunked to the linoleum to the delighted roar of the onlookers.

“I know you!” A woman’s face thrust forward into Jim’s. She had tatters of gray hair, and she wore heavy makeup over sunken cheeks, her forehead swollen and cracked by some horrible inner pressure. Her glittery dress danced with light, but smelled of grave dirt. “Buy me a drink!” she said, grasping his arm. A flap of flesh at her throat fluttered, and Jim realized her throat had been slashed. “Buy me a drink!” she insisted,

“No,” Jim said, trying to break free. “No, I’m sorry.”

“You’re the one who killed me!” she screamed. Her grip tightened, about to snap Jim’s forearm. “Yes you are! You killed me, didn’t you?” And she picked up an empty beer bottle off the bar, her face contorted with rage, and started to smash it against his skull.

But before the blow could fall a man lifted her off her feet and pulled her away from Jim; her fingernails flayed to the bones of Jim’s arm. She was still screaming, fighting to pull away, and the man, who wore a T-shirt with Boneyard painted across it, said, “She’s a fresh one. Sorry, mac,” before he hauled her toward the entrance. The woman’s scream got shriller, and Jim saw her forehead burst open and ooze like a stomped snail. He shuddered, backing into a dark corner—and there he bumped into another body.

“Excuse me,” he said. Started to move away. Glanced at whom he’d collided with.

And saw her.

She was trembling, her skinny arms wrapped around her chest. She still had most of her long brown hair, but in places it had diminished to the texture of spiderwebs and her scalp showed. Still, it was lovely hair. It looked almost healthy. Her pale blue eyes were liquid and terrified, and her face might have been pretty once. She had lost most of her nose, and gray-rimmed craters pitted her right cheek. She was wearing sensible clothes: a skirt and blouse and a sweater buttoned to the throat. Her clothes were dirty, but they matched. She looked like a librarian, he decided. She didn’t belong in the Boneyard—but, then, where did anyone belong anymore?

He was about to move away when he noticed something else that caught a glint of frenzied light.

Around her neck, just peeking over the collar of her sweater, was a silver chain, and on that chain hung a tiny cloisonné heart.

It was a fragile thing, like a bit of bone china, but it held the power to freeze Jim before he took another step.

“That’s . . . that’s very pretty,” he said. He nodded at the heart.

Instantly her hand covered it. Parts of her fingers had rotted off, like his own.

He looked into her eyes; she stared—or at least pretended to—right past him. She shook like a frightened deer. Jim paused, waiting for a break in the thunder, nervously casting his gaze to the floor. He caught a whiff of decay, and whether it was from himself or her he didn’t know; what did it matter? He shivered too, not knowing what else to say but wanting to say something, anything, to make a connection. He sensed that at any moment the girl—whose age might be anywhere from twenty to forty, since Death both tightened and wrinkled at the same time —might bolt past him and be lost in the crowd. He thrust his hands into his pockets, not wanting her to see the exposed fingerbones. “This is the first time I’ve been here,” he said. “I don’t go out much.”

She didn’t answer. Maybe her tongue is gone, he thought. Or her throat. Maybe she was insane, which could be a real possibility. She pressed back against the wall, and Jim saw how very thin she was, skin stretched over frail bones. Dried up on the inside, he thought. Just like me.

“My name is Jim,” he told her. “What’s yours?”

Again, no reply. I’m no good at this! he agonized. Singles bars had never been his “scene”, as the saying went. No, his world had always been his books, his job, his classical records, his cramped little apartment that now seemed like a four-walled crypt. There was no use in standing here, trying to make conversation with a dead girl. He had dared to eat the peach, as Eliot’s Prufrock lamented, and found it rotten,

“Brenda,” she said, so suddenly it almost startled him. She kept her hand over the heart, her other arm across her sagging breasts. Her head was lowered, her hair hanging over the cratered cheek.

“Brenda,” Jim repeated; he heard his voice tremble. “That’s a nice name.”

She shrugged, still pressed into the corner as if trying to squeeze through a chink in the bricks.

