TABLE OF CONTENTS Issue 51, December 2016

FROM THE EDITOR Editorial, December 2016

FICTION I Was a Teenage Werewolf The Blood Drip The Low, Dark Edge of Life Livia Llewellyn The Opera Singer Priya Sridhar

NONFICTION The H Word: Audio Horror, the Menacing Stroll Alex Hofelich Artist Showcase: James T. Robb Marina J. Lostetter Panel Discussion: Penny Dreadful The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHTS Dale Bailey Brian Evenson Livia Llewellyn Priya Sridhar MISCELLANY Coming Attractions, January 2017 Stay Connected Subscriptions and About the Nightmare Team Also Edited by

© 2016 Nightmare Magazine Cover by James T. Robb FROM THE EDITOR Editorial, December 2016 John Joseph Adams | 867 words

Welcome to issue fifty-one of Nightmare! We have original fiction from Dale Bailey (“I Was a Teenage Werewolf”) and Livia Llewellyn (“The Low, Dark Edge of Life”), along with reprints by Brian Evenson (“The Blood Drip”) and Priya Sridhar (“The Opera Singer”). In our “The H Word” column, Alex Hofelich of Pseudopod talks about what makes the audio experience of horror so great. We’ve also got author spotlight mini-interviews with our authors, a showcase on our cover artist, and a panel discussion of the show Penny Dreadful.

Best American and 2016 As you may recall, in addition to editing Lightspeed and Nightmare, I am also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, which launched last year. The first volume was guest edited by , and the 2016 volume (which came out October 4) is guest edited by . The table of contents for the 2016 volume includes two stories from Lightspeed (“Things You Can Buy for a Penny” by Will Kaufman and “Tea Time” by Rachel Swirsky), as well as Salman Rushdie, Adam Johnson, , , , , Sofia Samatar, Sam J. Miller, Charlie Jane Anders, Catherynne M. Valente, Liz Ziemska, S.L. Huang, Vandana Singh, Dale Bailey, Dexter Palmer, Julian Mortimer Smith, Nick Wolven, and Seth Dickinson. Visit to learn more and/or to order!

New Anthology Release: What the #@&% is That? (Saga Press, Nov. 1, 2016) My latest anthology—co-edited with Douglas Cohen—published last month. Here’s the cover copy: Fear of the unknown—it is the essence of the best horror stories, the need to know what monstrous vision you’re beholding and the underlying terror that you just might find out. In this anthology, twenty authors have gathered to ask—and maybe answer—a question worthy of almost any horror tale: “What the #@&% is that?” Join these masters of suspense as they take you to where the grow long, and that which lurks at the corner of your vision is all too real, with stories by Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Scott Sigler, Maria Dahvana Headley, Christopher Golden, Alan Dean Foster, Rachel Swirsky & An Owomoyela, and others. Visit to learn more or buy the book. New Editions of Old Favorites Lightspeed readers are probably already familiar with most of my anthologies, but in case you missed one here or there, I thought it was worth pointing out that I recently released new editions of my anthologies Federations and The Way of the Wizard. The new covers are both by the wonderful and talented Matt Bright at Inkspiral Design. Visit and to check out the new covers or buy the books.

People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror and Fantasy! In October, our “Destroy” series continued here in Nightmare, with Silvia Moreno- Garcia serving as the guest editor of the People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror! special issue. She collected original fiction from Nadia Bulkin, Gabriela Santiago, Valerie Valdes, and Russell Nichols to help celebrate the work of creators of color in the horror field. Reprint editor Tananarive Due brought us four horror classics, including one from Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Díaz, and nonfiction editor Maurice Broaddus presented a stellar line-up of essays and interviews. This month, the final volume in the POC Destroy series publishes as a special issue of Fantasy Magazine (which was merged into Lightspeed back in 2012). Guest editor Daniel José Older presents original fiction from N.K. Jemisin, Thoraiya Dyer, P. Djeli Clark, and Darcie Little Badger. Reprint editor Amal El-Mohtar selected four fantasy classics, from Sofia Samatar, Celeste Rita Baker, Shweta Narayan, and Leanne Simpson. And last, but not least, nonfiction editor Tobias S. Buckell will be bringing us an assortment of insightful essays and interviews. Learn more about both of these special issues—and the rest of the Destroy projects— at

John Joseph Adams Books News In my role as editor of John Joseph Adams Books for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I recently acquired a novel by debut author Bryan Camp: The City of Lost Fortunes, a novel about a magician with a talent for finding lost things who is forced into playing a high stakes game with the gods of New Orleans for the heart and soul of the city. Publication date is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2018. Meanwhile, I also bought a story by Bryan for Lightspeed, so you’ll be seeing his short story debut sometime in the near future as well!

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That’s all we have to report this month. I hope you enjoy the issue, and thanks for reading! ABOUT THE AUTHOR John Joseph Adams, in addition to serving as publisher and editor-in-chief of Nightmare, is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a new SF/Fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of many other anthologies, including The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Robot Uprisings, Dead Man’s Hand, Armored, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, and The Living Dead. Recent and forthcoming projects include: Cosmic Powers, What the #@&% Is That?, Operation Arcana, Loosed Upon the World, Wastelands 2, Press Start to Play, and The Apocalypse Triptych: The End is Nigh, The End is Now, and The End Has Come. Called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble, John is a two-time winner of the Hugo Award (for which he has been nominated ten times) and is a seven-time finalist. John is also the editor and publisher of Lightspeed Magazine and is a producer for’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Find him on @johnjosephadams. FICTION I Was a Teenage Werewolf Dale Bailey | 6612 words

Principal Ferguson’s Testimony Before Miss Ferguson found Maude Lewis’ body in the school gym, none of us believed in the teenage werewolf. There had been rumors, of course. There always are. But many of us viewed Miss Ferguson’s discovery as confirmation of our worst fears. Not everyone shared our certainty. There had been only a fingernail paring of moon that late February night, and a small but vocal minority of us argued that this precluded the possibility that Maude’s killer had been a lycanthrope. It was common knowledge, they contended, that werewolves only struck during full moons, often adding that one only became a werewolf by surviving the bite of another werewolf. No such attack had been reported. The rest of us refrained from pointing out the errors in this fount of superstition. Instead, we asked the skeptics to consider the facts of the case as Principal Ferguson reported them to the Rockdale Gazette. She had been working late as she did most nights, partly, we believed, because she was lonely, having no family to go home to, and partly to accommodate Maude’s practice schedule. Maude was a talented gymnast who harbored hopes of a college scholarship and often stayed well into the evening to practice her tumbling runs and stunts. Around eight o’clock on the night in question, Principal Ferguson had heard a brief shriek of terror. What she found when she investigated sent her flying back to her office in a seizure of panic and horror. She would not soon forget what she’d discovered in the gym. Some creature with superhuman strength—surely, it could not have been a man—had snapped Maude’s back like a twig and draped her supine body over the balance beam. It dangled there like it had no bones at all. Her abdomen had been torn open, spilling out glistening loops of yellow entrails. The stench was terrible. You wouldn’t think a pretty girl like Maude would have had such smells within her, Miss Ferguson said.

The Arrest of Tony Rivers In a press conference the following afternoon, Police Chief Baker dismissed the rumors of a teenage werewolf, and announced that Detective “Don” Donovan, the lead investigator on the case, had already made an arrest. Tony Rivers, a junior, had also been in the school that night. Tony had been working after hours as the custodian for almost a year by then, ever since his father had succumbed to brain cancer, leaving Tony and his mother to make their way as best they could. Tony had told some of us about his father’s transformation as the tumor ate into his brain. A gentle man, Ted Rivers had, by the end, become foul mouthed, and prone to fits of rage. To those closest to him, Tony had confided that though he tried not to think about his father’s death, it weighed constantly upon him: when he was doing his homework or watching TV, when he was pushing a broom down the halls of Rockdale High. It was the first thing he thought about when he woke up. It was the last thing he thought about when he went to sleep. This was the grief-stricken young man the police had found standing over Maude Lewis’s body. Tony’s explanation for his presence was perfectly reasonable: he too had come running in response to Maude’s scream, arriving scant seconds after Miss Ferguson had locked herself in her office to call for help. Detective Donovan had taken him in for questioning anyway. Under interrogation, Tony said that he always escorted Maude home after Miss Ferguson locked up the school. It seemed unwise to let her walk alone, given the rumors that a teenage werewolf stalked the streets of Rockdale. Tony also admitted to an unrequited crush on Maude. And yes, she had recently—the night before her murder, in fact—rebuffed an invitation to join him at the Junior-Senior Prom. Had her snub angered him? Detective Donovan wanted to know. Did he approach her again the night of the murder? Did he lose his temper when she rejected him? Where was he when Maude died? Tony barely had time to respond to one query—often incoherently—before the next arrived. His panic mounted, and when Detective Donovan confronted him with the final and most damning question of all—why had his hands been so bloody?—Tony’s answer made no sense. I couldn’t stand to see her all torn up like that, he said. I was trying to put everything back inside her. Detective Donovan consulted the police chief. Tony Rivers was in a cell soon afterward. The streets of Rockdale were safe, Chief Baker told us at his press conference. We had nothing to fear.

Other Cases of Teenage Lycanthropy Our situation was not unprecedented. Other towns had been plagued by rumors of teenage werewolves: strange tracks in the snow, lupine howls in the lonesome morning hours. Usually the rumors came to nothing. But in some few cases, what began as uneasy whispers escalated into outright horror. Missing pets, mutilated livestock, and worse. Much worse. The captain of the football team had been arrested for decapitating the head cheerleader in Bailey Downs, Indiana; the star mathlete detained for disemboweling his algebra instructor in Beacon Hills, New Hampshire; the Homecoming Queen taken into custody for slaughtering her entire court in Baker’s Park, California. These had all been crimes of unparalleled savagery and mysterious circumstance. No convincing motives could be discovered, no weapons capable of inflicting such appalling wounds. Anonymous sources reported that the cheerleader and the teacher had been partially devoured. The Homecoming Queen had hunted down her friends on the court with uncanny speed, butchering six girls and their escorts in the space of two hours. In all three cases, the perpetrators had been tracked down in wooded areas hours after dawn. They had been uniformly drenched in gore.

The Rumors in Rockdale None of us could have foreseen Maude Lewis’ death when Jim Whitt, a fifty-something graduate of Rockdale High, first set local tongues wagging. In the year since his wife had skipped town with a Bible salesman, Jim had taken to drink, often closing down the Four Roses Tavern. By the time he hauled himself off his barstool on the night of January 11th, he was more than a little unsteady on his feet. Halfway to his dilapidated farm—three miles out of town on Rural Route 41—he began to nod. He pulled over to rest his eyes in a wooded turnout just outside the city limits. The howling startled him awake an hour later. Just a dog, he assured himself as he pulled back onto the pavement. But he hadn’t gone more than a quarter mile before something big sprang onto the narrow road in front of him. For a heart-pounding instant, the creature—he did not know what else to call it— froze there, pinned in the splash of his old pickup’s one working headlight, its knees coiled, its arms flung up before it. Jim stood on the brakes, wrenching the wheel hard left. When the truck skidded to a stop, he reached for the rifle mounted behind him, but the thing was already gone, leaving him little more than a confused impression of slavering fangs, wiry fur, and hateful yellow eyes. It looked unnervingly human, he told Frank Lilly over bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon the next day. “Could have been a bear,” Frank said. But no bears had been seen around Rockdale for years. The whole thing was far more likely to be a figment of Jim’s whiskey-saturated brain, we concluded—and that might have been the end of it but for the incident at Mike Talbot’s farm. One early February night, the hunting dogs Mike kept kenneled near his barn woke him. When he walked out to check on them, shotgun in hand, he found them in a frenzy. They snapped and bayed at the surrounding woods. They gnawed at the chain-link mesh of their run. Then an answering howl clove the night—close, much closer than Mike would have liked. A wild, rank musk filled the air. Mike’s dogs whimpered and shrank away, their lips skinning back in terror. Something thrashed in the undergrowth at the tree line. Mike didn’t hesitate. He lifted his shotgun and discharged both barrels into the darkness. He was still fumbling with the breech—his hands were shaking, he would later report without shame —when the creature, whatever it was, crashed off into the woods. The animal stench faded. He’d driven the thing off, at least for now. He had no intention of waiting to see if it came back. He reloaded, retreated to the house, and put coffee on the burner. He didn’t sleep till dawn. This was a more difficult story to dismiss. Mike was an unimpeachable witness. A Deacon at the First Baptist Church, he’d never been known to take a drink in his life, so his testimony added considerable force to Jim’s account of the creature on Route 41. Miss Drummond’s poodle, Yankee, disappeared from his fenced-in yard a few days later. When his half-eaten remains turned up on the high school steps the following morning, rumors of the teenage werewolf began to circulate in earnest, and though none of us really believed them, we liked to pretend that we did. It was a pleasure to be afraid. We shivered with excitement when Andy Wilson swore that he’d seen an inhuman figure lurking in the gloom behind his father’s toolshed. We swooned with delight when Debra Anderson reported hearing something snuffling at her bedroom window. We jumped at shadows and hid under covers. We roved the streets in packs for safety, immersed ourselves in werewolf lore, and debated the teenage lycanthrope’s identity over chocolate malts at Mooney’s drive-in. Fear united us, and granted some few of us social opportunities we’d never had before. Tony Rivers wasn’t the only one who seized the chance to walk home with a girl who might not have given him a second glance beforehand. Then Maude Lewis died.

Rockdale High Reacts A feverish elation seized us at school the next day. The glamour of tragedy is contagious. Its aftermath permits no strangers. Maude’s close friends sobbed, and even girls who’d barely known her—even girls who had never spoken to her at all—wept. The boys—not without self-interest—tendered solace when permitted, and swelled with false bravado. And had we wanted to forget, to declare ourselves free of any obligation to grieve Maude or honor or avenge her, we could not have done so. The teachers were long faced and solicitous, engorged with empty platitudes. Yellow crime scene tape adorned the locked gym doors, and uniformed policemen patrolled the halls. Speculation rang upon every lip. Who could have done such a thing, we wondered? Did a teenage werewolf truly walk among us? The news of Tony Rivers’ arrest, when it came that afternoon, settled the question for most of us. The crime did not conform to what we many of us believed about lycanthropy. A human suspect had been taken into custody, the investigation successfully closed. But those of us who knew Tony could not countenance his guilt. He was, like his father before him, an essentially gentle person, soft spoken, shy. Surely he could not have committed such a crime—a conclusion confirmed in our minds by the publication of Miss Ferguson’s account of the brutal attack in the next day’s Rockdale Gazette. It had to have been the teenage werewolf, we concluded. Nothing else made sense.

Detective Donovan’s Doubts Though we did not know it at the time, we were not alone in our misgivings. What seemed like efficiency to Police Chief Baker felt like political expedience to his lead investigator. What seemed like homicidal madness to his boss—the boy had been trying to stuff Maude’s viscera back inside her abdominal cavity, after all—made a kind of bizarre sense to Donovan. In a similar situation—had someone gutted, say, his own beloved daughter, Sharon, a freshman at Rockdale High, and strewn her intestines around the room like garland—Donovan could very well imagine doing the same thing. He could even imagine that it might seem reasonable. In short, Donovan was skeptical. If Chief Baker hadn’t ordered him to make the arrest, Tony Rivers would still be free. The narrative didn’t hold up to scrutiny. No one denied that Tony had had the opportunity—but he was hardly alone. The school had been unlocked, open to any passerby. Motive, Donovan believed, was equally problematic. Chief Baker ascribed the crime to Tony’s humiliation and anger at Maude’s rejection. This made sense at first blush, but Donovan couldn’t reconcile it with what he’d learned from Tony’s interview. Maude had been kind to the boy. She’d brought a casserole to Tony’s house after his father died. She’d attended the funeral. And she’d been gentle in telling the boy she didn’t want to go out with him. She valued him as a friend. They would continue to spend time together. She hoped he would still walk her home after she worked out at night. More problematic still, Tony was a good kid himself—hard working, kind. Donovan knew this from his daughter, and he’d sensed it in the interview. Tony seemed to have taken no offense at Maude’s rejection. He seemed, sadly, to have accepted rejection as his lot in life. And he’d been genuinely distraught at her death—hysterical, even. Grief- stricken and destroyed. No doubt, a good prosecutor could make the motive stick at trial, but Donovan believed that it collapsed in light of any honest analysis. As for means? Impossible. Tony had been a scrawny, ungainly young man before his father’s illness. After Ted Rivers died, Tony had grown haggard and pale, attenuated, weak. Even in the grip of unmitigated fury, of a hatred that burned hot and clean, Tony Rivers simply wasn’t physically capable of such a crime. Few men were. He could not have broken Maude’s spine. Could not have disemboweled her with his bare hands. And could not have— Donovan shuddered. Tony Rivers could not have chewed off her face. Detective Donovan had heard the same rumors as everyone else, of course, but he’d never believed in the teenage werewolf. Now he wondered. How else could he explain the tuft of coarse brown hair they’d discovered in Maude Lewis’ death-clenched fist?

