The Roadrunners by Cody Goodfellow
It was a hell of a way to leave the flying fortress that had been their home through three wartime years and forty-four missions. Might’ve come to mutiny, if she weren’t sinking in the red mud that covered the whole Gulf shore up to the top of Galveston’s most inspired Protestant steeple, and erased the Fort Butler aerodrome off the map.
“Don’t take it so hard, ace,” Captain Schwering told his co-pilot. “You put us down dead on top of the airstrip, anyway.”
They beached the dinghies on a sandbar on top of the old San Jacinto battleground. Cowles played Taps on his harmonica. Norman laid his Norden bombsight on a boulder and smashed it to bits with another rock, then threw the wreckage in the water.
From higher ground, they could see nothing alive but the huge, freakish jellyfish things wheeling in the sky. They’d flown forty-three runs over Germany, and after the Nazis folded, they volunteered for the task force to go back to America when communications were cut off and it became clear that some kind of Axis endgame had played out at home. So far as they knew, they were the only ones out of the thirty-plane group to survive the Atlantic crossing.
Scrimshaw by Jeffrey Thomas
The roar had been going on without cease for three solid days now.
It came from out to sea, but it rolled through the streets of New Bedford like an unbroken boom of thunder, causing people to speak very loudly or even yell to be heard in conversation, causing people to stuff their ears at night with little balls of candle wax so they might sleep, or try to sleep. The roar was so deep in tone it rumbled inside one’s body like a vibration, though occasionally there would be overlapping notes, layers of other sounds. One of these was like a sustained blast, or series of blasts, on a trumpet. . . carrying from far away but abrupt enough to make one flinch. Superimposed over these sudden bleats and the consistent roar, there might be a crystalline ringing sound which penetrated one’s ears like icicles. Usually, however, it was just the baritone roar.
Sweet Angie Tailor in: Subterranean Showdown by John Langan
The ambush came later than Angela expected, a succession of explosions on the boulders around her, scattering chips of rock, lead fragments, followed close on by the cracks of the rifles from the low ridge at her back. Had positions been reversed, she would have opened fire when her target was halfway from the foot of the ridge to the mouth of the cave and the weird arrangement of boulders in front of it. Assuming she had Petty’s bravos at her disposal, she would not have had all of them shoot at once, either, since she was fairly certain none of them was in possession of a repeating rifle, giving their target whatever time she needed to find cover, as Angela was doing now, ducking behind a rock like a large stone talon. Her Schofield was in hand, but the ridge was too distant for accuracy with the pistol. Better to be patient, wait for her would-be assassins to descend to finish her, and if necessary employ the terrain to balance the advantage of their numbers. She was sufficiently ahead of schedule to be able to pause here for a moment.
An Old and Secret Cult by Robert M. Price
Young Mr. Abernathy looked sheepish and looked both ways as he approached his Ecclesiastical History instructor as class was breaking up. Professor Exeter dropped his stack of rumpled and long-used lecture notes into his briefcase as he focused on his inquirer.
“Yes, Mr. Abernathy? What can I do for you? Can I perhaps clarify some points? Sometimes I take too much for granted, I know.” The old man’s avuncular manner went some way to putting the seminarian at ease.
“Clarification. Yes, I suppose so, Professor. It’s this passage right here.” The average-height, brown-haired, unassuming young man had used his finger as a bookmark in his copy of scripture, and now he flipped the well-thumbed text open to the page and repurposed that digit to indicate one particular verse. “Isn’t the Apostle saying that the apocalypse is coming soon? I mean, we always hear that it means it’s going to happen soon for us, but he doesn’t really say that, does he? Isn’t he really saying his own generation should get ready for it?”
Dr. Exeter sighed silently. It was not the first time a student had seen the problem and raised the same question confidentially. It was not a topic of polite conversation in the halls and dormitory of Miskatonic University’s School of Divinity. Talk like that could get a fellow branded as a heretic, a doubter, and that could have career-killing ramifications, to say the least. Still, keen minds could not keep silent forever.