Another moment of decision presented itself. It was a moment in which Jim could turn and walk three paces away, into the howling mass at the bar, and release Brenda from her corner; or a moment in which Brenda could tell him to go away, or curse him to his face, or scream with haunted dementia and that would be the end of it. The moment passed, and none of those things happened. There was just the drumbeat, pounding across the club, pounding like a counterfeit heart, and the roaches ran their race on the bar and the dancers continued to fling bits of flesh off their bodies like autumn leaves.

He felt he had to say something. “I was just walking. I didn’t mean to come here.” Maybe she nodded. Maybe; he couldn’t tell for sure, and the light played tricks. “I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” he added.

She spoke, in a whispery voice that he had to strain to hear: “Me neither.”

Jim shifted his weight—what weight he had left. “Would you . . . like to dance?” he asked, for want of anything better.

“Oh, no!” She looked up quickly. “No, I can’t dance! I mean … I used to dance, sometimes, but … I can’t dance anymore.”

Jim understood what she meant; her bones were brittle, just as his own were. They were both as fragile as husks, and to get out on that dance floor would tear them both to pieces. “Good,” he said. “I can’t dance either.”

She nodded, with an expression of relief. There was an instant in which Jim saw how pretty she must have been before all this happened—not pretty in a flashy way, but pretty as homespun lace—and it made his brain ache. “This is a loud place,” he said. “Too loud.”

“I’ve . . . never been here before.” Brenda removed her hand from the necklace, and again both arms protected her chest. “I knew this place was here, but . . .” She shrugged her thin shoulders. “I don’t know.”

“You’re . . .” lonely, he almost said. As lonely as I am. “. . . alone?” he asked.

“I have friends,” she answered, too fast.

“I don’t,” he said, and her gaze lingered on his face for a few seconds before she looked away. “I mean, not in this place,” he amended. “I don’t know anybody here, except you.” He paused, and then he had to ask the question:

“Why did you come here tonight?”

She almost spoke, but she closed her mouth before the words got out. I know why, Jim thought. Because you’re searching. Just like I am. You went out walking, and maybe you came in here because you couldn’t stand to be alone another second. I can look at you, and hear you screaming. “Would you like to go out?” he asked. “Walking, I mean. Right now, so we can talk?”

“I don’t know you,” she said, uneasily.

“I don’t know you, either. But I’d like to.”

“I’m . . .” Her hand fluttered up to the cavity where her nose had been. “Ugly,” she finished.

“You’re not ugly. Anyway, I’m no handsome prince.” He smiled, which stretched the flesh on his face. Brenda might have smiled, a little bit; again, it was hard to tell. “I’m not a crazy,” Jim reassured her. “I’m not on drugs, and I’m not looking for somebody to hurt. I just thought . . . you might like to have some company.”

Brenda didn’t answer for a moment. Her fingers played with the cloisonné heart. “All right,” she said finally. “But not too far. Just around the block.”

“Just around the block,” he agreed, trying to keep his excitement from showing too much. He took her arm—she didn’t seem to mind his fleshless fingers—and carefully guided her through the crowd. She felt light, like a dry-rotted stick, and he thought that even he, with his shrunken muscles, might be able to lift her over his head.

Outside, they walked away from the blast of the Boneyard. The wind was getting stronger, and they soon were holding to each other to keep from being swept away. “A storm’s coming,” Brenda said, and Jim nodded. The storms were fast and ferocious, and their winds made the buildings shake. But Jim and Brenda kept walking, first around the block and then, at Brenda’s direction, southward. Their bodies were bent like question marks; overhead, clouds masked the moon and blue streaks of electricity began to lance across the sky.

Brenda was not a talker, but she was a good listener. Jim told her about himself, about the job he used to have, about how he’d always dreamed that someday he’d have his own firm. He told her about a trip he once took, as a young man, to Lake Michigan, and how cold he recalled the water to be. He told her about a park he visited once, and how he remembered the sound of happy laughter and the smell of flowers. “I miss how it used to be,” he said, before he could stop himself, because in the Dead World voicing such regrets was a punishable crime. “I miss beauty,” he went on. “I miss . . . love.”