The Death of Helen Bissell A week passed without incident, then another. Gradually, Rockdale returned to normal. We no longer roamed the streets in packs for safety. We dismissed as superstition the werewolf lore we had studied so intently mere weeks before. Talk at Mooney’s turned from the teenage werewolf to the Junior-Senior Prom. Our younger siblings once again skipped rope and played pick-up basketball as the March dusk enveloped our sidewalks and driveways. After Maude’s funeral, the crime tape came down from the gym doors, the police no longer patrolled our hallways, and the teachers turned their attention back to English and equations. At night, we slept with our windows open, and in the morning we walked to school without fear. Even those of us with doubts let down our guard as the days slipped by. Then the teenage werewolf struck again. Afterward, we would question our lack of vigilance. Many of us would blame Police Chief Baker for lulling us into complacency with his blind assurances that our streets were safe. Detective Donovan would blame himself. Others would blame the victims, Helen Bissell and Arlene Marshall, both seniors at Rockdale High. How could they have been so careless, we would ask ourselves. But at the time, with Tony Rivers safely behind bars, the decisions Helen and Arlene made that evening must have seemed perfectly reasonable. They’d met at the public library to study for a geometry exam, and time had gotten away from them. One minute they were trying to figure out how to calculate the surface area of an irregular prism, the next Mrs. Landon, the Head Librarian, was ushering them into the night. The Rockdale Gazette later reported that she’d closed the library five minutes early, a matter of some controversy, though most of us could not see how five minutes would have changed anything. There were no other patrons that night, and she’d hoped to make it home for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. How could she have known that a teenage werewolf lurked in the darkness outside? How could any of us have known? If we had, Helen and Arlene might never have been at the library in the first place. Failing that, they might have called a parent to pick them up. And in the unlikely event that they had decided to walk, they would certainly have taken a different route home. Their houses—they were neighbors, friends since childhood—lay on the other side of McComb Park. But going around the park added fifteen minutes to their walk. They decided to cut through instead. By daylight, our park is warm and inviting. Sunlight slants down through ancient oaks, and old men gather on the benches to gossip and feed the ducks that cruise the lake. Lovers picnic on the lawn by the bandshell. Children climb on the monkey bars and chase each other through the woods bordering the asphalt path that bisects the grounds. At night, however, the park is an entirely different place, isolated and abandoned. The oaks loom like giants against the black sky. The monkey bars have a skeletal aspect. Inky pools of shadow gather between widely spaced lampposts (too widely, we would later contend) and the woods seem to press closer to the path. Helen and Arlene were more than halfway through the park when a lupine howl shattered the pristine silence. Just a dog, that’s all, they reassured each other, as Jim Whitt had before them. But rumors of the teenage werewolf asserted themselves with fresh urgency. Another howl split the night as they passed into the bright pool beneath a lamppost. They exchanged glances, their faces white with dread, and hesitated, unwilling to brave the darkness, terrified not to. The next light gleamed like a beacon through the trees, just beyond a long curve in the path, and beyond that, one more was faintly visible, a hundred yards before the stone-columned exit of the park and the safety of the streets beyond. Another howl sundered the air. Reluctantly, they slipped into the gloom. Maybe a third of the way to the curve, Arlene would later report, they realized that something was pacing them in the darkness under the trees. They began to walk faster. Their unseen shadow stayed with them. They got the first hints of a rank, animal stench, and when the next howl rent the air—the thing couldn’t have been more than twenty or thirty feet deep in the trees—the girls panicked. Dropping their books, they broke into a run. The next instant, the monster came crashing out of the trees upon them. As it hurtled past her and carried Helen screaming to the pavement, the creature raked Arlene’s face with razor-edged claws. She caught what followed in glimpses, through the blood sheeting into her eyes: caught a flash of the thing, wiry and agile, as it crouched over Helen on legs of tensile muscle, a flash of its outstretched arms and curving talons, a flash of its face, its snout lifted to the sky as it howled in triumph. When the monster looked at her, its yellow eyes blazing in the gloom, its fangs glistening, Arlene whimpered. It leered at her. It grinned in mockery—if such a thing could grin—and then it turned away, sweeping one massive hand down and across Helen’s throat, silencing her in an arterial spray. And then, God help her, it started to feed. Arlene found her voice and ran screaming through the park into the streets beyond. She collapsed, still screaming, on the front porch of the first house she came to. It belonged to Larry Phillips and his wife, Esther, a childless couple with a penchant for jigsaw puzzles. When the door opened, Arlene lurched inside. Larry Phillips took one look at her, slammed the door behind her, and flipped the deadbolt. A moment later he was on the phone for help. His wife, meanwhile, was trying to stanch the bleeding from the gashes the monster had carved in the girl’s face. Arlene Marshall would never be beautiful again. To his shame, that was Detective Donovan’s first thought when he saw her in the hospital room where they had stitched her up. She was groggy with painkillers, and it took an hour or more—over the doctor’s objections—to elicit even a fragmentary version of what had transpired. Despite the evidence before him, Donovan reeled with shock and disbelief. It could not be, he thought. None of it. It must have been the morphine that accounted for her story. Yet the final detail she’d confided before the drug carried her off to sleep would not leave his mind. The monster had been wearing a Rockdale Rams letter jacket.

The Aftermath of Helen Bissell’s Death Most of what we knew of that night was the product of rumor and surmise, though we had some few facts at our disposal. The park was closed indefinitely, the Rockdale Gazette reported, and the contingent of policemen Detective Donovan had dispatched to search the grounds did not find Helen Bissell until well after dawn. Though the article was circumspect in its description, it was clear that Helen was no longer intact when they located her—that what was left of her had been discovered scattered throughout the woods, torn apart and half-eaten. We knew as well—or thought we did—that the teenage werewolf had been wearing a letter jacket, though Donovan had sworn the attending physician to silence. Tony Rivers was released, but Vic Miller, star forward of the high school basketball team, a jealous ex-boyfriend of Helen Bissell, and proud owner of a Rockdale Rams letter jacket, was taken into custody. Released for lack of evidence soon afterward—his father was an attorney, a Rotarian, and a fast friend of the sitting judge—he returned to school, as did Tony Rivers, nursing a grievance. Tony’s shyness had been replaced with sullen resentment and hostility. Vic’s natural belligerence had been exacerbated. Few of us—even the most skeptical—still doubted the existence of the teenage werewolf. Once again we grieved, ostentatiously, and with a kind of manic joy. It was exciting to be afraid, more exciting still to be feared—for now that the rumors had been confirmed beyond all doubt, we were feared. Tension gripped the halls of Rockdale High. Our teachers looked askance at us in their classrooms. Our parents sent our younger siblings to visit relatives in other towns. But why, we asked, smiling sly, secret smiles, because of course we knew. A teenage werewolf walked among us. Who could say who it might be? Who could say when—or whom—it would attack next? Yet we were each of us confident in our invulnerability. Maude Lewis and Helen Bissell had met terrible fates, but no matter how well we had known them—and some of us had known them quite well—they were strangers to us in the end. To the young, the dead are always strangers, in transit of some inconceivable horizon, both proximate and impossibly remote. We understood that we could die, that we someday would, but we did not know it, and though we took precautions—once again we roved the street in packs and locked our windows at night—we felt at heart that they were not necessary. The teenage werewolf would strike again, but it would not strike us. We took comfort in our immortality, pleasure in our fear. And we secretly thrilled in the power that the teenage werewolf had bestowed upon us. For if we were both sovereign and slave to our terror, our teachers and our parents were slaves alone. As long as no one knew who the teenage werewolf was, it could be any one of us.

The Town Meeting Two days after Helen Bissell’s death—after the children had been dispatched into the safe keeping of faraway grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and after we ourselves had grown giddy with power and despair—placards went up announcing a town meeting. Such affairs were usually ill-attended, the speakers’ voices booming in the half-empty hall. My neighbor’s lawn is an eyesore, weedy and ungroomed. A red light should be installed at Third and Vine—traffic has picked up since the new A&P opened its doors. The proposed trailer park on State Route 321 must be opposed, lest visitors to Rockdale be given the wrong impression. Such mundane matters interested few of us. The teenage werewolf, however, engaged us all. Anticipating the turnout, the town fathers moved the meeting to the high school gym. We gathered in Section A, at center court, and watched our parents and our teachers, our coaches, our scout masters, and our pastors file grimly in. They did not acknowledge us. They did not speak among themselves. And when Mayor Flanigan called the meeting to order, there was barely a rustle as they settled their attention upon the makeshift stage. We wondered if they thought, as we did, of the bloodstains that had been scrubbed from the hardwood underneath. Mayor Flanigan told us that we faced a crisis unlike any other that Rockdale had ever endured. He voiced our grief for Maude Lewis and Helen Bissell. He adjured us to cooperate with Police Chief Baker and Detective Donovan in the ongoing investigation. He quoted scripture and bowed his head in prayer. And then he summoned the witnesses. Jim Whitt was too drunk to testify (Mayor Flanigan summarized his account), but the rest of them took the stage one by one—Mike Talbot and Miss Drummond and Miss Ferguson, each of them building the case that something terrible haunted the streets of Rockdale. Then Arlene Marshall mounted the stage, stitched up like a teenage Frankenstein. A whisper of shock ran through the gym. In the silence that followed, Arlene took the microphone with trembling hands and surveyed the crowd, letting her gaze come to rest at last upon us, her peers. We could not read her expression. We could not see beyond her ravaged face. The sutures—there must have been a hundred or more, black and knotty, the puckered wounds slathered with some glistening antiseptic balm—pulled her skin taut, her mouth into a snarl. Her voice was unsteady when she began, barely audible and difficult to understand, but as she shared her experience in the park she gained confidence. She held the audience rapt as she described the howling in the night, the stalker in the woods. Gasps erupted when the monster came crashing through the trees, and when she spoke the fatal words at last, when she said that the thing had been a teenage werewolf, clad in the letter jacket of Rockdale High, a single cry of sorrow and horror—it was a woman’s voice—scaled the walls and echoed in the raftered vault above. Arlene left the stage, and—though the teenage werewolf sat somewhere in our section, hidden in a human skin—she took her place among us. Detective Donovan was the next to take the stage. He begged of us our forgiveness. He had failed the town. He had assumed, even in the face of his own doubts, that Maude’s murder had been the work of a merely human killer—despite the impossible violence of the attack and the tuft of coarse brown hair he’d found in one clenched fist. He’d ignored the evidence. His imagination had failed him. He would refine the focus of his investigation. Mayor Flanigan and Police Chief Baker were not so humble. They did not acknowledge their own failures, and did not examine past error. For them, the only question was the course forward. New policies were to be implemented. A strict curfew would be established and enforced. All high school extracurricular activities—including sports—would be put on indefinite hold. And it went without saying (they said), that the Junior-Senior Prom—a mere week away—would be cancelled. We stirred in discontent at the first of these pronouncements. A chorus of whispers sprang up in response to the second. An active outcry broke out at the third. Did Mayor Flanigan really think a curfew would contain a teenage werewolf? Had he forgotten that the basketball team was in contention for the state championship? And what about the prom? We’d purchased our dresses and sent our suits to the dry cleaners, made dinner reservations, ordered flowers. Did the Mayor intend to reimburse us for these expenditures—for a year’s worth of yards mown and snow shoveled, drive-in food delivered, babies sat? He hesitated. He didn’t answer. Police Chief Baker cleared his throat. He gave us a stern look, but we’d seen that look before. Our teachers used it when they caught us smoking behind the fieldhouse, and our parents used it when we came home late on Saturday nights. Our coaches used it when we took a bad shot or forgot the play, our pastors when we missed services. It no longer frightened us, that look. We knew it for an empty threat. We’d seen what a teenage werewolf could do, and we knew that Chief Baker too was afraid. What would we have him do? He wanted to know. Would we surrender the once peaceful streets of Rockdale to a reign of blood? We didn’t answer him. Then someone—none of us saw who it was—yelled that half measures wouldn’t do. By all means impose the curfew and cancel the prom. But something more had to be done! Our townsfolk roared their approval. Put extra policemen on the street! Someone cried. And someone else: Issue the officers silver bullets! And then a clamor of competing shouts—wolf’s bane and monkshood and lock them all away!—this last plunging the crowd into a deep silence as our parents contemplated the lengths that they would go to tame or contain us— A silence into which Arlene Marshall once again stood and approached the stage. She leaned into the microphone. “I always dreamed of going to prom,” she said, and after what she’d been through, who could deny her? Thus it was decided.

Our Thoughts about the Teenage Werewolf Who would take Arlene to prom? we wondered. Following her mutilation, Jonathan Bowling—her boyfriend—had rescinded his invitation (inexcusably, we agreed) on the pretext that she had not sufficiently recovered to attend. When we told him that his place then was at her side—and not at the prom—he had no counterargument. His face burned with chagrin, his eyes with fury. He clenched his fists and set his teeth. Many of us feared him. He was big, a tackle on the football team, and short tempered. Yet even he had no strength to oppose the force of our unified opinion. He reinstated his invitation. Arlene, to her credit, refused him. Even if she had no other options, she told him, she would not deign to accompany him. As it happened, however, she did have other options —a plethora of them. The attack and its aftermath, most notably her solidarity with us at the town meeting, had conferred a kind of celebrity upon her. But she turned her suitors down, and asked Tony Rivers to be her date. They were kindred spirits, she said. They’d both been scarred by the teenage werewolf. But hadn’t we all? Hadn’t the teenage werewolf come to shape and define us? Wasn’t its existence, its endless capacity for violence, the single most important fact about us? Hadn’t our townsmen—our parents—made that clear? They wished to curtail our freedoms, cancel our sports, deny us, most of all, the zenith of our year—the axis about which our entire social calendar revolved. As far as they were concerned, until someone identified the teenage werewolf, we were all the teenage werewolf—and if at one level we resented this, at another it empowered us. In trying to save us, they had sought to imprison us. In seeking to imprison us, they had set us free. The Friday before the prom, we cast our votes for queen. That night, we gathered to decorate the gym. We erected a band stand, unfolded card tables and disguised them with white linen cloths. We inflated balloons and draped ribbons. We hung a glitter ball from the rafters, like a shining silver moon, and felt wild currents flowing in our veins.

The Massacre at the Rockdale Prom We woke to rain the next morning, but the weather cleared by ten. We heaved a collective sigh of relief. Cars needed washing, shoes polishing. We arrived early at the florist to collect our flowers—and sighed when we had to wait because everyone else had had the same idea. Cliques clicked and gangs gathered. We gossiped as we dressed. Our mothers clamped bobby pins between their teeth, plucking them out one by one as they constructed elaborate coiffures. Our fathers helped us knot ties purchased to coordinate with the dresses of our dates. Our stomachs churned with the magnitude of the occasion. We giggled in excitement. We put on stoic faces. The prom officially commenced at 8:00, but most of us drifted in half an hour later. It wouldn’t do to arrive too early, and besides, we had other things to attend to. Dates had to be picked up, corsages affixed. Pictures had to be taken. Our dinner plans ran long. We ate with mannered precision, conducting stilted conversations over our food. We pretended at adulthood and found it all a bore. This was not what we had expected at all. We longed for freedom, not a preview of the pinched years to come. Upon our arrival, we were alarmed to see that chaperones had attended in unusual numbers. Miss Ferguson was there, of course, as were our teachers. But Mayor Flanigan and Police Chief Baker had also shown up. Our pastors and our parents, too. Detective Donovan kept to the shadows, watching with a weather eye. Even the gym’s transformation disappointed us. The card tables were rickety. The folding chairs betrayed the illusion of elegance. The balloons drooped. The hors d’oeuvres left much to be desired. The cheese tasted ashy. The cookies were dry, the punch thin. And while we told ourselves that the band was fantastic, we knew that it was second rate. Their covers were pale shadows of the rock ’n’ roll we’d grown to love, their harmonies off key. Yet we danced as if our lives depended on it. We danced like the twelve princesses in the tale. When the band played a slow song, we clutched each other close—too close, our chaperones would have said. In the shadowy reaches of the room they stirred as if to intercede, but then fell still. And when the band swung into a fast song, we whirled around the floor, waved our arms, drew each other close, and whirled away again. Our parents looked on in disapproval, but they did not speak. The dancing became wild, frenetic, Dionysian. The staid adult masks we’d donned over dinner slipped and fell away entirely. And then the music stopped. We all froze panting on the dance floor as a spotlight illuminated Miss Ferguson, thin and pale upon the stage. It was almost eleven by then, the climax of the night, time to announce the prom queen. One by one, to squeals of triumph and delight, her court was appointed: four handmaidens and their escorts, arrayed in a crescent moon around the stage. And then, with a drum roll, Principal Ferguson opened the envelope containing the Prom Queen’s identity. She unfolded the page within, she scanned it silently. She leaned in to the microphone and read it aloud. “This year’s prom queen is Arlene Marshall,” she said. The room burst into riotous applause. As Tony Rivers squired her to the bandstand, we stomped our feet for Arlene. We cheered, we roared as one, and when she dipped her head to accept the crown, we howled. We howled and howled, like wild things, like monsters and like wolves. Her tiara on her head, Arlene turned to the microphone. Before she could speak—had she even intended to speak?—her visage bulged grotesquely, stitches popping, and cracked along the fault lines of her wounds. We gasped when she reached up with her fingers and tore back her human face to reveal the muzzle underneath, slavering and snapping at the air. Her yellow eyes glowed with untamed freedom and with joy. She lifted her head, baying into the dark vault of the gym with its glitter-ball moon. And even as a tide of lupine transformation swept the crowded dance floor, as we too clawed apart our faces to free at last the ravening beasts that lay underneath, teenage werewolves each and every one—even as we assumed our true and long-hidden forms, unknown even to ourselves, our werewolf queen claimed her first victim, decapitating Principal Ferguson with a single swipe of her hand. Our muscles tightened and grew tenfold strong, agile, quick. Our fingers sprang razor- edged claws, our pores coarse hair. And our senses sharpened. The gloom of the gym was blasted clean with white, hot light, and we could hear the pulse of blood in every human vein. We could smell it, too, metallic and hot. We could smell everything—the sweet tang of the punch and the terror of our chaperones in their sweat upon the air, even our own rank and randy musk—and we wanted to wallow in it all, to fight and fuck and eat, eat, eat. We were famished and insatiate, bottomless pits of raw appetite. Nothing had ever been so awful. Nothing had ever felt so good. We reveled in it. Leapt on tables and smashed chairs. Snarled and howled and took our chaperones down. They stood in shock before our fury. Police Chief Baker died with his revolver still holstered. Detective Donovan got off a single shot before a teenage werewolf bit off his hand and took him to the floor. Someone kicked open a door and we eviscerated them as they fled into the night—pastors and parents, coaches, teachers, the mayor and the city council, too. We ripped out their throats and tore off their arms. We ate of their flesh. We drank of their blood. We killed them all and we devoured them, and then we stood on the roofs of their cars and howled our triumph at the moon. We were teenage werewolves and we owned the night. We would never let them tame us.

©2016 by Dale Bailey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR A winner of both the and the International Horror Guild Award, Dale Bailey is the author of The End of the End of Everything: Stories and The Subterranean Season, both out in 2015, as well as The Fallen, House of Bones, Sleeping Policemen (with Jack Slay, Jr.), and The Resurrection Man’s Legacy and Other Stories. His work has twice been a finalist for the and once for the Bram Stoker Award, and has been adapted for Showtime Television’s . He lives in North Carolina with his family.