Stewert Behr–Deanimator by Pete Rawlik
1. SIX SHOTS FROM THE SHADOWS
Of my friend and colleague Stewart Behr, much has been written, and even more is whispered. It has been more than half a century since I first met the man in the hallowed halls of Miskatonic University’s School of Necromancy. We were students then, enthralled in our studies of the anatomy and physiology of the Resurrected. Our fellows had pursued more commonplace studies, focusing on the ailments of the still living masses that made up the bulk of the plebian populace of the Americas, but Behr and I had chosen a different course. Under the tutelage of the eminent physician Lyle A. Shan we sought the training necessary to serve as physicians to the Resurrected themselves, those dark luminaries whom the Emperor himself had gathered and bestowed upon the necromantic gift of immortality.
To Kill a King by Don Webb
1961, as I saw on the cover of Mad Magazine, was the “upside-down” year. That is to say you could write down the digits of the year, turn your paper upside-down, and it still read 1961. It seemed an upside-down year for me as well. Some pride of the South had firebombed the Freedom Riders in my home state, we had put Alan Shepard into outer space, and I won the Pulitzer Prize. There were other winners as well: Phyllis McGinley won for writing poems about suburban lawns and the joy of picking her husband up at the train station. My oldest brother got around to calling me.
“Nell, I liked the book, really I did, but I am surprised so many people are interested in Monroeville.”
“I was surprised they were interested at all, but Tru said they would be.”
“But you left out the big part. What happened to you and Amasa and Tru.”
“That would distract from what I wanted to talk about. Besides, I don’t want that old photo running anytime they mention the book.”
“You should still write it down, or get Tru to write it.”
“I did write it down. I just made it fiction and that enabled me to say certain things about racism and the class structure.”
“And skip the monstrous truth.”
“I was not writing for a pulp magazine. Tennessee Williams may have begun by writing for Weird Tales but I am not Tennessee Williams.”
“Are you working on anything now?” This is the question all writers hate. Do people ask their doctors if they’re doing surgery?
“I am working on a true crime story.”
The Last Quest by William Meikle
Arthur Pendragon, forty-ninth holder of name and title, watched from Westminster Palace as the Saxon dirigibles rained fiery death from above. Londinium burned for the twelfth night in succession, and Arthur was only too aware that all he could do was stand on the balcony and look splendid in his too shiny armor that had never even seen a battle.
“The people need a symbol.” He’d heard the phrase—his whole line of ancestors had heard it—heard it so often that it was almost the family motto.
“This is all your fault, you know,” Arthur said to the much smaller robed and hooded figure at his side. Merlin—first and only of the name, at least to Arthur’s knowledge, did not say anything in reply, so Arthur went on. “Do something, man—call up your old magic—send them home. Do your duty.”
Merlin laughed at that, a harsh, low chuckle that came with a watery rumble, as if something was broken deep in his chest.
“Duty now is it, Sire? I was called to your family all those years ago— bound to you by chains you will never begin to understand, and yet you have the nerve to speak to me about duty? Shame on you, Arthur—you are the king here, not I. I may have grown old over the years, but at least I have not yet grown soft. All of your machinations in the name of progress, all of your politics and treaties and kowtowing to the Northmen has only led us here, to this fiery end. The Saxe-Coburgs have torn up every treaty, walked over all of our old allies in weeks—and here they are perched on our doorstep—and burning down the house. And now that disaster is upon us, you look to me for answers, as you and yours have always done. And as always, you already know what is needed—the land needs its king, and the king needs the sword and the grail—as it ever was, as it ever shall be.”
“The grail is lost,” Arthur said.
“And forever will be, unless you look for it,” Merlin replied.
It was an old argument, and one that was not going to be resolved any time soon. Arthur dragged his gaze from the burning city, turned his back and stepped inside, into the great hall, where the knights sat in session at the table. They would look to him for guidance—but as yet he did not have the slightest idea what he could tell them.
Fate of the World by Christine Morgan
At cruising altitude, the thudding ascent of Asgard-One’s eight rotor-engines became a steady gallop of smoother, soothing motion. The big Sleipnir-class aircraft leveled off, riding as easily above the clouds as a longship might skim the open seas. Beyond the round windows flitted wisps of white, and beyond that stretched blue sky and curving horizon.