She took his hand, bone against bone, and said, “This is where I live.”

It was a plain brownstone building, many of the windows broken out by the windstorms. Jim didn’t ask to go to Brenda’s apartment; he expected to be turned away on the front steps. But Brenda still had hold of his hand, and now she was leading him up those steps and through the glassless door.

Her apartment, on the fourth floor, was even smaller than Jim’s. The walls were a somber gray, but the lights revealed a treasure—pots of flowers set around the room and out on the fire escape. “They’re silk,” Brenda explained, before he could ask. “But they look real, don’t they?”

“They look . . . wonderful.” He saw a stereo and speakers on a table, and near the equipment was a collection of records. He bent down, his knees creaking, and began to examine her taste in music. Another shock greeted him: Beethoven . . . Chopin . . . Mozart . . . Vivaldi . . . Strauss. And, yes, even Brahms. “Oh!” he said, and that was all he could say.

“I found most of those,” she said. “Would you like to listen to them?”

“Yes. Please.”

She put on the Chopin, and as the piano chords swelled, so did the wind, whistling in the hall and making the windows tremble.

And then she began to talk about herself: She had been a secretary, in a refrigeration plant across the river. Had never married, though she’d been engaged once. Her hobby was making silk flowers, when she could find the material. She missed ice cream most of all, she said. And summer—what had happened to summer, like it used to be? All the days and nights seemed to bleed together now, and nothing made any of them different. Except the storms, of course, and those could be dangerous.

By the end of the third record, they were sitting side by side on her sofa. The wind had gotten very strong outside; the rain came and went, but the wind and lightning remained.

“I like talking to you,” she told him. “I feel like . . . I’ve known you for a long, long time.”

“I do too. I’m glad I came into that place tonight.” He watched the storm and heard the wind shriek. “I don’t know how I’m going to get home.”

“You . . . don’t have to go,” Brenda said, very quietly. “I’d like for you to stay.”

He stared at her, unbelieving. The back of his neck itched fiercely, and the itch was spreading to his shoulders and arms, but he couldn’t move.

“I don’t want to be alone,” she continued. “I’m always alone. It’s just that … I miss touching. Is that wrong, to miss touching?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

She leaned forward, her lips almost brushing his, her eyes almost pleading. “Eat me,” she whispered.

Jim sat very still. Eat me: the only way left to feel pleasure in the Dead World. He wanted it, too; he needed it, so badly. “Eat me,” he whispered back to her, and he began to unbutton her sweater.

Her nude body was riddled with craters, her breasts sunken into her chest. His own was sallow and emaciated, and between his thighs his penis was a gray, useless piece of flesh. She reached for him, he knelt beside her body, and as she urged “Eat me, eat me,” his tongue played circles on her cold skin; then his teeth went to work, and he bit away the first chunk. She moaned and shivered, lifted her head and tongued his arm. Her teeth took a piece of flesh from him, and the ecstasy arrowed along his spinal cord like an electric shock.

They clung to each other, shuddering, their teeth working on arms and legs, throat, chest, face. Faster and faster still, as the wind crashed and Beethoven thundered; gobbets of flesh fell to the carpet, and those gobbets were quickly snatched up and consumed. Jim felt himself shrinking, being transformed from one into two; the incandescent moment had enfolded him, and if there had been tears to cry, he might have wept with Joy. Here was love, and here was a lover who both claimed him and gave her all.

Brenda’s teeth closed on the back of Jim’s neck, crunching through the dry flesh. Her eyes closed in rapture as Jim ate the rest of the fingers on her left hand—and suddenly there was a new sensation, a scurrying around her lips. The love wound on Jim’s neck was erupting small yellow roaches, like gold coins spilling from a bag, and Jim’s itching subsided. He cried out, his face burrowing into Brenda’s abdominal cavity.