To learn more about the author and this story, read the Author Spotlight The Blood Drip Brian Evenson | 4359 words


They had stumbled upon a town and tried to approach it, but had been driven off with stones. Or Karsten had. Nils had stayed there, at the base of the wall, pleading, and had been struck, and then struck again. When Karsten had shouted to him to come away, Nils had turned and then been struck yet again, in the head this time, and had fallen. There was blood leaking out of his head when he fell, and in the brief flash he caught of him on the way down, Karsten thought he had seen bone. But as he hurried away he began to doubt. Were blood and bone really what he’d seen? Or had he convinced himself that he had seen them because he wanted to believe Nils was dead and thus no longer his responsibility? Shaking his head in frustration, he turned around and went back. He stopped shy of throwing range. Nils lay near the wall, in a heap. Perhaps he was dead, perhaps he was merely unconscious. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted his friend’s name. When they heard him, the men on the walls threw a few stones. None came close to hitting him. At the base of the wall, Nils didn’t move. “Nils!” he called out again. Maybe Nils was unconscious, or maybe he was simply dead. Or maybe he was injured in a way that kept him from moving—a broken neck, say, an injured spine. But in any case Karsten could not retrieve him. “Nils!” he cried. “Can you hear me?” There was no answer. What was he to do? He would have to leave him. There was no choice but to leave. He started away, but he could not bring himself to go very far. Nils had stood by him, a part of him argued within his skull, and he should stand by Nils. There were other parts of him that argued differently. But, after a while, that first part of him won.

• • • •

He pretended to leave. If Nils was injured but conscious, Karsten hoped he would not see this and think he was actually leaving. But if Nils did think this, there was nothing to be done about it. He entered the woods and threaded his way through the trees, coming out further along, near one corner of the wall. They do not suspect me, he told himself. They think I have seen my friend struck dead by a stone and so I have fled. But they do not reckon with this: how do I know what I have seen? Probably, yes, Nils was dead, but this was not certain. Perhaps he was dead. But perhaps dead is not the same thing as dead, he thought. Perhaps he was not dead and could be dragged to safety. Safety? wondered Karsten. What did that even mean? They had gone looking for a town because in the forest they were famished and not safe, likely to soon be dead. If a town would not take them, what then? He stayed crouched in the undergrowth on the edge of the forest. He waited, watching the sun slip along the sky. I will wait until the right moment, he told himself, and then I will drag Nils to safety. Safety? he wondered again. How will I know the right moment? he wondered.

• • • •

The right moment came, and he missed it. Or it didn’t come at all. How was one to know the right moment? The sun touched the lip of the wall and made everything swollen and red as blood, and then it slipped behind the wall and was gone. Then the light was dwindling and the air was still and he wondered: Now? But shouldn’t he wait for dark? He shifted in the bushes and blinked, and abruptly, or perhaps not so abruptly, it was dark, the night bereft of moon. It was almost too dark to see. He groped his way out of the bushes and forward, stumbling on the uneven ground. He had matches, but too few of them to waste, and the guards were perhaps still on the wall and would see the flame. No, he couldn’t use them. Nils was already dead, he reasoned. I should simply abandon him. There is no point to this. He moved forward.

• • • •

When he reached the place where he thought Nils was, Nils was not there. He felt around, sweeping his hands just above the ground. He felt the tickle of grass against his palms, but couldn’t find a body. He paced forward and back and after a while was unsure where the forest was, where the wall was. There was ground and grass, and, sometimes, stones, but that was all. He kept searching, crouched, his hands held outstretched before him, feeling about. After a while he stood and walked forward, looking for a new spot to search. Almost immediately, he stumbled over something and fell. He grunted, clattered heavily down. He heard a voice cry out, saw above him a light. Beneath his touch something other than dirt or grass: the feel of a coarse-woven cloth, maybe. He pushed his hands down, trying to right himself. More shouts. A light fell upon him. And then he was up and running. Something struck him in the back, hard. He kept running, his back throbbing, was hit again, and again. And then something struck the base of his skull and his vision bloomed into a strangely vivid darkness.


When he awoke, it was light outside. The bones in his hands ached from cold. The rest of his body, too, was chilled through. He turned his head slightly, found he was closer to the wall than he’d imagined. Nobody was atop it, as far as he could see. He turned his head the other way, heard a scratching within his skull as the base of it dragged along the ground. He sat up, looked around. Only bare ground, the grass and dirt crusted with frost and rime. Nils was nowhere to be seen, but the ground was soaked with blood where he must have been lying. Karsten touched the back of his head and winced, brought away a hand filthy with blood and mud. A moment later, he was up and weaving, staggering away toward the forest. He kept expecting there to be a shout, a halloo, and then for stones to start whirring over the wall again, but the only sound he heard was that of his feet through the grass and his own ragged breathing. Another town, he told himself as he pushed his way through the brush and into the trees. There are other towns. Other places besides this one. Surely one of them will have me.

• • • •

At first he knew where he was going, or thought he did. But as the trees closed around him, he lost his sense of direction. The sun was out: he could follow it, try to derive a compass from its course. But most of the time he could hardly see it through the canopy of red and yellow leaves overhead. Leaves were thick on the ground too. It was hard for him to understand how they could be so thick on the ground and yet still thick on the branches too. It was as if another set of trees had dropped their leaves and then melted away to make way for these trees with their new set of leaves. He shook his head to clear it. It did not clear. He reached back and touched the back of his skull and again his hand came away dirty, mostly with blood this time, very little mud. What’s wrong with me? he wondered. What had they done with Nils’s body? he wondered. Had they dragged it inside the walls? He hadn’t seen any signs of dragging, but maybe it had been carried or conveyed by some other means, a means that left no mark, or perhaps he simply hadn’t looked hard enough. And if they’d taken Nils, why had they left Karsten where he was? Perhaps Nils had managed to get up and stumble off to die somewhere in the forest. But hadn’t there been too much blood on the ground for that? • • • •

He was still cold, but the bones in his hands no longer throbbed. He did his best, by what little glimpses he had of the sun, to move east, until the ground began to slope upward and he veered off course. North maybe—it seemed plausible it could be north. He heard the sound of a stream, or thought he did, and his tongue suddenly felt thick and dry in his throat, but when he tried to look for the stream he could not locate it, and the sound never seemed much closer. He kept walking. He gathered some pinecones from the ground and crushed them between his boot and a flat stone, hoping to get something out of them, but there wasn’t anything inside that struck him as edible. Perhaps he didn’t know what to look for, or perhaps they were the wrong sort of pinecone, or perhaps he was simply too confused and tired to make any real sense of the world at all.

• • • •

By the time it began to grow dark, he was very hungry, thirsty too, but above all, cold. He stopped in a small clearing, kicking the dried pine needles and dead leaves into a pile. He gathered sticks, tenting them atop the pile, then a number of larger branches, which he stacked to one side. He fumbled in a pocket, felt out three slim matchsticks with his numb fingers. Carefully, he extracted one and struck it alight, brought it cupped in his hand over to the leaves and needles. He watched the flame spread from the match along a leaf, reducing it to a delicate, spidery armature that quickly collapsed. The needles tensed in the flame and flindered away to nothing. He blew softly and steadily and watched sparks careen, the fire grow and crackle, and saw now a scattering of red mites pursuing a line up one of the branches, away from the heat. Before he could decide if they were actual insects or just sparks, the branch caught fire and they were gone. He fed the fire until it was roaring, and then settled down beside it, watching the flames dance. Eventually, exhausted, he fell asleep.

• • • •

He awoke screaming. The fire had spread somehow from the pile he had made and into his hair. He batted it out with his hands, his head ringing, and then was up and stomping out the runnels of flame trying to work their way out of the clearing and into the trees. When he was done, his hands were blistered and his hair all or mostly gone and the soles of his boots melted enough to grow sticky, but the fire was again safely contained. He cleared the ground around it again with his boot. For a while he remained upright, breathing heavily, unsure what else he should do, but slowly he settled again, crouching at first, then sitting, then finally lying down on the still warm ground. For a long time, he just stared into the flames. It was like watching water, he thought, except it was not water. He felt like he was being hypnotized. How had the flames spread? Had he not been careful enough when he arranged the fire last time? I should get up and check, he thought. Walk around the fire and make sure I didn’t miss anything. He did not move. I’ll get up, he thought again. A moment later he was asleep.

• • • •

In his dream, he was in another time, and was another person, though somehow at the same time it was still him, and still here. He and a man whose face he could never quite see were traveling by horse along a ridge trail through a bitter wind. The other man had been shot in the thigh. In the dream, Karsten wondered idly if he’d been the one to shoot him. He asked the man, who was always traveling just a little ahead of him, if this were the case, but the man didn’t answer. He just kept following the trail, hunched over the saddle horn, with Karsten behind, watching the man’s back, babbling, not sure if he was talking to the man or to himself. The man’s trouser leg had become soaked through with blood, and Karsten could see the blood now welling up through the fabric and leaking down the horse’s side, as if it were the horse rather than the man who had been injured. “Hey,” said Karsten. His own voice was unfamiliar to him. “Hey. You got to bandage that. You don’t and you’re gonna die.” But to this too, the man said nothing. He just kept riding, an impossible amount of blood seeping from his leg and down the side of the horse, the blood painting a shape on the horse’s ribs, a vaguely human figure, like a man in a robe or an angel. Though no, Karsten was seeing things—it was just blood, he told himself, just the slow, regular brushing of a blood-sopped leg against a horse’s side. It didn’t mean anything. And yet he kept staring at it, at the man on the horse, at the blood smeared thick on the horse’s side, the blood now reaching the bottom of the horse’s belly and beginning to drip off. Karsten hardly saw the path anymore. All he was watching now was that slow drip, drip, drip of blood off the horse and the drizzle of it into the dirt of the trail, the blood drip that his own horse now followed as if it were the real path.

• • • •

Even when the dream was over the dripping didn’t stop. When he opened his eyes, there was a little dark puddle before him, something still drip, drip, dripping into it from somewhere up above. He turned his head away from the puddle and slowly looked up. Above him, just visible, he saw the branches of a tree. Something was in it, some animal, its teeth or eyes just catching the light of the fire. For a moment he was confused, didn’t know that the dream was over. He reached for his gun, but no, he didn’t have a gun, that was in the dream. So he held still, and then wondered if he wasn’t imagining it. Maybe nothing was there. But no, the puddle was still there in front of him, and something still dripping down into it. He reached out and touched it and brought his finger close to his eyes. The liquid was dark, thicker than water, sticky. He touched his finger to his mouth, tasted metal. Slowly, he sat up. With the tip of his boot, he stirred the fire, then loaded a few more branches onto it. Once the flames were high again, he took a brand out and quickly turned around, holding it up. There was something in the tree above him. But it wasn’t an animal. It was a man.


“Nils?” he said. Nils didn’t answer. He seemed at once dazed and watchful, holding perfectly still and staring down at him from where he was spread along the branch. His jaw moved strangely, as if it had been broken, and blood was dripping from the side of his head down onto the ground. Yet he didn’t seem like he was in any pain. “What’s wrong with you?” asked Karsten, his limbs feeling suddenly heavy. “It’s me, Karsten. What are you doing up that tree?” “Hello, Karsten,” said Nils. He turned Karsten’s name around curiously in his mouth as if not quite used to saying it. “I’m glad I found you.” “You’re bleeding,” said Karsten. “Bleeding?” said Nils, and no, Karsten saw, whatever bleeding there had been seemed now to have stopped. “What’s wrong with your jaw?” asked Karsten. “My jaw?” asked Nils. He reached up and prodded it, and Karsten thought he saw a jag of bone push up beneath the skin. Then, with a swift movement he crunched the jawbone back in place. “What do you mean?” “Why are you up there?” asked Karsten. “Do you want me to come down?” said Nils. “Are you inviting me to join you by the fire?” And then, when Karsten didn’t say anything, “Karsten, invite me to join you by the fire.” Something’s wrong, thought Karsten, but the worst part of it is that I don’t know for certain what or how much. Maybe everything, he thought. He lifted the brand higher, expecting Nils to turn his head away or shield his eyes, but he didn’t move, didn’t even blink. Karsten took a step back and nearly stumbled into the fire. “What are you doing in that tree?” he asked again. “What tree?” asked Nils. Very carefully, Karsten made his way around the fire and to the far side of it, putting the flames directly between him and Nils. From there, he could barely see Nils. He looked at what remained of the pile of wood. There wasn’t much, but he wasn’t anxious to leave the fire to look for more. Maybe it would be enough to last until morning. He sat down, pulling his knees up close to his chest and stayed there, staring up at Nils. He laid his brand back in the fire, then let his hand run idly over the ground until it found and closed upon a stone.

• • • •

“Shall I join you by the fire?” asked Nils after a time. “Are you asking me to invite you to join me?” asked Karsten. For a moment Nils remained motionless and then he nodded. Karsten thought, chose his words carefully. “Who am I to tell you what you can or can’t do?” he said. Nils made a little hissing sound that made Karsten sick to his stomach. Only after a moment did he realize it was laughter. “Ah, very good, Karsten,” said Nils. “Who indeed?” For a time they were both silent. “Are you coming down?” Karsten finally asked. “What do you have in your hand, Karsten?” asked Nils. “My hand?” asked Karsten. “Nothing,” he lied. Again that little hissing sound, abruptly cut short. Then just silence except for the crackling of the flames. How long, wondered Karsten, until morning comes?

• • • •

He didn’t fall sleep, he was sure of that, more or less sure. Maybe he closed his eyes a moment or maybe he just blinked. When his eyes were open again, Nils was down from the tree and sitting on the other side of the fire. In the firelight, Karsten saw he was very pale, the front of his shirt stiff with dried blood. His jaw had slipped out again, and one side of his head looked as though it had been dented in. Maybe it had always looked that way, Karsten hoped. Nils smiled, but reservedly, in a way that kept his teeth hidden. “You can go to sleep,” he said. “I’ll tend the fire. I’ll make sure it doesn’t go out.” “Is that what you were doing in the tree?” asked Karsten. “Watching the fire as it caught in my hair?” “It didn’t go out,” said Nils. “It was a healthy fire.” “I don’t mind staying awake,” said Karsten, a vague panic beginning to build within him. “What’s the matter?” asked Nils. “Don’t you trust me?” Karsten didn’t bother to answer. He pretended to watch the fire, all the while watching Nils. He suddenly realized he was gripping the stone tight enough to make his fingers ache. “Shall I come around the fire and keep you warm?” asked Nils. “I’m fine,” said Karsten as calmly as he could manage. “Don’t trouble yourself.” “No trouble,” said Nils, and began to stand. Karsten stood too. Nils smiled, sat back down again. Slowly Karsten sat too. “Then I’ll tell you a story,” said Nils. “Something to keep us entertained.” “There’s no need,” said Karsten. “Please don’t.” “What are you afraid of?” asked Nils. “It’s just a story. A story can’t hurt.” Can it? wondered Karsten. But before he could decide, Nils had begun.

• • • •

A man was shot, he said, or perhaps struck by a rock, and killed. No, shot, let’s tell it that way, like a dream rather than real life. He and his friend had come to a town to retrieve something, or rather to steal it, but they did not call it stealing because they had a high opinion of what they deserved. The townsfolk saw what they were doing and prevented the doing of it and then shot one of the pair as they tried to escape. The man who was shot and killed did not realize he was dead. What did you say? Karsten interrupted. You heard me, said Nils. Why would you tell me this? Karsten asked. It’s just a story, said Nils. We’re just having fun, aren’t we? Why wouldn’t I tell you it? The man who was shot dead did not realize he was dead. Like the other man, he ran to his horse and leaped onto it and galloped out of town and into the mountains. The townsfolk gave chase, but both men, the dead man and the living one, rode hell for leather. Soon the townsfolk turned back. The two men, not knowing if they were pursued, rode on. They rode a narrow trail, dead man in front and living man behind. Slowly, as more time went by without sign of pursuit, the man riding behind began to relax. Only then did he notice that the other man had been shot in the leg— —in the what? asked Karsten. The leg, said Nils. Who told you this story? asked Karsten desperately. How do you know it? Perhaps you are thinking, “A man isn’t killed by being shot in the leg.” Perhaps the dead man was thinking this also, and this was the explanation for why he didn’t know he was dead. But he had turned toward the gun as it fired and the bullet, in entering him, severed the artery, and with each step he took, each step the horse took, more blood left him. Soon his trouser leg was sodden. Soon too the side of his horse had grown bloody, blood awash all down its ribs. It took a very particular shape, and to the man riding behind him, when he finally noticed it, it reminded him of something. Stop, said Karsten. Please. No, said Nils. Don’t interrupt. It reminded him of something, he said, but for a long time he didn’t know what. In trying to think of what it was, he kept himself from thinking about how much blood there was, about how any man who had lost as much blood as this was not just good as dead, but, in fact, dead. He rode behind the other man, wondering about the shape on the side of the other horse. And then all at once it came to him. It was like the shapes he had made as a child when he lay down on the ground after a snowstorm, moving his arms and legs back and forth to clear the snow away. A snow angel, he thought. And then thought, no: a blood angel. And only once he had thought this could he admit to himself the other man must be dead. But since the dead man himself did not know, that was where the trouble started. He watched the way the blood had run around the belly of the horse and begun to drip down, Nils said, and smiled in a way that showed his teeth. It slowly drizzled a path in the dirt — But at this point, Karsten bolted into the night and kept running until he ran face-first into a tree.

• • • •

When he awoke, he was back before the fire, the flames very low. Nils was there with him now, on the same side, kneeling over him but not touching him. Karsten wanted to push him away, but was afraid to. Besides, he wasn’t sure he could move. “There you are,” said Nils. Karsten tried to open his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He tried to turn his head but it didn’t turn. Nils was peering at him, smiling slightly. And then Nils leaned in close to him, almost touching his lips, and drew in a deep breath. When he straightened up and Karsten could see his face again, he looked different, not quite like himself. He leaned in again, and this time did touch Karsten’s lips, and drew the breath out of him. When he raised his head again he was different still. It was as if Karsten was looking into a mirror. No, said Karsten, but no sound came out. “Shall I finish my story?” the face looming over him asked in a new voice, in the voice it had stolen. “In a way, it’s the least I could do.” He stayed there hunched over Karsten, waiting for an answer. When no answer came, he smiled and nodded, and then, making that same soft hissing sound, he leaned in.

©2014 by Brian Evenson. Originally published in Granta. Reprinted by permission of the author.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Brian Evenson is the author of more than a dozen books of fiction, most recently the story collection A Collapse of Horses. His story collection Windeye and his novel Immobility were both finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association-RUSA award for Best Horror Novel of 2009. His novel The Open Curtain was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship.His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Japanese and Slovenian. He lives and works in Southern California, and teaches at CalArts.