All fell quiet but for the distant thrumming noise of flight, and what muffled conversation filtered in from the steerhouse at the stern. They’d refueled in Cusco, been warmly welcomed and generously hosted by the Inca, and from there embarked upon this last and most dangerous leg of their journey.
Leif Freylindesson stretched, and rolled his head, glancing over at his brother on the far side of the wide aisle. Harald, two years older, wore his flax-fair hair and beard short and neatly groomed. Leif preferred the wilder bad-boy look, himself. His own flowing mane was amber-gold, his beard reddish like their father’s had been, though they both had their mother’s storm-gray eyes.
They hadn’t spoken much since leaving New Thingvellir. What else, really, was there to say that hadn’t been said already?
“Do you think she’s sending us to our deaths?” Leif had asked.
“I think she’s doing what must be done,” had been Harald’s reply. “And who better for it?”
Now, here they were, leaving the last outposts of humanity further and further behind, with only the barest inkling of what awaited them. Just as their own ancestors had, centuries ago, set the prows of their ships westward, knowing it was a brave endeavor from which they might never return.
Red in the Water, Salt on the Earth by Konstantine Paradias
“Ever seen a drowney funeral from up close, Rookie?” Brown asked over the rising bass hum of the throat-singing mourners.
“Once, in Crawfish Rock,” Tieg said, nodding. “Three days before Christmas. There were three times as many, back there.”
“L.A is drowney country. Can’t go two feet inna water without bumping into one of the rags. Got a cousin in the Channel Islands, tells me the water’s just thick with the bastiches,” Brown said, struggling to roll a cigarette under the soft glow of the gas lamp.
Across the length of Baker Beach, came the beat of orca-bone drums. Slowly, the throat-singing faded into silence. As one, the mourners dropped to their knees and began to crawl toward the water. They splashed at the frothing sea with their open hands like children, sending whorls of foam and jets of spray across the Moon’s reflection.
“They’d built a temple, near Long Beach. More like grew it, actually. Brought in some red corals from their home towns and let them take root in the ocean floor. In ten years’ time, there was a shiny red bell tower sticking out of the water. The mayor made us blow it up with depth charges,” Tieg said, looking down at the mourners, listening to the drumbeat slowly replaced by a gentle, sensuous hiss.
“Did you get any of the punks?” Brown said, cigarette secured between his teeth. He struck a match against the hem of his raincoat.
“A couple of them. The temple Oorl and his mate. There was a girl with them, though. A fuzzy duck by the name of Sophie Lamburg,” Tieg said and found that the guttural, back-of-the-throat slur of the Deep One word still came natural to him. You don’t learn, came the hoarse, croaking voice from his past. You remember.
The Night They Drove Cro Magnon Down by D.A. Madigan
All this tuck place in late ’64… Novemb’r ah b’lieves. Yassuh, that seems rah’t. Least as best Ah can ’member, now, so long a piece afta’ards.
We’ud beat the Yankees back in three . . . no, fowah . . .recent battles and we was feelin’ powerful smart. Afta Bragg broke that gods-damned Semite Jehovah worshippah Rosecrans at Chattanooga in late ’63, it war lahk we jest never looked back. We rolled on up through West Virginny, goin’ back inta Pennsylvania along the same busted, blasted ground we all’d just retreated ovah aah the first Battle o’ Gettysburg. O’ course, the Second Battle o’ Gettysburg went just a might bettah fo’ us, and that bastard slave stealer Lincoln sent off a telegram to President Davis askin’ to meet him fo’ a parley on neutral ground . . . an’ every waggin’ tongue said he was gonna ask for peace terms. Glory, glory.