Their bodies entwined, the flesh being gnawed away, their shrunken stomachs bulging. Brenda bit off his ear, chewed, and swallowed it; fresh passion coursed through Jim, and he nibbled away her lips—they did taste like slightly overripe peaches—and ran his tongue across her teeth. They kissed deeply, biting pieces of their tongues off. Jim drew back and lowered his face to her thighs. He began to eat her, while she gripped his shoulders and screamed.

Brenda arched her body. Jim’s sexual organs were there, the testicles like dark, dried fruit. She opened her mouth wide, extended her chewed tongue and bared her teeth; her cheekless, chinless face strained upward—and Jim cried out over even the wail of the wind, his body convulsing.

They continued to feast on each other, tike knowing lovers. Jim’s body was hollowed out, most of the flesh gone from his face and chest. Brenda’s lungs and heart were gone, consumed, and the bones of her arms and legs were fully revealed. Their stomachs swelled. And when they were near explosion, Jim and Brenda lay on the carpet, cradling each other with skeletal arms, lying on bits of flesh like the petals of strange flowers. They were one now, each into the other—and what more could love be than this?

“I love you,” Jim said, with his mangled tongue. Brenda made a noise of assent, unable to speak, and took a last love bite from beneath his arm before she snuggled close.

The Beethoven record ended; the next one dropped onto the turntable, and a lilting Strauss waltz began.

Jim felt the building shake. He lifted his head, one eye remaining and that one sated with pleasure, and saw the fire escape trembling. One of the potted plants was suddenly picked up by the wind. “Brenda,” he said—and then the plant crashed through the glass and the stormwind came in, whipping around the walls. Another window blew in, and as the next hot wave of wind came, it got into the hollows of the two dried bodies and raised them off the floor like reed-ribbed kites. Brenda made a gasping noise, her arms locked around Jim’s spinal cord and his handless arms thrust into her ribcage. The wind hurled them against the wall, snapping bones like matchsticks as the waltz continued to play on for a few seconds before the stereo and table went over. There was no pain, though, and no reason to fear. They were together, in this Dead World where love was a curseword, and together they would face the storm.

The wind churned, threw them one way and then the other—and as it withdrew from Brenda’s apartment it took the two bodies with it, into the charged air over the city’s roofs.

They flew, buffeted higher and higher, bone locked to bone. The city disappeared beneath them, and they went up into the clouds where the blue lightning danced.

They knew great joy, and at the upper limits of the clouds where the lightning was hottest, they thought they could see the stars.

When the storm passed, a boy on the north side of the city found a strange object on the roof of his apartment building, near the pigeon roost. It looked like a charred-black construction of bones, melded together so you couldn’t tell where one bone ended and the other began. And in that mass of bones was a silver chain, with a small ornament. A heart, he saw it was. A white heart, hanging there in the tangle of someone’s bones,

He was old enough to realize that someone—two people, maybe—had escaped the Dead World last night. Lucky stiffs, he thought.

He reached in for the dangling heart, and it fell to ashes at his touch.

________________________

Copyright © 1989 by Robert R. McCammon. All rights reserved. This story originally appeared in the anthology The Book of the Dead, first published in 1989. Reprinted without permission of the author.

Image: “85 lb Zombie” by Unique Nudes / Design by Barsoom

Ω

They Look Pretty on the Outside…

IMG_2036

…but no so much on the inside. There are formatting errors and the type in the novels is so small as to be unreadable. But we are far from discouraged! We will get it right. In the meantime, don’t buy them.

(Well, you can. If you really want to. I can’t un-publish them at this point. But I’d warn draxfans against it. They can’t be un-published, but they can be improved.)

Ω

Oh, Button, Button…

RenderedImage

… you will be the ruin (or glory) of me, oh Button, Button.

Old EV_Collected_Underland_BookShot

(This is of course not the real revamped edition, not this:

evebook_final_small

… and the “Collected Serial Edition” will probably not be for sale.)

Probably.

But you never know…

Ω

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