To learn more about the author and this story, read the Author Spotlight The Low, Dark Edge of Life Livia Llewellyn | 9399 words

Translator’s note: these are the only extant, unburned, and legible (for the most part) pages retrieved from what was apparently the diary of one Lilianett van Hamal, an American girl who apparently lodged at the Grand Béguinage shortly before the Great Summoning of 1878 that left much of the city of Leuven in ruins. No other items from before that event have been recovered from what is now the Leuven Exclusion Zone, which as of this date remains permanently off-limits to the outside world.

• • • • fragment, date unknown, sometime late May, 1878 and so the train serpentines its way through the Low Country, each car pulling the one behind it in an iron-fisted embrace, all of them together a chain of languid lovers moving deep into the verdant lands toward the quiet, circular town. It is an unseasonably hot day in late spring, and flocks of bright-winged birds burst up from and circle small islands of trees heavy with leaves, while glossy horses and cows nuzzle their grass-fed, brown-eyed bodies up against each other in the flat pasturelands below. Farm lands and fields roll past in an uninterrupted wave of green fecundity: everything alive revels in the warming of the world. Even with my black-tinted glasses, even with my eyelids shut tight, the fertility of the land shimmers in my sight like the roiling surface of the sun; and over the bucolic valleys, great colorless shapes float and dart and spread their death-filled jaws, and no one sees them but me. Inside the car, couples sit next to each other on the stiff velvet seats, drinking fizzing amber ale or clear cold water from bottles while pointing to white clouds colliding and colluding across the delft blue skies. (They aren’t clouds.) The sharp tang of cheese rises in the air: I gnaw at the orange rind sliver of the wheel and lick my fingers and lips, then wash the taste off my tongue with the last of the warm, red wine. (My hospital-issued, French and Flemish-speaking handler sitting next to me spider- crawls her hands over mine, thinking I need help feeding myself because I’m only fifteen and just her stupid “charge,” but I slap her away; and when she over-enunciates into my stoic face that I need her European expertise in order to ingest my own lunch and drink my own wine—which I suspect she covets for herself—I whisper and spit and hiss back into her indeterminate face: IF YOU DO NOT STOP TOUCHING MY PERSON I WILL REACH INTO YOUR CHEST AND DRAW YOUR STILL-BEATING HEART OUT AND NIBBLE-SUCK IT CLEAN LIKE THIS RIND AND I WILL GATHER YOUR SPURTING BLOOD INTO MY LITTLE FLASK AND SAVOR EVERY DROP AS I LAY IN THE ARMS AND CHAINS OF MY BELGIAN SISTERS, CHANTING YOUR NAME OVER AND OVER UNTIL THE GREAT AND VOLUMINOUS MOTHER HYDRA SPILLS OUT THE GATE OF MY FLESH AND DEVOUR-FUCKS YOUR TWITCHING REMAINS. Appropriately, she slips out of her seat to an empty one across the aisle.) (Her face is indeterminate because I cannot distinguish human faces. They are the one thing I cannot truly ever see. I only see the bodies, capped with oversized, oval-shaped heads swarming in masses of fat black interdimensional bees.) I lean back against the seat, running my hands over the ancient ancestral names and starry family symbols engraved on the silver flask. I would close my eyes and sleep, but it never happens. Excepting human faces, I always see everything, and I never sleep. I have been put in this beautiful car, given this spacious seat, because I am the daughter of a troubled artistic woman with no power save in her family name, who abandoned me at birth for her love of sticky opium dreams but now finally finds a lucrative use for her disabled get; because I am the niece of a highly-disciplined and determined woman with great power, whose deep pockets and dark desires have freed me from my life-long imprisonment only to be delivered into a new imprisonment that will deliver untold new powers unto her and the sisters of her order; because I am a woman who has no power of her own in this world. And so the train transports me and my keeper in these ruby velvet seats from my old prison to the new: through the brilliant bright life and hum of Europe into the ancient walled city of Leuven, Belgium, and then into my even higher-walled destination, where the gold summer sun dares not shine against abandoned black church spires, where eyeless creatures float beneath the flat brown surface of the River Dijle, where my handler will deliver me to an aunt I’ve never met, where I will spend the rest of my life locked in thousand-year-old timber and stone rooms and never leave, even after the absolute end of it. Every bone in my body, every wet sliver of flesh, will be put to good use in the name of my dark goddess. Or some other use, not necessarily good—the letter commanding my presence was a bit vague on that point. At any rate, the Most Holy Order of the Filiæ Solitudinus has many plans for my talents and my flesh; not all require my being alive, I presume. In addition to being powerless, I am also, according to many learned physicians and alienists, quite impossibly and thoroughly insane—even by Arkham’s impressively rigorous standards. I would say “maddeningly” insane, but that is no doubt redundant, and there’s no one to tell the joke to except these silent pages. But the doctors really are, amusingly, quite maddened by my inability to accept that I am completely, irreversibly, clinically blind, that my pupils (which I can see very well up close in a dust-free mirror, thank you) are as cloudy and white as the banks of mist that perpetually roll in off the wide white-capped waves of the Atlantic. My world should be pitch black, I should require a cane, I should walk in halting steps with my arms waving about me, naked trepidation in my face as my hitching, slithering body prepares itself for furniture or stairs or endless falls. I should be a meek, helpless, compliant, child. And it is true that I have difficulty reading, that I need primers with letters as big as children’s blocks. (This diary no doubt looks like it was written by a primate with a wax coloring stick.) I cannot create fine embroidered linens like other girls my age, and when I sit at the piano I cannot fully perceive all the black flecks of notes on the page. But when I slip my wrists and ankles out of the leather straps on my bed and flawlessly dart down the stairs out the front door and into the cosmic river of starry night, when I race across the neat hospital lawns and clamber down the steep cliff side trails and navigate the great pocked boulders and massive dunes of the thundering beaches and raise my trembling arms up to the wondrous skies, I see everything I need to, and more. My sight extends beyond. (Those learned doctors have no idea what rolls in with those banks of ocean mist, or what peers down at us from the whorls of the galaxy. If they did, they would gouge their own eyes out, cram them in their gibbering maws and mash them into pulp with their flat yellow teeth, praying all the while that they might choke upon their own flesh and sink into a black and endless nothingness of death. But I’ve seen what peers down, what rolls in. Whether it sees me, I cannot say.) I lean back against the stiff columns of upholstery and stare out the window like everyone else, wishing I had a bar of chocolate, wishing we could have stayed in Paris an extra day, wondering what it is all those holy men and women in the ancient labyrinthine churches of Leuven think that I shall see in their machines, wondering what it is they need to see through me illegible section out the windows, pointing and staring ahead. The handler does the same, her moist pudgy exterior registering no emotions as usual, although I detect a slight flickering in her pupils, a dilation that betrays her waxen bee-covered face. (I have decided to refuse to speak or write the handler’s actual name, as she does not deserve a proper name any more than does the lock on a jail cell or a cage.) I shouldn’t look out the window, but I want to. Shouldn’t/want, shouldn’t/want. My life always narrows down to these two opposing points. The end is always the same. I hook my finger around the metal frames and pull my glasses away. Not that it matters. But when I’m horrified, I always like to be horrified to the fullest degree, without pretense or illusion. I give full respect when it has been earned. Ahead of the train and the tracks and the low flat lands, I see—or rather, perceive— the circular beginnings of a tornado hovering like a flat brown mouth opening up over what I presume is the location of Leuven. Of course the women in the car are trembling, the children are crying, the men are gasping. These inexperienced Europeans from their small tame towns with their small tame weather systems—they’ve never seen anything like it. The handler has seen it—she was born in the vast middle expanse of North America, raised under the gaping maw of wild northern skies, skies that rip open and vomit out hectares of lightning-crowned destruction, destruction as wide as Europe itself. And those skies, that mouth, stretches all across the land, from one shining coast to the other. This small, snuffling snout of a storm? It’s nothing. But I can tell even from this distance that no natural light shines down on whatever village or town it stalls over, and I can tell from the curved, sinuous direction of the cars in front of us that we are drawing ever nearer to it. How could this not be my destination? I shouldn’t have looked up beyond the clouds, but I did, and end fragment fragment, same date, early evening (approximate) gables, each of them the same: two small multi-paned windows topped by a roof of long flat shingled wood. At the highest front edge of each gable, a single metal spire juts up like a sharp blade into the dark grey sky. From down on the street, all these rooftops look like armed sentinels, guarding against whatever might be hovering above Leuven. I remember reading in my primer about the friar whose torso was found stuck on the flèche of the Begijnhof cathedral, as though he’d been split in half and the leftovers tossed away. I laughed when I read that! Honestly, these gables and spires aren’t really much of a defense. The handler had the map, and although my mother made me memorize the map before I left Arkham, I dutifully followed behind for once, letting her think she was leading the way simply so I could enjoy our walk in silence. (My mother had two gifts: rolling balls of opium, and memorizing maps. The woman was a living, walking cartography of this world and all the others.) Away from Grote Markt, the spectacular carvings of Sint- Pieterskerk Cathedral (I forgot to mention—I can see human faces that are carved in stone!) and the bustling commercial center of Leuven (which I know I will never see again), there were walls everywhere, walls lining the narrow streets and lanes, walls to keep curious pedestrians out, to keep neighbors and scholars and clergy safe within. The walls in Leuven are fashioned of crumbling rust-red brick, one and often two stories high, and the very tops of the walls slant steep, so that it would be impossible to climb over them without sliding back down. The architecture is different than in Massachusetts, but the intent is so very familiar that even now, writing this under the rooftop of an unlit six- hundred-year-old room, I feel like I’m illegible section the handler said, her first words in almost an hour. “Groot Begijnhof. Gesticht rond 1232.” I realized she was reading from a small sign attached to the side of a great stone arch in the wall. The arch’s thick steel gates were open—beyond them, a gracious courtyard that split off into several round-edged cobblestone streets, each disappearing into a forest of medieval buildings. The Grand Béguinage of Leuven, we were finally there. My new prison. But there was warm lemony candlelight coming from many of the windows, and I saw masses of bright flowers, thick trees brushing the rooftops, ribbons of smooth green lawns. The blanket of perpetual clouds overhead obscured the setting sun, and round black globules and spidery masses floated down the quiet streets next to the black-clad priests and nuns, but there was beauty here. I did not expect that. We picked our way across the high, slippery cobblestones over to a small bridge that looked down into the Dijle, less a river here than a canal. After the vast waters of the Atlantic, I have to admit I was less than impressed. The water was light brown like milky coffee, flat and slow-moving under a canopy of willows and ivy that erupted over the continual bricked-in garden walls. I stopped and peered down. Shapes formed just under the surface, some that darted back and forth in the current, others large and lengthy, making their way in calm increments through the waters like miniature cetaceans. For one brief second, I almost thought I saw a human-like face breaking the surface, masculine and bearded like Zeus, with unblinking black eyes. And that’s when the hand clamped around my left arm, dragging me around and away. “Stupid girl. Get away from the railing or you’ll fall in.” It was a woman, clad head to toe in plain black, bees writhing in fierce circles under gray hair bound in a tight bun. She spoke in a weird hodgepodge of Belgian, French, and R’lyehian. The language of the Sisters. “Only if I climb over the wall,” I snapped (in proper, pure English, because I am a proud American, and an even prouder bitch) as I tried to pull my arm from her grasp. “You were told to wait at the station.” The woman let go of my arm: and then she slapped me, so hard that my glasses flew off my face, so hard that extra black dots danced and swam in my sight, along with small sparks of light, those bright bridesmaids not of the supernatural but of ordinary shock and pain. The handler let out a small gasp—back at Arkham, I had been prodded and poked and experimented upon, but it was all done in the name of knowledge and science, all done with a certain amount of trepidation and religious fear. No one ever hit me like a common whore—they didn’t know which dark god’s whore I might turn out to be. I raised my fingers to my stinging flesh. “There was no one at the station to greet us,” I replied. “And I am a van Hamel. I don’t wait.” My aunt struck me again, her skeletal fingers lashing out like bolts of dry lightning. I couldn’t help but cry out. There were others gathering around us now, young women all dressed in the same severe black clothing, buttonless and seamless as though the garments had grown over their bodies like fizzing mold, their heads nothing more than ugly scratches of agitated bees against the honeycombed tablets of their faces. Behind them, some small commotion—the handler, being led away into the warren of darkening lanes. As I scribble these words in the middle of the quiet night, listening to distant screams that echo out over the empty courtyards and canals of the Begijnhof, the screams that might very well be hers, I know now that I will never see her again. (What a shame. I had hoped that I would have been the source and inspiration of those screams, perhaps after sticking my fingers deep into the sides of her head until her brain congealed under the moons of my nails, and then feeding into her scrambling thoughts visions of what it is I see when I stare at the supposedly blank walls or the supposedly empty stairs or the supposedly quiet skies.) “I don’t know what your doctors—” she spat the word out of her mouth like it was poison “—or your mother told you, but in this place you are not a van Hamel. Your name is worthless.” She picked up my glasses, and tossed them into the canal. “There are no individual beings in the Begijnhof, no independent thoughts. You are property of the Most Holy Order of the Filiæ Solitudinus, and you will not disobey us again.” I said nothing. If I learned anything in the asylum, it was how to pick my battles. She stepped forward, this queer, strange relative of mine, her angular face swimming up out of an evening air filled with wriggling particles that seemed to feed off the intensity of her emotions, and in shock I stumbled back against the low bridge wall and illegible section led us single file into a quiet courtyard surrounded by two-story houses, plainer than those we had just passed. At the side of one dwelling, clear water trickled from the double-headed Janus mouths of a very large marble cistern. Despite my fear of the unknown, of my strange situation with my horrible and apparently completely insane aunt, of the ominous clouds overhead and the strange shadows that paused at the curtained windows to watch our progress, I could not help but be moved by the somber beauty of the place. There were flowers everywhere, green trees and low thick hedges in long columns, trimmed with great care. My aunt led me through an iron gate into a private garden behind a row of attached houses, her faceless attendants following close behind. Stopping at the first door, she turned and grabbed my right wrist. I didn’t struggle or fight as one of her attendants clasped and locked an iron manacle in place. And then she did something supremely clever and cruel. My aunt took a small ring attached to a chain, and slipped it onto my middle finger. She bent the finger back until I couldn’t help let out a tortured moan—only when I did so did she attach the deceptively slender chain to the back of the manacle. In this way I had limited use of my hand, and could not pick the lock or remove the cuff. And then she manacled my other hand. “No wriggling out of this for you, I’m afraid. Orders of the Order,” she said, her words accompanied by the subdued hum of the bees that flew in and out of the hole of her mouth. “I wasn’t planning on trying to escape,” I replied. This was true. I have always fully, even joyfully, embraced my power and destiny. Why does everyone think that every young woman who is led in chains to some terrifying end doesn’t actually wish for that end? Why doesn’t anyone just ask us? You would all be so shocked at how many women would be happy to walk to the devil when you assume we need to be dragged. “Perhaps. I don’t disbelieve you. Still. Precautions.” My aunt looked around the garden, as her retinue silently filed in through the rounded wooden door behind her. She grabbed the chain and yanked it—at the far end of the hedge-lined stone path, I could see it clanking out of a flywheel attached against the wall of what looked like a gardening shed, a brick box covered in waves of ivy and capped with wavy terracotta tiles. There were yards of that chain, but it only went as far as my aunt’s door. I stood at its very limit, not even close enough to touch the main house. I looked through the high lead-paned window we stood beside. Inside, between the wooden slats of the shutters, I saw flashes of movement, the flicker of candle flame and fire, and smelled the savory spices of cooking food. It wasn’t my home, it would never be. And yet. “I know my place, Aunt.” “I am not your aunt anymore. You will call me Sister.” I paused only slightly, then began again. “Sister. And I am not a dog. This treatment is unnecessary and cruel.” My aunt responded only by pointing down the path to the pitch-black opening of the shed. “It’s summer, but there’s a cot with blankets, so you’ll be warm enough. There are two covered pots—one has candles and matches, one has bread and cheese. You’re right next to the canal steps, so I suggest you eat without the light, otherwise you’ll attract flying things, and some things that do not need to fly.” Even in the dark, she could see the look on my face. “We are the Daughters of Isolation, not the Daughters of Sewing Circles and Chit-Chat. It’s more than they were going to allow you, until I stepped in. I am but a mere Sister here, yet the van Hamal name still has some weight.” “Thank you.” “I told them you needed to be segregated from the other Initiates until we’ve confirmed your health and virginity. We can’t have the disease-riddled flesh of the daughter of an opium-addicted, syphilitic whore infecting the purity of the Order.” “Thank . . . you?” (I must constantly remind myself that my aunt is a stranger, and perhaps even my enemy, even though from time to time the mask of her honey-wet bee face slips and I see flashes of the true human face beneath, one that is imperious yet beautiful and seductive. My weakness in thinking she can be understood or swayed by familial sentimentality is her strength. She does not think of me as family. I am nothing more than the thirteenth vaginal canal of a bio-mechanical machine. Therefore, I must always remember that she is a viper with the delusion of self-relevance, and I cannot turn my back on her.) She lifted my worn portmanteau, the one my mother had left with me at the asylum twenty years ago, after she collected her money. “Violeta’s,” she said, inspecting the clasp. I started at the sound of my mother’s name. I hadn’t spoken it myself in over a decade. “I recognize it from when we were girls,” she continued. “It was your grandfather’s.” “I didn’t know that.” I gestured with one manacled hand, praying she wouldn’t take it inside. When she held it out, my body almost buckled with the relief. “Thank you,” I said, as I gingerly held it to my chest, ignoring my throbbing fingers. “For everything. I’ll make our family proud.” “Which family?” “The Order, of course.” And my mother, I thought to myself—who despite her failings deserved a better life. My aunt slipped into the house and closed the door quietly behind her. It was painted a slate blue, and probably looked cheerful and inviting in daylight, next to those windows lined with red and blue and lavender flowers. But I heard no sounds, other than footsteps and the clink of dishes. Twelve women I’d counted, and none of them even now, in the downtime of evening, had said a single word. And so, tomorrow or the next day or the day after, I will become one of them, I will be joined. We will all be one, all chained to each other, chained to whatever it is our joining brings up out of the cosmic deep. I have eaten my bread and cheese in darkness, knowing full well my aunt (or someone else) has been watching from the window, and now I scratch out these words by the queer creeping light of the sky that only I can see. Outside this door, down the path, my aunt’s home hulks in the dark, as do all the other ancient crooked buildings—the Begijnhof no longer looks as lovely and inviting as it had just a few hours before. Much pain is before me, and perhaps finally true darkness. But now I hear the canal on the other side of the wall, the waters rushing low and lilting like a bedtime song, and the wind rustles the leaves like a woman brushing her long unbraided hair, and I cannot help but feel th end fragment fragment, date unknown (there has been some debate as to whether the next section occurs the same evening or several days after the previous fragment—no consensus amongst scholars has been reached) illegible section standing at the edge of the chain, until the very limits of my body have been stretched so completely that I felt my bones are cracking, and my little middle fingers bent back and I heard the joints creak and crack but the trail of phosphorescence that ended at my doorway, that ended at the middle of my cot, that ended in a large hand print against my cheek, led to between two small cottages and down steps that descended directly into the canal. The waters were dark and dank, and thick ivy grew all across the bottom steps, so I couldn’t even see where they ended, if at all. The phosphorescence trailed off onto the leaves, into the water and across the canal to the opposite side, like shining strands of peridots and emeralds against a slender throat, but the smell of the steps and the water was rank; and I realized that this was where the women and all the other inhabitants of the houses lining this garden came to relieve themselves, directly down the steps into the waters. Across the canal, another brick wall, covered in long strands of vegetation that bulge outward, almost as if breathing. I stood at the top step for what seemed like forever in the night, watching creatures swim back and forth in the currents. Waiting, for what or who, I don’t know. I still taste the salt on my lips. The canal water is not salt There is something in those waters I cannot see I’m still trembling end fragment date unknown, approximately two days later me further into the Begijnhof, past the beautiful lawns and over two more bridges and into the great cathedral. There were no pews or benches or chairs, we walked across a massive gray stone floor made up of slabs chiseled with the names of those buried beneath our feet. MARIA VAN PIVIEREN. That is the only name I remember now. She died in 1692, I think. Below her name, a small skull and crossbones was etched into the stone. There were hundreds of skulls, hundreds of crossbones, none of them sinister, most like children’s etchings, with a touch of a smile in their jaws and round eyes, as if death was simply another amusement. Perhaps, after all this is over, I can return and do some grave rubbings. They would look so beautiful on my walls back home. I looked for a van Hamal, but didn’t see one. (I think our people are elsewhere, where there’s no need for pretense of Christianity for the sake of the rest of the world, as many Catholics still worship at this place, despite the best efforts of the Order to dissuade them.) The priests led us across all these ancient bodies and back past the nave, down several flights of very small and worn steps into the catacombs, into a warren of rooms I’m still too tired to describe in much detail. Libraries of strange tomes, tiny altars clogged with delicate and profane statues of multi-limbed gods, crevasses where the mummified remains of anchorites and anchoresses sat or stood, staring out at passers-by with bejeweled eye sockets and gold-plated grins, holding giant tridents or multi-bowled drinking cups in their deformed, flipper-like hands. (Well, in all honesty, those mute corpses did make quite the lasting impression on me. I’ve never owned a single piece of jewelry in my lifetime—it was never allowed in the asylum, the inhabitants more likely to eat or gouge out a few eyeballs with it than wear it.) illegible section long journey, with an unsettling and entirely predictable end. A white room, three doctors, two who held me down and parted my legs, and the third who authenticated the state of my maidenhood. (When I say doctors, I mean that these were men instructed by our church to act as doctors on its behalf. These men were not doctors. SoON when all the skies ABOUT THIS WORLD are AS dark as the edges of the milky way I will show them what it is to be a doctor, what it is to inspect a living subject, what it is to tear the pumping dripping organs of a howling patient by your oh-so-delicate teeth and deem them fit to live EVEN AS THEY BEG TO DIE.) I said nothing the entire time. There was nothing to say. My aunt and two of the black-clad women stood guard over the proceeding, also saying nothing. When the moment happened, my aunt simply remarked that she was astonished that none of the many male doctors and attendants hadn’t thoroughly abused me with as much abandon as the rest of the female patients. I thought the heat from my blush would have set the entire room on fire. After the doctors left the room, my aunt stayed behind, reading to me from a small New England auction catalog an entry describing the history of a powerful and rare grimoire while the women stripped me completely naked and proceeded to sew me into a long wool garment exactly like theirs. Even after they had finished, she continued reading, her low alto words accented by the thrumming wings of the bees that swarmed in agitated fury over her hidden face. I do not have the book with me, though I asked for a copy that I might transcribe those passages here in my diary, because I do not in this instance think my words would even begin to suffice. My aunt looked incredulous—rather, the bees made a waxen, misshapen semblance of incredulous disbelief over the pulsing folds—and said I was free to write what I wished, as she’d seen the chicken scratches and insane scribblings that I believed in my blind state to be actual legible writing, and couldn’t possibly imagine anyone ever being able to decipher a single word. I told her there would therefore be no harm in my copying the entry for my own erudition. She agreed, and left me to recover from my examination with the book on the table. I did my best to set down what I could in the half hour I was given—a very small portion of which is written below. However, the catalog would stay in the catacombs, along with the now-complete thirteen book set that had been commissioned by our ancestor, Maria van Hamal so many centuries ago. I now know my exact purpose, and it is no greater or lesser than any of the other twelve women who comprise the illegible section perhaps I am not so willing as I thought to be a part of this great work, this wondrous summoning of the great goddess of perversion and destruction. I love the ocean in all its majestic and unfathomable power, I have forever loved my great father Dagon and Mother Hydra, but I have no desire to invite them or the ocean to leave their vast beds and visit me upon the land. But my part in this ceremony is inevitable. So I sit in my chains with my fingers bent backward over my diary, scribbling in the dark as the mice come to nibble at the remains of my bread and cheese. The canal serenades me, a deep bass lullaby that recalls the majesty of the song of the ocean shores that I shall never walk upon again. How ironic that I see everything yet cannot see a wa end fragment