Me and Jasper Bennitt—not Jasper Bennett, from the big plantation up at White Church, he up an’ got hisself shot at Antietem, no, I’m talking about the third son from the Bennitt clan down in Noble Crick, the one whut got caught with his second cousin Cindy Lynette in the haystack at that winter dance ovah in Harperstown—anyway, me an’ Jasper, we was stationed at Charleston at the time the news come in. We got us a 72 hour leave. Prob’ly coulda made it six months, ouwah major was that drunk. Noble Crick not bein’ all that far from Busey, where Ah hail from, we decided we’d grab a train back down to Georgia togethah. Postmaster Reagan had put a lotta runaway contraband to work rebuildin’ the war damage an’ a surprisin’ number o’ the rail lines was runnin’ again. We hopped a freight an howah after we got ouwah papahs signed and we was well on ouwah way. We rolled inta Savannah by three in the aftahnoon and set out to find a wagon headin’ out the direction we needed t’go in.
We seen a whole power o’ contraband, o’course, workin’ on the lines alongside the train as we rolled on by. Now, leathers ain’t people, o’course, no matter what those crazy Yankee abolitioners wanna tell ya, but they’s some decent ‘uns anyways. . . my own Auntie Sussanah, fo’ example, she loved me like Ah was her own blood an’ me and my folks always treated her good. She was honest and gave a good day’s work. An’ Ah have knowed a lotta leathers like that. . . good an’ kind and willin’ and hard workin’.
But leathers is animals, not men, and some of ’em are juss stupid and willful and some of ’em are downright ornery an’ bad. An’ these contraband, well, they was all runaways what got captured back durin’ the War, so you know they was all trash . . . no good an’ worthless, lazy and ready to rise up against they ownahs. Mah thinkin’ is, once a leather has proved itself to be one lahk that, all you ken do is hang ’em. No point tryin’ to put ’em back in harness, you cain’t nevah trust ’em. But ain’t nobody evah made me Postmaster General fo’ the Confederacy, so Ah guess Ah jess gotta hesh up.
Sacrifice by Sam Stone
Captain Nemo stared out, unblinking, into the dark blue depths and let his mind wander into the realms of creativity that could only be found below the surface. Deep in the ocean, in his own giant isolation tank, the world above, and the concerns of man, couldn’t touch him. His pupils were dilated. He had not surfaced for more than a year and although this did not alarm him, sometimes his crew needed to see land, walk on soil, take respite with a whore or two.
The time to resurface was rapidly approaching.
He let his mind float, barely registering the sea life that swam before the expansive window, as he turned the Nautilus slowly around. He was only half aware of the navigation system bleeping agreement that he was turning in the right direction and the slight upsurge of whirring as the engine boosters kicked in. Nemo needed no guidance. He knew the ocean like the palm of his own hand. The technology was for his pilot, not for himself: he could not be at the helm for all hours of the day.
Nemo was the son of an Indian rajah, and his olive skin would have been darker but for the fact that the captain rarely saw daylight. From an early age he had been raised in England, brought up as a man of privilege and wealth. As a result Nemo spoke in a cultured English voice. He had been educated to a high standard, soon surpassing his tutors, and mostly dressed as any English gentleman might. However, at sea he wore a beard which gave him a distinct pirate air.
The Nautilus shuddered. Nemo blinked, bringing his focus back from the water to the submarine around him. Sometimes he forgot completely that there was anything but himself and the sea.
Get Off Your Knees I’m Not Your God by Edwrad Morris
For everything, there is a place. A time. A time to swing in the branches and play, and be glad. And a time to rend. To uproot that tree from the ground and make a club of it, and test its swing.
A time to smear my face and chest with the blood of my kills, to hide the shine of sweat and mask my stink from the larger predators. To sleep upside-down in trees, like the great fruit bats who come when it is warm and eat all the worst of the bugs.
A time to go out and execute natural law. To do what must be done. To hunt. This is good. The way. Mine.
But there is peace, too, when the nights get long and late, and this big island talks and talks and talks. Like Mama would, but in an older tongue I can still understand when it’s just us awake. Just me and this island.
This island talks deep. Deeper than the slow fingers of the tide that washes up baby turtles and driftwood and stranger things. Deeper than the chatterings of the wriggling two-legged rats that washed up and nested on my beach some other time ago, even when they pound their hide drums and sing.
Deeper than the cries of the lizards, the serpents, the wing’d and nighted things who sweep down at me sometimes, like great troublesome mosquitoes which I must pause and snap in half.