• • • •

Translator’s note: the book in question is The Catalogue of the Occult Library of the recently disbanded Church of Starry Wisdom of Providence, Rhode Island, an illustrated auction catalogue printed by the occult auctioneers Messrs. Pent & Serenade. Few extant copies of this catalogue exist today—a copy resides in Rare Books Room at Miskatonic University, but we were not allowed to view the copy; and requests to other libraries and private collections have netted no response. Lilianett van Hamal’s (unfortunately) largely illegible transcription of the passage below is the only public version of the entry in existence to date.

• • • •

ILLEGIBLE SECTION travel journal and feverish spiral into nightmare-fueled madness, Las Reglas de Ruina was written sometime in the early 1500s by the Spanish friar Philip of Navarre, ILLEGIBLE SECTION a recounting of various legends surrounding an obscure and ancient deity, sister and bride to a chthonic god, who awaited release from her prison in the stars to wreak unspeakable, apocalyptic perversions upon mankind. After finishing the manuscript, ILLEGIBLE SECTION affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church but as a northern fortress and stronghold for Filiæ Solitudinus—The Daughters of Isolation, an all-female religious cult with Assyrian roots, formally founded during the last days of Etruscan Rome. There, the final version of the manuscript was hand-copied, bound ILLEGIBLE SECTION. In 1527, an additional thirteen copies of Las Reglas were commissioned by Begijnhof resident Maria van Hamal, widow of ILLEGIBLE SECTION records, Hamal, whose vast fortune had already paid for several private buildings and an extension of the network of canals covering the béguinage grounds, ordered custom metal bindings ILLEGIBLE SECTION At the same time of the fire—and after inflicting a goodly portion of the Begijnhof sisters with a mysterious flesh-putrefying disease that ILLEGIBLE SECTION like rotting flowers—Friar Philip ILLEGIBLE SECTION. ILLEGIBLE SECTION “profane” variant of Las Reglas, remained absent from historical record for over three hundred years, until all thirteen copies resurfaced in the aftermath of the Great New York Fire of 1835, which destroyed over seven hundred buildings at the southeast tip of Manhattan. A series of subterranean rooms hewn from the island’s natural rock were discovered beneath the ruins of a Maiden Lane basement, along with the unclothed bodies of ILLEGIBLE SECTION. The other twelve have once again submerged into the unknown folds of history and time. The profane Las Reglas, ILLEGIBLE SECTION duplicate of the text of Friar Philip of Navarre [this is yet unconfirmed]: there the similarities ILLEGIBLE SECTION ovoid shape has been pressed into the leather on the cover: within the ovoid, small folds of leather have been sewn as to mimic the effect of a maelstrom or whirlpool—or perhaps, it has been suggested, the most intimate ILLEGIBLE SECTION outer edges of the ovoid are surrounded by two Latin phrases in fading silver capital letters: IMMENSUS ASTRA INCLINANT FILIÆ, SED NON OBLIGANT FILIÆ ~ LAS REGLAS DE RUINA INCLINANT KASSOGTHA, SED NON OBLIGANT KASSOGTHA, ILLEGIBLE SECTION. Attached to the back of the book is a thick leather-covered protrusion approximately ten inches in length, curving steeply upward. Five chains are attached to each side of the book. According to notes and sketches taken ILLEGIBLE SECTION were attached to the end of a limb, with the fifth chain attached to a bit placed in her ILLEGIBLE SECTION series of interlocking patterns until an entire circle of iron links was created, the center which was hollow like a portal or gate ILLEGIBLE SECTION. ILLEGIBLE SECTION ceremonial instructions have been found to date. Careful examination has revealed machinery of an electrical and ILLEGIBLE SECTION paroxysm in female patients suffering from hysteria. The discovery site notes reveal that ILLEGIBLE SECTION. Removal of the books and devices from the bodies revealed numerous sharp instruments hidden within the protrusions, devices which, ILLEGIBLE SECTION fretwork, chains and accouterments reveal fine wires of an unknown geologic material woven throughout ILLEGIBLE SECTION “wondyrechaun” of “iron, flesh and bone” through which Kassogtha could return. An astoundingly creative use of Las Reglas de Ruina, envisioned by Maria van Hamal and Filiæ Solitudinus so many ILLEGIBLE SECTION. end Lilianett van Hamal’s transcription various fragments, mid-night through early morning, next day (approximate) So many horrible dreams throughout the night, and yet if I had only known then what I know now, in the calm light of morning. So many moments of chilly, anxious wakefulness, hearing my own panting breath in the humid midnight air, feeling the quaking of my heart like the hooves of horses pounding against the earth. Time and time again I awoke with my crippled hands flailing against my chest, the chains clanking like Marley’s ghost. Earlier in the evening, when a vestige of the sun still pounded down through the thick clouds, I had stood at the door to my aunt’s lodgings, barely able to contain my dismay as she once again chained me like a beast and left me outside. “This is for what your mother did to me, and what she did to the Order,” were the only words she spoke. I have no idea what transgression she spoke of, but that is of no matter. (The bees told me a different story—even as they parted from her mouth to reveal that impossibly wide grin of her saber-toothed mouth, the ivory so overgrown and thick, the smell of her breath so foul, even as she pushed the words out of with her pustule- encrusted tongue, the bees swarmed at her forehead, undulating in a multidimensional frenzy as they transmitted her thoughts into a living winged sentence that hovered in the air: YOU ALONE OF THE ACOLYTES WILL KNOW YOUR TRUE FATE, AND YOU ALONE WILL SCREAM WITH DELICIOUS HORROR EVEN BEFORE WE CHAIN YOU TO THE FLOOR. THE UNENDURABLE PLEASURE AND PAIN OF THE THIRTEEN IS OUR GIFT TO THE GODDESS, BUT YOUR UNENDURABLE TERROR EVEN NOW, IN YOUR EYES, IN THE SHALLOWS OF YOUR BREATH, KNOWING THAT THE ATROCITIES KASSOGTHA BRINGS ARE ALREADY BURROWING INSIDE, FEEDING ON YOUR SOUL—THAT IS A LITTLE GIFT TO ME.) How stupid I have been, how naïve. In the asylum, I imagined myself a queen, and I was, of a sort—a queen with no kingdom or power, save the power to believe she had any to begin with. I ruled daydreams and foolish visions, I crowned myself before a court of childish . What do I know of true power, of true sacrifice and pain? My mother, even my sad addicted mother, knew the price of all these things. Now I have knowledge of that price, too. I rose from my damp blanket and cot, pacing back and forth, standing in the garden walkway like a mournful specter all in black. My once-fine traveling dress, all matted and stiff with sweat and dust and browning traces of blood, lay somewhere far beneath the vaults of the cathedral, a new nesting ground for the mice. Quietly, I made my way to the very limits of the chain, this time not to the canal stairs but to the windows of my aunt’s lodging. In the deep pitch of the night, under the gaping black mouth of the never- ending storm, I could see the faintly glowing Odic outlines of the women, all of them laying about the floor on thin mattresses, like chess pieces that had been tipped onto the floor, the bees on their faces silent and heavy with sleep. Will it be tomorrow that I lay with them, all of us spread out in a circle, our hands and feet entwined, all of us chained together in layer after layer like a massive web, a net to catch our uncatchable prey? If I had the power, I would silently open that blue door now, float through the air upside down over each supine body, slitting their bodies from stem to stern, watching as they sank into their own spurting, escaping life, all of them together slipping into freedom and away from the invisible chains of this terrible life. It would be no worse than what awaits them with the dawn, what awaits me. (Oh, what I would have given for a small brown ball of opium and a slender pipe of bone, then and now. Vestiges of my mother’s excesses still linger in my flesh and bones, raising their heads in the most distressing of moments like Medusa’s tresses, writhing through me like faint itches than cannot be scratched.) illegible section and the hedges kept me company throughout the night, as I paced back and forth, up and down, pondering my fate, and so did the numerous black squiggling clusters shuddering in the air, the eyes of strange birds with clusters of eyes like spiders that stared at me unblinking from the high spikes and gables. And in the early cracks of the morning, as I found myself staring down the steep stairs into the canal, watching the long strands of deep green vegetation blossom and pulse against the wall, it came to me. I suddenly realized what I could not previously see before me, what was staring out at me through the phosphorescence-dappled wall of trailing ivy and willow branches, not unlike how the attendants would stand and stare behind the curtains of the communal showers at the asylum. It was the perfect vantage point, from across the waters, to see all the acolytes and sisters of the Begijnhof, all the women young and old, lifting their petticoats and exposing their notches for everything about the canal to see. Including, for the past several mornings and nights, me. An idea, as profane as this situation, crystalized in my fretful mind. A solution so simple, I almost laughed at the thought of it. (I must confess I am glad for my terrible handwriting and miserable eyesight that cannot form legible letters on paper, as well as for these chains that inhibit the grip of the pen even more than usual. These events I write of would be the death of me were anyone to read them—the thought of it makes me almost sick. I may have a temper and a bit of bloodlust and a wholly unrealistic view of myself as I move throughout this strange world I both see and cannot see, but what I am about to put on these pages . . . words fail me. And yet, they cannot.) The chains and manacles prevented me from descending to the lowest steps just above the water line, but the trail of bright green bioluminescence from the prior night already confirmed that an underwater assignation would not be necessary. Which I was quite satisfied with, as the waters of the Dijle were quite easily the filthiest I’d encountered in my short life, especially considering what was flowing into them at all hours of the day and night. Therefore, I positioned myself on the top step, overcoming my revulsion at sitting down in such a spot by reassuring myself that I was not touching the stone with bare flesh but with a horrid and quite unflattering dress made of scratchy fabric that could only have been woven from the skins of porcupines. So it was something of a relief to lift the long straight skirt up above my illegible section he swam toward me, his powerful arms traversing the length of the canal in a mere three quick strokes. And then in a flash he stood on the steps, his feet hidden by the curling leaves and vines clinging to the water’s edge, and my breath caught in my throat, not because I had never seen a man like this before, but because I had seen many of his kind before, or like him, diving and arcing through the crashing cold waters all along the eastern coast of my home country, their thick tentacled beards and barrel-chested bodies cresting the waves like whales, eyes like flat slashes of licorice, tapered at the ends. Not the most handsome creatures, but compared to some of the horrifically deformed souls that kept me company at Arkham, I could do worse. I thought of the book, of the description my aunt had read. Yes, there was worse. My heart galloping in my chest at the impropriety, the sheer audacity of my actions, I leaned back until I could see only the cloudy sky, my legs and womanhood as uncovered as the day my mother birthed me. (My mother, who would no doubt be supremely proud of her daughter in this her most desperate and shocki illegible section black as pitch, as oil, and skin, so cold and slick, but the power of his movements, the power I could feel under his skin, like the roiling of my beloved stone gray Atlantic, a power so mesmerizing that the split-second pain of his illegible section and if he felt pleasure or joy in the act, I could not surmise beyond the obvious, his language so ancient and otherworldly that the few words he might have uttered were beyond my ken, but oh, after the first sharp shock and the rolling aching, it were as if the infernal clouds above parted; oh, the stars, so many stars, clear and bright in a sky devoid of membranous monsters plummeting down on an unsuspecting world, only stars, and our breath, and a rising tide within that I illegible section LAP AT EVERY THROAT AND CUNT AND HOLE IN THEIR BLEEDING BROKEN SUPLICATING BODIES AND WALK OVER AN OCEAN OF FLESH, SCOOPING IT UP WITH MY ENDLESS MOUTHS AND FUCKING THEIR REMAINS UNDER AIRLESS STAR-BLACK SKIES UNTIL THEY HAVE BEEN UNMADE INTO MY BONES, MY WOMB, UNTIL I QUICKEN SQUAT GRUNT THEM OUT AGAIN, HOLLOW THEM OUT AGAIN WITH MY FINGERS AND TONGU illegible section nd so was I now a woman according to the customs of the day, but if so, how is it possible that I was not before? I can say with the utmost honesty that there was no difference between the before and the after. I remained no more or less but only what I am supposed to be, even with this strange being shuddering inside me—a woman who sees all but is blind, a woman surrounded by the all the creatures of the universe but who is alone. After a time, he removed himself from the scene, slipping back into the fetid waters of the river without a single word or glance back. I was neither glad nor sorrowful at his departure; only tired and sore, and suddenly in great need of sleep. With some difficulty, I pulled myself to my feet, smoothed out my garment as much as I could, and proceeded to make my way in small stiff steps back down the path to the garden shed, where I fell upon the cot and slept as though dead for several much-needed hours. And now it is morning, and I hear the door opening from the far end of the path, and I hear the hum of bees and the soft rustling of fabric and slender limbs, and the musical clinks of the keys to my manacles. And so I shall put this diary away and pray to Mother Hydra with all my heart that I shall return to it before nightfall, that I shall live to see nightfall, that this will not be the la end fragment

• • • •

Translator’s note: the following is the last section from Lilianett van Hamal’s diary, and the only complete entry, with no illegible text or missing sections. This section was discovered not in the actual diary, which was excavated at the Leuven Exclusion Zone during the last authorized Miskatonic University expedition (in 1976), but in the town of Bruges, over one hundred and twenty miles away. These pages have generally been interpreted as a natural continuation of the original diary, with clear indications that these are not the only entries she wrote after the event. However, despite intensive ongoing research in both Europe and North America, to date no other entries, pages, or books have been found. No additional mentions in public or hospital records have been found of Ms. van Hamal; and there has yet been the discovery of a final resting place. Our search continues.

• • • •

Eventide, the 31st of December, 1878 (I have become an expert in rolling those sticky brown balls. My mother would be so proud. And with every inhalation, with every smoky exhalation from the furnace of my lungs, I become more proud of her, more in awe of her courage and strength, that she was able to endure and survive that terrible, mismanaged first ceremony at Maiden Lane, that she was able to carry me in her womb for such an unnaturally lengthy amount of time, giving birth to me in painful secret only after years of fighting my contractions, after decades of confusing and stunting my purpose and sight with seductive poppy dreams. But I am older now, and I have power. She did not create me, but she gave my primordial flesh its final form. When the smoke billows into my body, I know how to hold it, how to shape it into purpose, how to extrude it into the air along with all the other invisible squiggling black horrors that populate the world. This is not addiction. This is destiny.) And smoke still rises to the southeast, a lightning-studded pillar as thick and coiled as Krakatoa, a muscular demon rising out of the volcanic center of the earth to grab and pull down the sky. When I sit at my writing desk with my diary and pen and pipe, I see it billowing up past the medieval gables and spires of Bruges through the delft blue mornings and violet nights, all the smoldering remains of Leuven wafting back into the cosmos. I wonder how much of my aunt is above me now, and how much remains below. Forever will I feed from the look on her face, the look she gave me as the twelve acolytes—so beautifully laid out against the lush carpet of morning-kissed grass, their pale hairless limbs parted wide and draped in silver chains that formed an intricate web, copies of the profane book of the goddess Kassogtha attached at their trembling wet notches, the Odic force flowing thick and hot between them like a cyclone—all started in perfect unison, the interdimensional bees streaming away from their now naked, sepulchral faces as they half-rose and cried out when they felt the thirteenth book with its massive protuberance inserted into my womanhood, my energies merging with theirs as I too cried out in tremulous painful joy. My triumphant aunt, and all those smug-faced priests with their tall linen and gold caps, their bejeweled vestments, their chalices of wine and bowls of incense. All of them dancing and rubbing themselves, waiting for their goddess to rise from the tangling birthing circle of limbs and suck them off while my aunt stared on like a Roman statue, imperious and oblivious to the cacophony around her. Eyes and the eyes of her bees, only on me. And how I will remember until the vast fecund river of time becomes as dried up as a prostitute’s bottomless pit how those same eyes widened as my cries of joy and pain turned to high-pitched laughter, laughing as the twelve young women around me screamed and writhed whilst their insides were whipped into a pink gelatinous froth that spumed and sputtered out of the sides and backs of the profane books, their bodies thrashing like fish dying in poisonous tides of red; how my aunt slipped and fell backwards into the sticky flopping mess of boneless limbs as I gracefully rose, pulling the chains around me like a cloak as I bathed in the great river of dying life all about me, drank the thirst- quenching fear and thick sexual release given off from their sad animal bodies even as they collapsed like mounds of fly-specked shit at my feet. And all about us, the black speckled floaters scratched away at the pale air, and I raised my hands and they descended in swarms, pouring over the priests and dissolving their flesh to the bone. Had I seen them all these years, not knowing they had always been mine to command? I don’t recall what I said to her as I stood over her supine body, my naked body dripping viscera onto her austere black gown as she held out her arms to me and screamed the name of her perverse goddess over and over again. Perhaps I said her goddess would not save her. Perhaps I said I am her goddess now, vast desire and will and cosmos made bone and flesh. Perhaps I said nothing at all. Everything grew so much darker than usual, and even my limited vision failed me, the world scratching itself out as I reached down, down—and then, for the longest time, nothing. Pure black. So calm and beautiful, like a deep sleep. I awoke in sun-drenched fields, next to grazing cows, staring at my gore-covered hands. Did my aunt see her goddess? Wherever she is, does she understand now? I wiped my hands on the grass; and then I moved on. Bruges is a strange town, but I have cooled my heels long enough, and made myself too familiar; and there are people back in Arkham that must answer to me for all the things they have done. My birth mother thought she was finished with me, thought life was finished with her, but there is a long-overdue conversation ahead of us that will crack the world in two. Tomorrow morning I will take a carriage down long straight roads under steel gray skies to a shore so flat and wide that the very waters of the channel seem to rise above it; and I will claim my berth upon a ship that will carry me first to England, then across the low dark edge of life back to the New World and home, home to great wide waters and great wide spaces and room to run and scream and consume. The agent who sold me my ticket warned against travel this time of year, warned me against rough seas and rougher men; but he is a wriggling insect whom I shall someday crush then wear as a tiny bead on a necklace made of all the bodies of the human race. He is mortal and so therefore fears everything and has everything to fear. I do not fear. I bring it.

©2016 by Livia Llewellyn.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best , and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors (2011, Lethe Press), received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace (2016, Word Horde Press), was published this year. You can find her online at, and on Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about the author and this story, read the Author Spotlight The Opera Singer Priya Sridhar | 3455 words

The cold had blown in early on Sunday morning, too early for the fall. People shivered in their purple-and-black sweatshirts; so did Circe. She had taken to pushing her wheelchair, as a form of unofficial rehabilitation. She had managed to get it to the music school’s practice buildings this time. “You can’t practice here,” the security guard said, after Circe’s wheelchair had gotten stuck in the door. “You’re not a student.” Circe first stood up and got the chair out of the door jam. She then placed her fists on her hips and faced the woman in a pressed khaki uniform. Time had weathered Circe’s dark skin, so that she had permanent circles under her eyes and creased wrinkles streaking her face. “I’m an employee here,” she said, indicating the ID around her neck. “I was a professor. In vocal training.” “Are you on the staff now?” “I’m retired,” Circe said. “Had a stroke couple of years back.” “How sad,” the security guard said. “But if you want to practice here, you need to get a sticker on your ID, like everyone else.” “Come on.” Circe pointed at the empty rooms. “No one is practicing here now. I just wanted to test out my vocal chords. The doctors say I need intellectual stimulation.” The guard repeated herself and made it a point to help out Circe with her wheelchair. She grabbed the older woman’s arm. Circe finally sat down, biting her lip. Visions of pigs and flashing, sting-angry red swirled around in her head, and her fingers crackled with energy. “Could you wheel me to the bus stop?” she asked. “It’s such a long distance from here.”

• • • •

In the old days, sting-angry would turn a foolish mortal into a pig. The lady had flicked her fingers several times, so the colors would fly out and drown men while they were eating, until their skin sagged and hung out to dry off round, stupid faces. Then rocks crashed onto barren earth and exploded in various shades of orange, indigo and yellow. Sting-angry red concentrated in pink flesh, writhing against wilted bones and helpless eyes. Power trapped within a stupid form. Wait, vengeance. Wait. Colors released soon.

• • • •

Much later, Circe slipped into the auditorium office, and met with the graduate students there. They remembered her and gave her a sticker for her ID. It was a small, green sticker with the school year listed on it. “You should practice on Fridays,” her old student Sylvie said. “That’s when the nice security guard Toby comes. He loves hearing people perform. All the newbie guards act more stuckup.” “Must be part of their training,” Circe joked. “Oh, yeah. They’re mainly night students who think they can get a degree by doing less work.” Sylvie scowled. “Usually a bunch of ghetto dudes who are compensating for something.” “I took night classes,” Circe said. “When I first got married. That was the only way that I could get my degree, having to work another job.” Sylvie immediately backtracked and apologized, but there was nothing to forgive. She had innocent eyes, despite her encounters with harsh reality and having to battle extreme stage fright. Circe had mentored Sylvie for two years. She straightened up in her wheelchair. Her posture had always been good, even for a singer. She had never had intense back pains, not like her friends who spent their days sitting in front of computers. “Do you think I could try out my voice on you?” she asked. “It’s been too long and I don’t want to go all the way back to the practice room.” “Of course.” Sylvie stood back a few paces, to give her old teacher room. Circe drew in a deep breath. She made sure that her diaphragm expanded and contracted; at least the stroke hadn’t affected that part of her body. Her throat throbbed with anticipation. She heard the accompaniment in her head, a gentle-but-fast piano tune:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem, behold, thy King cometh unto thee.

She felt the years peel off her as if they were bits of old skin, the deeper that she dug into the tune. Her gray hair seemed to curl at the ends, as if she had just gotten a permanent. Circe hadn’t gone to a stylist since her stroke and kept her hair at a short, curly bob.

He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen.

Sylvie watched as Circe managed to stand, so that she could give her lungs more air, the much-needed air that they deserved for doing a good job. Her voice sounded powerful against the still, stale air in the office, defiance against Grandmother Time and what lay beyond wrinkles and wheelchairs. “Rejoice, rejoice,” she trilled, letting the notes sail up and down. “Rejoice, greatly.” As she dived into the repeated phrases, about the King coming to Jerusalem, the linoleum floor seemed to harden into polished wood and the plain white walls fluttered into curtains. Circe was onstage, dressed in a wine-red dress and belting against an orchestra. There was one year when they had done an experimental song cycle based on a novel about ancient Greece and she had volunteered her services when the tenor had fallen ill.

Splatter splash, exile in Rome, wailing purple in mourning, the black in the water —

Circe stopped. She took a moment, to let her vision return to normal, and then sat back in her wheelchair. There was a heavy thud from that, as if she weighed five hundred pounds. “I don’t know how you do it,” Sylvie gushed, after a few moments of silence. “How do you do it so effortlessly, remembering to have fun and all?” “If I didn’t sing, I would die,” Circe responded, breathing in hard. “Making an effort is much less dire than testing my body, so I have to belt out when I can.” She coughed a bit. Sylvie looked startled and then concerned. “Are you okay, ma’am? Do you need help?” “No,” Circe wheezed. She fumbled and found her inhaler. “Bad lungs, from years of smoking.” “You smoked?” Sylvie sounded horrified. “But you’re a singer!” “Tell me about it,” Circe wheezed, after she gave herself several puffs. “At the time, my voice wasn’t giving out, so I thought I’d be fine. It was a hard habit to kick, but I had to. I got pregnant.” “That’s not what I meant. Your voice doesn’t sound strained,” Sylvie said. “I’ve heard smokers and usually, they’re fighting to breathe or sound scratchy. You don’t sound like that at all. You sound perfect.” Circe gave a crooked smile. She heard the good intentions behind Sylvie’s words and her fingers remained still. “I guess I was lucky.”

• • • •

Evening faded into a rainbow of pain, of might. Mourning blue, to celebrate the return of a lady. A certain apartment with yellow walls, peeling paint, and chipped glass. Plants dried into withering husks. Work uniforms rotted into torn threads. A woman with a husky voice screamed. Her screams became higher-pitched as a beer bottle fell to the ground. The neighbors heard the crash and ran to the door. Crashes and broken screams echoed against the walls, until the super came with a key. A beeping cellphone, the promise of sirens. The open door revealed broken glass, spilled beer. A pig squealed within a pile of t- shirt and pajamas, tottering. Its flesh shriveled at one of the neighbors’ touch.

• • • •

Sunday morning. Day of strolling to the park, drinking coffee and eating a slice of whole-wheat toast at a café. The doctors had said that caffeine helped with the aftereffects of stroke, so she made it a point to drink a cup a day. Circe licked her fingers and turned a page of the newspaper, trying not to notice where she scorched the pages. The local opera company was having financial troubles, plagued by years of debt, a money trap of a theater that housed various pigeons and rats, and budget cuts from the city. Not to mention that sleazy investor who had embezzled funds meant to pay for the new makeup and wardrobe.

Buzz buzz, chalky yellow of betrayal, the timbre of sting-angry red against a black backdrop —

She closed her eyes. Circe had performed in that opera for about ten years, on and off, putting on makeup and belting out various solos and choirs. Several of her friends in the university orchestra played for the operas well, usually balancing sheet music and practice with crying babies and long commutes. What’s happening to us? She asked herself. Why are we all getting old, losing our jobs, and having encounters with the Grim Reaper? The opera didn’t deserve this crap. Everyone who belonged to it worked their butts off to make the shows work and to keep production on time. Now, new people were going to suffer the loss of potential careers. She remembered one of the singers, an exchange student from Spain. Hector had been heartbroken because his girlfriend back home had attracted another boy’s attention and, to put it in layman’s terms, committed a form of adultery. It was a form of adultery because she and Hector hadn’t married, so she had committed no legal wrong. But in terms of moral wrongs, it had torn him. Circe had introduced Hector to REM in hopes of comforting him. The singer had then asked her out to dinner several weeks later. That had been a strange year. One of her friends called it “blossoming into awesome.” Circe had been a gawky, myopic teenager with a slight belly, but that year, suddenly, guys looked at her and saw something prettier within it. Except she hadn’t felt prettier on the inside:

Go and catch a falling star, get with (misbehaving!) child a mandrake root, tell me where all past years are (in your pocket, milady), or who cleft the devil’s foot —

Circe started. The paper turned black beneath her fingertips. She took a deep breath and wiped her hands with a napkin. That singer, well, she ought to look him up. It had been too long. From what she remembered, he had had a long career in Canada and then toured Europe before settling down with another local girl that had studied law. Why hadn’t she followed up with him? The meteor. Crash, choke, swirl — She took another rattling breath. No one could forget the meteor. She certainly hadn’t. Circe finished her coffee. She left her usual tip for the waitress, who smiled at her and unfolded her wheelchair. Circe settled in, lost in memory.

• • • •

Rock shattering ocean, making frothy white splash, muddying blue and green into a great angry stew. Old days meant visitors, choices, power. Old days gone with one crash, stars passing uncertainly.

• • • •

That night, they had all performed a children’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the opera. After the performance, the cast and choir had gone out for drinks, in the local city. They had stayed up at that bar with the mirrors on every wall and the harpoons for decoration. Hector had tried to pull one of the harpoons off the wall and chase everyone around with it; Circe had laughed, since the harpoon was superglued to the wall, a glass of cucumber and gin in her hands. She had sat on a wobbly barstool, rocking back and forth, cackling like a young hen. No one had anticipated the chunk of rock crashing through the roof. They had heard the wood splintering, and the thud as something large and grey collided with Circe’s thigh. Her glass shattered against the floor as she fell and her fingers brushed the rock, hot to the touch. Later, the paramedics said at worst, she had suffered a huge bruise, but no major injuries. Some newspapers took her photo and the morning papers had stories on “the blessing of God.” Circe limped that week and had needed a cane. She kept singing, because singing helped deal with the pain and the tingling within her fingers. People marveled that she attended all her classes and kept performing. Hector had drifted away, his dark eyes always gazing at her swollen leg. Later, she started researching astronomy and even visited an observatory up north. The scientists there had taught her how they measured asteroids, even helped her find one sharing her name: 34-Circe. “We think it’s gotten smaller,” one of the scientists said. “Infrared will have to confirm it, but it looks like it suffered a minor impact and loss some of its mass.” Circe turned and smiled at the scientist. The tingling in her fingers became pleasant now. “Do you think it could’ve been the same asteroid that hit me in the thigh?” “Highly improbable,” the scientist said. “The odds that an asteroid with your name from the main belt got minor fragmentation, and the odds of that little chunk of rock drifting for dozens of light years only to crash on Earth and into that particular bar, are highly improbable.” “I wouldn’t know,” Circe had responded. “Math was never my best subject. And a rock one foot long is ‘little’?” “We measure in meters and yes. Asteroids are usually measured in kilometers.” Circe had accepted that, even though the aching in her thigh wouldn’t. That bruise had only faded in recent years. Sometimes, it changed colors, depending on her mood.

• • • •

Accept the rainbow, taste every color, power great, once meant for goddesses. Know your true form, the formless demands of life and eternity. Stir herbs, stir angry, stir love. Brew potions, stroke others’ flesh, embrace in years lost.

• • • •

Back in the practice room on a Friday; Circe had spent her days strolling in the park, calling her daughter just to hear Melody’s voice. Melody lived in New York now, studying liberal arts, and she liked her independence. Circe knew that her daughter had cut off her long hair, settling for a curly crew cut. Circe showed her ID to the security guard Toby, a smiling young man with beard stubble and dark skin like hers. He escorted her to one of the largest rooms, with a wall- sized mirror and a black piano. Toby brought her a music stand and asked if she wanted water. So different from the first security guard.

Pleasant persimmon orange. Light-green bobbing in a soft, gray wind . . .

Her fingers remained still as she prepared herself and started warming up. She was even able to press keys on the piano, to go into the simple chords. Her throat lent its power well to the occasion:

Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me, On thy bosom let me rest,

Toby strolled around the corridors, listening to her and to the regular orchestra students — just like Ulysses, righteous mud-brown armor minty-green swirled together to fight unraveling pink — but Circe ignored him and the thoughts in her head:

More I would, but Death invades me; Death is now a welcome guest.

Except Death wasn’t welcome in Circe’s home. She hadn’t welcomed it the day she and Melody had gotten into a nasty fight, the only night Melody had stayed up past midnight to work on a high school project due the next morning. Trouble is olive green rotting in orange autumn —

When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast.

Her fingers had twitched terribly, but by then, Circe knew what could happen and so, she held back and screamed, instead. Melody screamed at her to go to bed, and Circe did, holding in all the rage and frustration that Melody was acting stupid. When her fingers wanted to lash out with sting-angry, Circe used a mirror.

When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast.

The next evening, when Circe went out to lunch with a friend in the afternoon, the friend had noticed that her face was starting to freeze in odd places and her movements were becoming sluggish. By evening, Circe had ended up in the hospital, in Intensive Care.

Remember me, remember me, but ah! Forget my fate.