This island speaks. Just as I speak. That clearly. The island and the forest do, the wind in the trees, right there for anyone to hear.
In the tongues of the ancestors of my ancestors, they sing to me, and teach me everything I need to be. Everything that makes it make sense, when I listen and hear, and let my terror run off and get itself good and lost out there in that thick, dank fog.
Excerpts from the Diares of Henry P. Linklatter by Stephen Mark Rainey
Wednesday, July 16, 1969
Today was my birthday! I am 11 years old. Mom made a cake, and Terry, Beth, Dan, Faun, Suzy, Joe, and Charles came over for a party. I got a fishing rod, a G.I. Joe, a model sailing ship, and some other stuff. Also, Apollo 11 landed on the moon this afternoon. We watched it on the news, and even Walter Cronkite was excited and laughing! Neil Armstrong walked on the moon tonight and said “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I got to stay up late and watch it. That part was exciting, but a lot of it was just looking at the leg of the LEM and nothing else really happening. But I’m glad we landed on the moon!
Plague Doctor by Tim Waggoner
They’re inside me. Multiplying, growing, filling me . . . Millions upon millions of tiny voices joined in dark song, sharp and discordant, and all the more beautiful for it. Their song is more than sound, though. It’s the heat blazing at the core of my being, roasting me from within. It’s the throbbing ache deep in my muscles, that’s settled in my bones like corrupted marrow. It’s the thick rattle in my throat whenever I try to draw in air, the heaviness in my lungs, the bubbling of infection . . . And it is glorious.
Amidst the Blighted Swathes of Grey Desolation by Lee Clark Zumpe
“I seen things I shouldn’ta seen over t’the barrier,” Benita Mullen said, her voice sounding uncharacteristically small and feeble. “I just had to follow ’em, see what kind ’a trouble they got themselves in.
“Stop your wrigglin’, Mama.” Benita’s daughter used a damp cloth to cool her forehead. “The medic will come soon.”
“Soon,” Benita said, managing a reassuring smile for her two grown children. She knew no treatment would stop the inevitable. Her killer’s blade had gone too deep. She had lost too much blood trying to get back to her loved ones in the small, rustic farming village. “Don’t fret now,” she said, wiping a tear from her son’s cheek. “Been a good life.”
At 48, Benita was the oldest member of her clan. Like all the others, she had spent her life toiling in the fields. She and her extended family had worked just about every kind of crop imaginable in Florida: citrus, sugarcane, tomatoes, peppers, cotton, watermelons, peanuts, snap beans and potatoes. For Benita and her kin, recompense for the drudgery came in daily allotments of food and water, tolerable living conditions and suitable shelter, basic healthcare and—most importantly—the opportunity for select newborns to be “elevated.”
Neither Benita’s son Napoleon nor her daughter Zoe had been chosen by the administrators. They had, however, picked her sister’s little baby girl back in 1997; and, before that, one of her cousins. Her own mother told her that her grandmother’s twin sister had gone to the great, shining city in the north—a near-mythical metropolis known as Jacksonville.
“Listen good, you two,” Benita said. She struggled to remain composed as waves of pain radiated from the gash in her belly. “Don’t you go gettin’ no ideas about revenge, you hear? Don’t go lookin’ for trouble—ain’t no reason. This is my doin’—I shoulda kept clear of ’em. Whatever that bunch over t’district twelve got into, you keep away from it. Administrators’ll catch ’em. You stay away from them folk and that church they built back in the shadows of that old orange grove. No tellin’ what kinda of thing they worship out there . . . no tellin’ what kinda wicked ceremonies they get up to.”
When the district medical officer arrived, the sun had already descended below the horizon, leaving only a shrinking reddish band as purple twilight overtook the skies. Benita had been dead for hours.