Late at night, rubbing her eyes and yawning, Melody came into the room. She had thought her mother was asleep and sat beside her. “I didn’t start earlier because you were talking about not wanting to live anymore, with no husband and a dead-end job as a professor with thankless students,” Melody had spoken to what she thought was a corpse. “How could I focus on myself if I was worried about you swallowing pills or slitting your wrists?”

Remember me, but ah! Forget my fate.

As Circe recovered, Melody had started distancing herself, while helping her mother with household chores. She paid for her college application fees and relied on guidance counselors to choose good schools, far from Circe. It was as if she had built a fortress so that schoolwork mattered more than family, so that Melody could please Circe without either of them worrying about each other.

Remember me, remember me, but ah! Forget my fate.

Circe looked at herself in the mirror; she had lost weight since her stroke and the kind dimples that always appeared when she thought of Melody. She was wearing dark pants, so that you couldn’t see the scar from where the asteroid had hit her. Where did I go wrong? She asked herself. How could I get angry at her for getting angry about what I was saying? Why would I want to hurt my own daughter? I love her. She continued singing, repeating the verses. Colors appeared in her head, wistful violet regret, gentle pale-orange, peach-pink longing. Goddesses don’t love their children, another voice said in her head. They only protect them from death. I’m not a goddess, Circe told the voice that she knew belonged to whatever controlled her fingers. You are now. You could be, if you wanted. You could have men like Toby fawning over you all the time. You could have servants carry you from house to house. And then what? I’d start destroying everyone that crossed me, until they fought back and destroyed me, and what would I do? Circe reasoned. She stopped singing to think. You came from an asteroid. You can’t fight me forever. One day, I’ll take over. One day, they’ll writhe. “Not on my watch,” Circe said aloud. She aimed her fingers at the mirror. This one was larger than the small one she had used that night she had gotten angry; it would certainly kill her. You’re bluffing. “And if I’m not?” Silence. “Thank you,” Circe said. “One day, maybe I’ll let you go to a stronger body. But do nothing with mine, okay?” More silence. She took a deep breath and resumed her practice. The lyrics echoed against the walls.

©2015 by Priya Sridhar. Originally published in She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. Reprinted by permission of the author. ABOUT THE AUTHOR A 2016 MBA graduate and published author, Priya Sridhar has been writing fantasy and science fiction for fifteen years, and counting, as well as drawing a webcomic for five years. She believes that every story is a journey, and that a good tale allows the reader to escape to a new world. She also enjoys reading, biking, movie-watching, and classical music. One of Priya’s stories made the Top Ten Amazon Kindle Download list, and Alban Lake published her novella “Carousel”. Priya lives in Miami, Florida with her family and posts monthly at her blog A Faceless Author.

To learn more about the author and this story, read the Author Spotlight NONFICTION The H Word: Audio Horror, the Menacing Stroll Alex Hofelich | 1050 words

One of the recurring discussions in the fiction world is the superiority of text over audio. I believe whatever format in which you prefer to consume fiction is the superior one. Considering the amount of time that I (and many of my fellow corporate slaves) spend commuting every day, audio is one of my favorite formats. With the numerous commitments on all of us, audio is one of our only opportunities to be able to consume fiction. My enjoyment of this format led me to chip in and volunteer over at Pseudopod, working my way up to being co-editor with Shawn Garrett. If your audio disparaging friends happen to be swayed by peer-reviewed scientific journals, you should mention a 1977 study that showed the reading comprehension of short fiction in text and audio to be nearly identical (learn more at,, and Other studies have shown that reading text is superior when tackling dense technical information. However, they’ve also shown that listening is superior for tasks that include visualization of high-imagery passages. That’s part of why audio fiction is so compelling, as you are freed from the visual task of consuming the text on the page, allowing more cognitive space to visualize. Listening gets your eyes out of the way of the scene. Audio horror adds another layer. When watching or reading horror, we have the opportunity to look away or skim when things get a little too intense. Audio forces you take a much more active role in escaping. We’re not allowed to cover our eyes when Button Boy is fastening those smiley faces to his victims in “Best New Horror” by Joe Hill. When our hapless editor is crashing through the woods at the end, our hearts are pounding with the same mix of exhilaration and fear. Audio horror stalks you relentlessly, one word at a time, machete in hand, and forces you to confront it or quit. And when you confront it, you can achieve catharsis on the other side. Audio also has some distinct advantages. Narrators can lend prosody to the story that is sometimes difficult to pull off on the page. They can drive home sarcasm or emphasis or other things not explicitly coded into grammar. When Mia Farrow narrates Rosemary’s Baby to you, the suffering Rosemary endures rips through you. When Tina Connolly delivers that final line in Eugie Foster’s “When It Ends, He Catches Her” you can hear her heart break, and our hearts break with hers. Listening also allows prose poetry to works its magic. Considering the lurid imagery of Dunsany or Zelazny or Gaiman, wild flights of fancy can wash over you. The whole of prose poetry is greater than the sum of its parts. Audio can be your silver key to the gates of the dreamworlds, and place something that may have been previously inaccessible within reach. If you really want to step up your audio horror listening experience, you’ll follow the advice of Ambrose Bierce and find The Suitable Surroundings: “In solitude—at night— by the light of a candle.” An experience like this really assists with the verisimilitude. Effects and music, which we at Pseudopod tend to use sparingly, help to establish this sense of place. The gentle audio production in “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism” by Jon Padgett establishes that we’re listening to a self-help record, as the static slowly builds to a reality-shattering crescendo. This sense of authenticity is assisted with the right narrator. I find that hearing the unabridged World War Z audiobook is superior to reading it. For those of you who have not experienced it, we are presented with a series of journalistic interviews of a number of people who lived through the zombie apocalypse, from patient zero through crash to recovery. Max Brooks went to great lengths to find appropriate narrators for each of the different interviewees, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the story. A personal favorite is Henry Rollins delivering the story of a bodyguard who was employed to protect an ill- conceived reality show from the invaders at the gate during the crash. Creating an experience like this is something that guided our 400th episode, which is the phenomenal “The Screwfly Solution” by James Tiptree, Jr. The cold delivery of congressional reports and newspaper clippings. The uncannily unblinkered interview with the infected soldier. The heartfelt emotions and fears that are slowly metered out in letters between a couple separated by work and continents. Each of these segments performs the click-click-click of the chain as your roller coaster climbs the first hill. We can see over the crest and then we are wholly owned by the story. Picking the right narrator for the story is something we work on diligently and constantly strive to fine tune. If our POV character is a woman from New England, a British man is not the right fit. If our protagonist is Australian, a Kiwi isn’t quite right either. Grabbing a local or heritage narrator helps to ensure that the inflection is on the proper syllable and the names are pronounced closer to their intent. If you ever wanted to hear what a proper Mainer accent sounds like, grab a copy of The Colorado Kid by . Jeffrey DeMunn elevates an unsatisfying story to something amazing. Anson Mount delivers a perfect wind-chapped rancher in “The Horror at the Mound” by Robert E. Howard. Jump scares are tough to pull off in a reading, but when the monster menaces, we’re given that visceral reaction. No one delivers a better British grave robber than Ian Stuart in “The Worm that Gnaws” by Orrin Grey. This performance continues to unsettle both the author and narrator. The right narrator is a critical piece in delivering the setting with proper articulation and dropped vowels. With audio, our job is to help establish the setting as efficiently as possible, to remove as many cognitive barriers as possible, and to allow your visualization to work unfettered. Turn on, tune in, and let the bodies drop.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alex Hofelich is Co-Editor of Pseudopod, the longest running weekly short podcast. Each episode of the podcasts typically consists of a single-narrator readings with minimal production (no dramatic adaptations, little to no production effect in a radio theater style). They run a mixture of new and classic fiction. Since you’re reading this in the magazine or on the web, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to go add both Nightmare Magazine and Pseudopod to your favorite podcatcher. Artist Showcase: James T. Robb Marina J. Lostetter | 805 words

James T. Robb is an illustrator based out of the Los Angeles area. His work typically revolves around the illustration and gaming industries, but he is constantly seeking to expand into new, interesting endeavors. His father was a businessman in the import and export industry, and as a result James moved around a lot when he was young. A good portion of his childhood was spent in Latin America and all over the US. He grew up with access to a wide array of cultures and beautiful sights, but the constant change also carried an element of isolation, since he wasn’t in any one place for long. This led him to immerse himself in endless daydreams—interests like fantasy, science fiction, horror, and drawing occupied most of his days. Though he’s been creative since he was young, he’s only recently endeavored to make a living as an artist. When he realized that someone had to create the art related to his most beloved franchises, he knew he had to drop everything and dedicate himself to being the best artist he could be.

A lot of your work uses a high level of contrast between light and shadow, implying shapes rather than displaying them explicitly. What are you hoping this technique evokes for the viewer?

I am fond of doing this not only for the visual punch and clarity it can provide, but also in the way that one can deeply engage viewers by not spelling everything out for them. Leaving some ambiguity and darkness can add a lot of mystery, depth, and storytelling in an image. You could say I aim for a dialogue between the artist and the audience.

Tell us about the two figures in Midnight Dance, this month’s cover. What brought them together?

At the base level of things, it is a meeting of the grotesque and the elegant. Two different worlds meeting under strange circumstances. The idea for the piece is directly tied to how and why the figures look the way they do.

What inspired you to create Midnight Dance?

At the time of its creation, I had been undergoing a great sense of fear and uncertainty for the future. I wanted to find a way to symbolize the embracing of the unknown and terrifying situations we must all face up against. The female figure symbolizes all we find dear and familiar. The monster, mostly lying within the darkness, symbolizes the unknown. Is it benevolent? Is it truly horrendous? One only has to reach out a hand and find out.

What is your favorite medium to work with and why?

Some time ago, I might have picked something specific based on what I was comfortable with. However, I have come to realize that different mediums can evoke a different feeling in their own particular way. Every situation is different. Even more so if one’s own workflow combines and experiments between a variety of them. That being said, I tend to have an affinity to combine traditional techniques with a digital finish. It allows a great sense of flexibility and experimentation with many different ideas at a time.

What is your local art scene like? What inspires you locally?

I have barely begun scratching the surface of the L.A. art scene. There are countless amazing artists, not only in the illustration and entertainment industry, but also in the fine arts world that make L.A. their home. In my immediate circles, I would say my friends and peers have inspired me to a great degree. They have pushed me to always try my best and to not give up when the going gets tough. That being said, I hope to keep reaching out into my local art scene and engage with the robust local talent.

What do you hope will be the lasting legacy of your work? What would you like people to remember most about your art?

I hope my work can be remembered as ever-evolving, unique, and having a lasting impact on society and future generations of artists. There is still a lot of personal searching to be done, so I have yet to discover what that will ultimately look like. I am also sure this answer will change many times throughout my career. Only time will tell on both fronts.

And, finally, what scares you the most?

I would say that not ever reaching my fullest potential or not trying my absolute best to reach it. That would mean betraying my work ethic, convictions, and giving up on myself. That is truly terrifying to me at the deepest level.

[To view the gallery, turn the page.]

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Marina J. Lostetter’s short fiction has appeared in venues such as InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy’s Edge, and Writers of the Future. Her most recent publications include a tie-in novelette for the Star Citizen game universe, which was serialized over the first four months of 2014. Originally from Oregon, Marina now lives in Arkansas with her husband, Alex. She tweets as @MarinaLostetter. Please visit her homepage at Panel Discussion: Penny Dreadful The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy | 10951 words

Pop culture journalist Theresa DeLucci joins Nightmare’s very own Christie Yant, as well as Angela Watercutter, writer and Wired editor, to discuss the TV series Penny Dreadful. This panel first appeared in July 2016 on’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by David Barr Kirtley and produced by John Joseph Adams. Visit to listen to the discussion or other episodes.

• • • •

In this panel, we’ll be discussing the Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful, a Gothic drama featuring classic characters from Victorian literature such as Dracula, Dorian Gray, and Doctor Frankenstein. The show recently concluded its third and final season, and this will involve spoilers for all three seasons, so just be aware of that. I’m joined by three guests. First up, we’ve got Theresa DeLucci, making her sixth appearance on the show. She’s written about Hannibal and Twin Peaks for Boing Boing, and she’s also a frequent guest on Den of Geek’s You Still Know Nothing, a Game of Thrones podcast. Her article “Five Reasons to Watch Penny Dreadful” recently appeared on Theresa, welcome to the show.

Theresa: Hi, thanks for having me back.

Next up, we’ve got Christie Yant. She’s the associate publisher of Nightmare and Lightspeed and is a writer and editor for the independent comics publisher Kymera Press. Her short fiction appears in books such as The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and magazines such as Analog and Science Fiction World. Christie, welcome to the show.

Christie: Hey Dave, glad to be back.

Also joining us today is Angela Watercutter. She’s a writer and editor for Wired, where she writes about music, TV, and movies, but mostly movies. She’s also the main person behind the scenes who helps get our posts up on each week, and you should also go check out her recent articles “Penny Dreadful Might Be Blood-drenched, But It Ain’t Horror,” and “Five Books You Must Read to Truly Get This Season of Penny Dreadful.” Angela, welcome to the show. Angela: Thank you so much for having me.

Let’s start off with Theresa. Around this time last year, we were getting ready for our Hannibal panel when it was announced that Hannibal had been canceled. Then, this week, just as we were getting ready for our Penny Dreadful panel, it was announced that Penny Dreadful had been canceled. I can’t help feeling like it’s a bit of a curse or something.

Theresa: Yeah, I think you should stop watching shows.

Or at least stop doing panels about them, right? Why don’t you tell us a bit about overall what is your reaction to this news that Penny Dreadful has been canceled?

Theresa: Horribly shocked and disappointed. At least with Hannibal, I think the showrunners really knew that it was coming and had planned for it more. I know John Logan, the creator of Penny Dreadful, says this was always his design to have it end the way it did, but it really did not come across that way in the last two episodes. It felt very rushed. I’m just bummed because Penny Dreadful became my favorite show since Hannibal, and where am I going to get my dark, sexy, blood-drenched, smart drama now?

Christie, what are your feelings about this turn of events?

Christie: I second all of that. I was so dismayed. There were so many threads that they kicked off in even season one that they never even remotely came back to. I have so many questions unanswered. I feel the same way. The last two episodes were so disappointing to me. I was not at all happy with the way it wrapped up. I’m hoping against hope that some other network picks it up and that they get to move on. But, I don’t know, the way they ended it, who knows if they even can?

So, you’re not buying this idea that this was the plan all along?

Christie: Oh no, not at all. There are too many questions unanswered.

Angela, what do you think about all this?

Angela: I would cosign everything that everybody else said. I appreciated the fact that it was dreamed up as a three-season arc. And TV now never really has this ending. It either gets canceled or keeps meandering every time it gets renewed, and we end up with a lot of these unanswered questions. I appreciated that they set out with this sort of arc in mind, but at the same time, to everybody else’s point, it didn’t actually end anything. It just sort of stopped happening. There was no real resolution for me when I saw it. After I saw that ending, I thought, well, I guess that’s one way to do it. But then, maybe they could just reboot the show with a whole other series of these Gothic tales. You could have Penny Dreadful and have it be a more serialized thing, but then they announced that it had just been canceled outright, and so I was like, well, I guess we don’t even have that dream anymore. That was a big disappointment for me. It wasn’t that they were just ending this three-season arc, but that they were ending the concept, which I found to be quite disappointing.

I know that you’ve been covering Penny Dreadful a bit for Wired; do you have any behind-the-scenes insight? Or do you know anything about the production or the people involved that might shed any light on this?

Angela: I interviewed John Logan about the third season before it had started, and he had mentioned in that conversation that even before they launched season one, like when he was pitching the show, that he had envisioned a three-season run that ended with this confrontation where Dracula shows up. When he said that, he was like, “Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have seasons four and five,” but I look back on it now, and I was like, maybe that was always kind of lip service. You don’t want to show your cards too early in that regard. Maybe this always was the plan and this was always what was going to happen. He’s now working on the script for the next Alien movie. He has other things going on. Perhaps this is just sort of the way it was always meant to be, unfortunately.

I’ve been watching interviews with him all day, and he mentioned a number of times that he had ideas for seasons four and five planned. It just adds to Theresa’s point that it doesn’t seem like this was the plan all along to me.

Theresa: I think it adds a certain weird expectation. If they went into the third season press with all the advertisements being like, “The final season, the final showdown,” I don’t know if that would have helped or hindered. I think maybe he felt that that would hinder it. To have people feel like, “Oh, bummer, it’s the last season, well I guess I won’t start watching it now.” But they could have done it in a way with like “The final showdown between Vanessa and Dracula.” Play that up a little bit. It could go both ways. I can see why he wouldn’t want to have everyone know it was the final season. I feel that with Hannibal because it was always such an on the bubble show, and always at risk of getting canceled, that I think Bryan Fuller always ended every season like it could be the last because he felt like it genuinely could.

Did you guys have any sense that this show might get canceled because of the ratings? How has the show been doing in the ratings? Was it not a surprise because of that?

Theresa: The season three premiere was definitely a lot lower than the season two premiere and the season two finale. So, viewership was going down, and that does kind of tend to happen with most TV shows, but I guess even on cable there’s a certain level of expectation of viewership that I don’t think the show was getting. Just culturally people talking about it, I didn’t know many people who watch Penny Dreadful, it was nice to finally meet people . . . and I felt like I just started meeting people this year who are like, “Oh yeah, I love Penny Dreadful. It’s so great. Why is everyone talking about Game of Thrones?” Or, “Why is it airing at the same time as Game of Thrones? That’s ridiculous.”

Christie: Yes, that was a mistake.

Theresa: Everything is on Sunday night now. You could put something on Thursday or Monday would be nice. Outlander airs on Saturdays. It’s not in any danger. People watch TV differently now.

Christie: I was going to say, if I didn’t have everything TiVo’d, I don’t know which of those two shows I would pick. Well, I would pick Penny Dreadful. My husband would pick Game of Thrones, and then it would be fisticuffs every Sunday. It just seems like a tragic error. And, like you, I feel like I hadn’t been hearing anybody talk about it either, and it sounds like you two have done some incredibly scholarly outreach to the people on the subject. I just wrote my first newsletter on Penny Dreadful two weeks ago, encouraging people to see it, right before they announced that they were cancelling it. I was like, “Why didn’t I start doing this sooner? Why wasn’t I talking it up and letting people know?” But, again, not everybody has a TiVo, so if it came down to Game of Thrones versus Penny Dreadful, I don’t know what would have happened.