Cognac, Communism, and Cocaine by Nick Mamatas and Molly Tanzer
Ghyslaine burned the inside of her left arm as she removed a tray of rolls from the oven. The seared flesh went cold, then hot as she almost swooned, rolls skittering across the parchment paper with the sound of autumn leaves over pavement. Then the nausea hit her. No matter how often she burned herself—and she did so often—she never got used to the sensation. The way the back of her neck prickled as she broke out in the inevitable icy sweat. The way her limbs went weak. She turned, looking for a place to set the rolls, and gasped as Maxim’s maître d’ leapt out of her way.
He did not look to be in an understanding mood.
“Watch out, you daft slut,” he hissed, his words blending with the tap as she ran her arm under water. “Ones preserve me! They’re arriving, and—” He gestured expansively at the busy kitchen. “Just look at it down here! Chaos!”
Ghyslaine was not in charge of the kitchen, but that did not concern Mr. Sarkozy. Nor for that matter did it concern him that neither was he—it was not his job to scold anyone in the back of the house, even a humble boulangère like herself.
“There is no bread out on the tables,” continued Mr. Sarkozy, as Ghyslaine applied a smear of butter to her arm. “Where are the rolls, Ghyslaine? The rolls!”
“Here, Mr. Sarkozy,” said Ghyslaine, singeing her fingertips as she distributed the hot little rolls among several baskets. Philippe, the tournant, earned himself a grateful look as he brought out the dishes of beurre maître d’hôtel from the icebox. She would thank him later, when things had quieted down.
“And what are these, exactly?” Mr. Sarkozy, who ought to have been instructing the waiters to bear the bread out to the tables, if he was so concerned about it, picked up a roll and inspected it. “So plain. So small! Perhaps you think you are baking for prisoners, instead of the international literati?”
Ghyslaine desperately needed to get away; her brioche was at a tricky point and she still had more displeasing rolls to bake. “The chef sets the menu, Mr. Sar—”
“The chef!” spat Mr. Sarkozy, as if this was the most absurd protest she could come up with. “I don’t care what the chef says, I am telling you— hmm?”
It was one of the waiters, hovering anxiously.“Mr. Sarkozy, the gentleman who arrived early, he says he’s here in advance of the guest of honor, and he wants, er, or rather he needs. . . help with…” the waiter looked to Ghyslaine, clearly unwilling to say whatever it was in front of her.
“Help him, then!” exclaimed Mr. Sarkozy, throwing his hands into the air.
“Are you confused about what a waiter does? He waits on the guests!”
“Please, Mr. Sarkozy,” urged the waiter. “I—we—need your expertise for this one.”
This was the correct thing to say. The maître d’ nodded, lips pursed; after shooting Ghyslaine a nasty look, he departed.
Kai Monstrai Ateik (When the Monsters Come) by Damien Angelica Walters
Daina Mielkut stood her post on the Curonian spit, knives at her belt and the butt of her spear in the sand, watching the placid waters of the Baltic Sea. Her skin tingled with a sensation of flame without heat and ice without cold—a sign the monsters were waking. Nothing new, this sensation—Daina had lived on the spit for twenty-three years, ever since her sixteenth birthday—but something about it felt different in a way she couldn’t explain, something undefinable underneath the sensation.
All across Lithuania, people would be preparing the midsummer bonfires for the Saint Jonas’ Festival and with good reason: this was the first summer since the end of the Great War, the second since Lithuania once again came under her own rule.
Here on the spit, though, the bonfires held a different purpose. There would be no singing and dancing while the sun set, no making flower wreaths, and no stories. There were only the globėjai, the men and women who volunteered to stand guard, to fight, to kill. Some summers brought luck and there were no monsters at all; this would not be one such summer . . .
The spit, a curved piece of land ninety-eight kilometers long, ran from Klaipėda down to Kaliningrad in Russia and separated the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Nearly a hundred years of monsters, of globėjai, and the reason the monsters chose a segment of the spit roughly one kilometer in length for their attempted incursions was still a mystery.
Some stories said a ragana tried to use magic—for what purpose, it was never said—and opened a door that should never have been opened. Some said the turmoil of man created an abscess and the monsters were akin to pus from a wound that would not heal. And still others blamed the Russians, yet with half the cursed land falling on their side of the spit, it was unlikely. But you didn’t need to know how or why a terrible thing was happening to know it must be stopped.