I blame myself, because if we had done this panel a year ago, probably millions of people would have watched the show and that might have saved it.

Theresa: All right, well we’re going to blame you too then, Dave.

Angela, you said in one of your articles that you wrote that you describe yourself as the resident Penny Dreadful evangelist. Could you talk a little bit about what your experiences have been?

Angela: The long and short of it was that even back in season one I was ringing the bell in the halls, like, why aren’t more people watching this show? Essentially because you want to have at least one person to have that watercooler conversation with when you come in on Monday. I slowly brought a few people around to my cause, but not nearly the numbers. It’s sort of to that point of what we were talking about earlier. It was up against Game of Thrones. Come in Monday morning into the Wired office, and everybody just wants to talk about Game of Thrones, which is fine, I want to too, but guys, you’re already watching Game of Thrones, you’re already watching Veep and Silicon Valley. Add on an extra hour and watch Penny Dreadful. I need somebody to talk to about this. I was the one kind of championing it from the beginning because it is that, like I wrote in my piece, there is that thing of it didn’t really always have a genre. I feel like people who liked horror or fantasy or certain sort of baroque storytelling weren’t really sure if it was for them and it took a while to get people’s attention and make them realize that there was something for everybody on that show. I had to keep poking at it as much as possible to get other folks in the office to watch along.

Theresa, did you have any experience trying to get other people to watch this show?

Theresa: I did. It took me a while to watch the show too. I wasn’t watching from season one. I would see the ads everywhere and be like, “Well, it looks interesting. Possibly cheesy.” I didn’t have Showtime at the time, but now my parents do, so there are other means of watching it. I was not interested in watching it at first, and also because Sunday was so crowded I wondered when am I going to find time? But once I finally did watch the first season, I was blown away. So, then it became a matter of going to all my horror- loving friends, particularly women, being like, no, you have to watch this show. Give it a chance. You’ll love it. Dorian Gray sleeps with everybody. It’s crazy. You’re going to love it. And they did, and now this week they’ve all been really mad that I’ve got them watching another show that yet again got canceled.

When you say particularly women, why do you think that the show appeals particularly to women?

Theresa: I’d say it’s about seventy percent Vanessa Ives, thirty percent Lily or Brona Croft. Incredible performances. My number one reason would be Eva Green as Vanessa Ives. I wasn’t very familiar with her outside of Casino Royale and The Dreamers. Her early work with Lars von Triers. I was blown away by how physical her performance was, with such a limitation of this presentation of a Victorian woman in a very rigid society, and here’s this woman who is fighting for her soul. It came across as so real and sympathetic and truly frightening. Particularly scenes in the first season with Madame Kali and the séance. I’m like, where is her Emmy? Then, once we get into the whole Bride of Frankenstein thing, that’s obviously incredibly tied in to women with agency. It’s really smartly done. When Sansa Stark was disappointing me because her storyline was such a bummer last year, I was like, well, at least there’s Lily. Lily is giving me everything I want.

Angela: There was such a great thing with those two characters, particularly Vanessa Ives, I think, because of the subject matter, going into this everybody thought it was going to be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, maybe it was, but they took out the gentlemen part. It was all these great stories from Dracula to Frankenstein to The Picture of Dorian Gray, but the center of them, this time, was female. That was sort of the twist that got put on all these things, and I think that made all those stories that you had heard before so much more interesting and new and vibrant.

Christie: Even the supporting cast is full of women, right? They took the Dr. Seward character, who was male in the books, cast a woman, Patti LuPone. She was fantastic in both roles. In season two, the John Clayton story arc . . . I just had this total feminist melt down at the end of that arc. I wept for like two hours. I felt like every injustice ever perpetrated against women was contained in this one arc in season two between Vanessa and the John Clayton character. I haven’t actually done the numbers on this, but I don’t think that they reached parity because the primary cast is still mostly male apart from Vanessa and Lily/Brona. But, they went far in bringing in villains who are women and supporting characters who are women, and it’s so refreshing.

It’s interesting, Theresa, because you mention that Hannibal was your favorite show, and then this became your favorite show, and I really see a lot of similarities between this and Hannibal in terms of the sumptuousness of it, which is the best word I can think to describe it.

Theresa: That’s a perfect word for it.

I didn’t know anything about John Logan, but just from watching this show, I felt fairly confident that he was a gay man, and I watched some interviews with him today, and he is, and that didn’t surprise me at all. Brian Fuller, who did Hannibal, was also a gay man. I just wonder if there’s something about that sensibility that comes through very clearly in both of these shows. Theresa: Yeah, I think Logan and Fuller are both so empathetic towards outsiders. I think that’s something that Will Graham, Hannibal Lecter, Vanessa Ives, Lily, Dorian are all lonely, estranged characters, but then adding this element of over-the-top theatrics to it really is what pushes it over. This visual style as well gets across loneliness. It’s really a show about outsiders, people who don’t fit in, and they come up with found families, and murder husbands, and wolf guardians. Things like that. It really is relatable. It’s a warped kind of family, but they’re all families on their show.

I mentioned, Angela, that you have this article “Penny Dreadful Might Be Blood- drenched, But It Ain’t Horror,” and you said a little bit about this earlier, but I was wondering if you could expand on that. In what sense is this not horror?

Angela: I think it’s horror because it has bloody scenes, but its purpose is not to scare you. It is Gothic romance, right? It’s this idea that it’s dark and twisted and kind of works on you in that way, but it’s not meant to frighten in the traditional sense that I think horror does. Like the Gothic romantic novels of the eighteenth century, it brought through this idea of the romance and darkness that’s involved in living on the other side. There was just a lot of that that I think came through in Penny Dreadful that bookworms really probably appreciated. It was such an interesting and wonderful thing to see on the screen.

Say a little more about that because you wrote this article too about the literary influences on Penny Dreadful.

Angela: I think that the basic texts have been Frankenstein, obviously, Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula, and then this season they brought in just a touch of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’d be curious what the panel thought because we talked about the sort of unanswered questions. I felt like they kind of brought that in this season and then didn’t do a lot with it. When I interviewed John Logan, I asked him about the book Carmilla, which is this sort of lesbian vampire tale from, I think, 1872. He was very surprised when I brought that up because it’s a little bit more obscure of an influence, but that was something that he felt very strongly about when he was doing the whole Lily storyline this year because she brought in Justine, that woman that her and Dorian found at the very beginning of the season, I think in episode two. She kind of became an acolyte of Lily’s, and they sort of formed this intense female friendship that became the heart and soul of the show, and that’s one of the things that Logan extrapolated from Carmilla. Obviously there are other sort of literary influences throughout the three seasons, but those have been, I think, the biggest ones. I agree with you about the Dr. Jekyll story. It’s one of the things where it’s very, very difficult to believe that that’s what they had in mind, to wrap it up like that. I actually saw in an interview that he had said that he had originally wanted the character to be Dr. Moreau, but they couldn’t get the rights to that, so they ended up going with Dr. Jekyll instead.

Angela: With the way season three ended, if they did want to reboot it past the Dracula arc for a fourth season, I thought that Dr. Jekyll would have been where it would have gone. It seemed like that was an intentionally unanswered question, and so I was surprised, again, when it was canceled. I thought for that, that would be the window into the next segment of the show.

Christie, what did you think of these literary influences? Were you familiar with them, or what did you think of how they were used?

Christie: I was familiar with them, and it’s what drew me to the show to begin with. It just warmed my Gothy little heart. I was all over this thing. I had to go back and look at some details. I had to figure out who Nina was, for instance, because I couldn’t remember. It had been too long. And then when they bring in Harker when she gets married later on, it was like, “Oh, okay. Now that all makes sense.” It felt like for someone who hasn’t read these things in a long time and is not a scholar of them, per se, but certainly my taste and influences have come from that sort of place. I did feel like there were a lot of Easter eggs for me to find throughout. That was cool for me, just going through the entire three seasons. I was really excited about Jekyll, in particular, as an addition, and I really felt that maybe they were going to go in a direction of redeeming themselves for a very particular sin that they had committed in seasons one and two, and that is the sin of killing off every minority character that they had. I was really hoping that Dr. Jekyll was going to get a longer run and that maybe they’d start to correct that, because that was something that really did bother me about the show.

I guess we’ll talk then about the season two finale, which is sort of where I started feeling like the show went off the rails a bit, for me, because I really liked the character of Sembene. I thought he was really underused throughout the whole show, and then when he dies in that episode, I was like, did they seriously just have the black guy die first?

Christie: And Angelique also. It was like, well, you did something right guys. You put them in, but then you killed them off. No. I think I found the season two finale particularly irksome because it just seemed completely illogical to me that Sir Malcolm would just charge by himself into the witch castle and then that Vanessa Ives would do the same thing shortly thereafter. So then to have such a bizarre, nonsensical course of action lead to the death of this character I really liked was very frustrating.

Christie: And who sacrificed himself so that the white person would live. I had a moment there where I was like, “Mmm, guys. I don’t know.”

Angela: You know this is a trope, right?

Christie: Oh, it’s a trope, I know.

Angela: That’s what you want to say to them, though.

Christie: Right, yeah. And like, how do they not know that? How do they not know? I think Hollywood and Burbank are still trying to catch up to a lot of the things that we have learned in prose fiction, and comics, and literature. We’re not willing to perpetrate those tropes anymore, but it seems like they’re still catching up.

Theresa: Sir Malcolm makes me all kinds of uncomfortable when it comes to things like that, particularly in the beginning of the season. I believe his name was Sembene, and as soon as they show him baking the cake and everything like that, you’re like, “Oh man, that’s it. They’re giving him a back story. It’s coming. I know what’s going to happen in the finale.” And then to open up season three with Sir Malcolm in Africa, bemoaning, like, “Oh, where did everybody go? They’re all slaves in the diamond mine.” I’m like, “Who helped contribute to that? You’re terrible. And now you’re complaining about it.” “There’s no new places to explore. Oh, let me go to America. Oh, now I’ve got a new person of color as my sidekick who is also kind of a really uncomfortable trope.” This noble native spirit, Kaetenay. I wanted to love him so much because I love Wes Studi. He’s a fantastic actor. But the character of Kaetenay never got out of that mystical, noble Native American, spirit guide, skinwalker. “You are all Apache now.” It was just very stilted and just so odd. It really did not make me like Sir Malcolm very much at all. And then we meet Dr. Jekyll, who I think did have a very nuanced, sympathetic backstory. By making him a person of mixed race and what it did to his mother, how he was outcast in both countries. I thought they handled that very well. It’s like two extremes in the same show and in the same season.

Right, and Christie, you mentioned the Angelique character as well. Do you want to say anything more about that character? Christie: Yeah, I was so thrilled that she was there. It made me so happy. You don’t often see trans people in mainstream television, with some notable exceptions, of course, but I loved her character. I loved her relationship with Dorian. I thought that was going to go somewhere. I was really excited to keep her around, and then, once again, they killed her off. Again, I have to ask, how did you guys not know that that wasn’t okay?

Even aside from it being problematic in that way, just from a plot standpoint, it seemed very strange to me that that character’s story didn’t seem to develop the way that I was expecting it to be or thought it should be.

Christie: Yeah, it seemed thin. I don’t know what their intention was, obviously, but I just felt like that could have gone so far, and it didn’t.

Theresa: She was such an interesting character to introduce because I think what happens with a lot of period shows is you get very sort of white, heteronormative cast because they can just be like, “Well, that’s how it was then.” They kind of did the right thing by introducing these characters, but then, like you said, then they killed them off. It’s like, “But why did you do that?” Especially with Angelique. Actually, it could have been any of the folks that we’ve been talking about. There was a different version of that story where Angelique and Dorian’s storyline came to an end, but then she just went somewhere else. It didn’t have to fall into that trope of killing off that character.

What did you guys make of Lily’s deranged feminist revolution storyline?

Theresa: I think Gamergaters love her now. That’s one of the things that I loved about the show the most, just like how madcap, over-the-top, like, “Oh my God, let’s listen to the Bride of Frankenstein have a fantastic monologue about female agency.” I am on a lot of podcasts about Game of Thrones and other shows, and I feel like I’m brought in to talk about the feminist perspective or how the women are handled, and I think Penny Dreadful is like, legit, out in the open, more than most any other show that’s been on TV in a long time, about female agency and women and fear of women in power. I could talk about this stuff and not be like, “Oh, you’re just seeing stuff that isn’t there.” Or, “Why are you always calling out the feminist things?” It’s so obvious in Penny Dreadful. Lily said it all. When she spoke to Victor and the creature about, “You think you know me. You don’t know anything about me. You created me. You gave me no choice, but I’m aware, and this is what I’m going to do, and you’re all going to kneel before me.” I thought it was brilliant, because when people usually think of the Bride of Frankenstein, she hisses and screams. She doesn’t ever get to speak for herself. I thought her monologue when she’s beseeching Victor for her freedom at the end was incredibly powerful and very, very well done.

Theresa: Yes. I legit had a little tear roll down when she’s begging, “Please don’t take my daughter away from me by wiping out my memory.” I thought that was heartbreaking.

Angela: There was also that great moment earlier in the season where she was sitting outside, Justine, where they were sitting outside that café, and they see the Suffragettes walking by, and Justine asks Lily, “Do you agree with them?” And she’s like, “No, our enemies are the same, but they seek equality.” And Justine’s like, “Well, what are we after?” And Justine says, “Mastery.” There was that moment of being like, no, no, no, it’s such that over-the-top thing that she played so well in a couple of key moments this season.

Getting back then to the literary influences because, speaking of the Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s Monster, I think most people who haven’t read the novel think of the creature as being the Boris Karloff kind of moaning, shambling giant and not like the Shelly-quoting, soulful creature from the novel. I really liked that they brought the creature from the novel into this TV show, which I think is a lot more interesting.

Theresa: Agreed. I wasn’t a huge fan of him for the first two seasons. I really was mad when he killed the second experiment guy.

No, but that was amazing. Oh my God.

Theresa: That was quite an entrance. That was amazing, but it was like, no, Mr. Prometheus or whoever, you were so nice.

Proteus, yeah.

Theresa: Then, oh my God, “What happened?”

I thought that was brilliant, Theresa. That was probably my favorite moment of the first season because Dr. Frankenstein has created this Proteus creature who seems perfectly nice, and you’re like, “Wait, this isn’t the story. What’s going on here?” Then when the original monster just rips him in half, it’s like, “Oh, now I see what’s going on here. I was not expecting that.” Theresa: That was amazing. Poor Proteus, but yeah, that was absolutely incredible. Definitely one of the best moments of the first season where the show really subverted and surprised. Season two is kind of like, “Shut up, you’re really whiny and entitled. You’re not owed love. Nobody is owed love just by merely existing. Shut up, monster. Go away.” This last season, I liked him more when he was starting to recover some memories and he was visiting his family. I thought that was really poignant and done really nicely. I love him in Antarctica too. Seeing how they’ve literally walked him out of that situation with the stranded ship and the dying people. It was really well done.

That seems kind of weird to me because I felt like at the end of season two he’s sailing off to the arctic, and I was expecting that to really be a major part of the story, and then it was kind of like, “Eh, screw this, let’s go back to London. It’s more interesting there.”

Christie: It was a nice nod to the novel, which opens with Frankenstein pursuing his monster across the arctic, snow, ice, cold, desolation.

Theresa: Beyond the wall.

Christie: [Laughter] Beyond the wall, exactly. It was nice to get that nod. I felt like that was one of those Easter eggs, right? Unless you’ve actually read it, you wouldn’t know that that was a thing. But, it was short and they brought him back to London where he needed to be because that’s where the action was. I looked at it as a cool Easter egg.

Angela, do you have any other favorite moments from seasons one and two?

Angela: I did really enjoy when Vanessa confronted the witches and the whole “know your master” moment. That was the standup and cheer moment, I think, from that season, for me. As much as the way she was dealt with ultimately was not great, I loved everything that Angelique was in. I think that was mostly in season two. There were so many great moments. They played ping-pong at one point, and I was just like, “This is fantastic.” I don’t even know if this has anything to do with the plot, but I just love that these two characters are having a date and going to play ping-pong now. There were many great moments like that.

Theresa: I think one of my favorite surprises, from season one in particular, was Josh Hartnett. I really kind of shamefully had not a very high opinion of him as an actor. I hadn’t seen him in very much. I liked him in Sin City for the ten minutes he was in it. Could not name many other movies he was in. The Faculty.

Theresa: That was so long ago. I don’t remember it. So, he kind of blew me away with his performance too. I was like, “Wow, I’m really liking Josh Hartnett in this. He’s not the poor man’s Ethan Hawke. He’s really quite something in this.” They were so heavily hinting that he was the Wolfman. I think I was a little slow on the draw on that one. I didn’t quite get it. Didn’t get that that was coming until it did and then you were like, “Oh, shit, he’s The Wolfman. Duh.”

How were they heavily hinting? I could see how they were hinting, but I don’t see how they were heavily hinting it.

Theresa: Well, with all the massacres and the “someone’s responsible.” I just felt like when I watched it the second time, I was like, “Oh yeah, there were little clues here with his blackouts,” and yes, there is something else going on here. He’s got another personality. I thought maybe he was Jack the Ripper. So then, when he was the Wolfman, you were really surprised.

The only hint, really, in retrospect was that there’s the scene where he confronts these three wolves in one of the really early episodes and they leave him alone.

Theresa: Yeah, and then after that it was these murders happening around London, and something that seemed supernatural was involved with it. I was like, “He’s the only one we don’t know all that much about. He’s a stranger here in London. There’s no one else to backup any of his stories. He’s kind of a question mark.” I was very surprised when he turned out to be the Wolfman, but then in retrospect, I was like, “Yeah, I could see it.”

Christie, do you have any other favorite moments that you want to mention?

Christie: Yeah, and Ethan, actually, is at the center of it. I was skeptical about him too at the beginning, but he definitely won me over. Largely because of the relationship with Brona, which is one of my great frustrations, which I hope we’ll get back to in a moment. But my favorite moment in, I guess that was season one, was Ethan exorcising the demon out of nowhere. We just rewatched, and chills, chills again. And I didn’t see it coming, and I’m so frustrated that we never found out why he was able to do that. When did he join the priesthood? At no point is this explained to us, but I found that that was just a thrilling moment. After everything that Vanessa has been through. He’s been hanging back this whole time, and it turns out that he has this fundamental power that is complimentary to her, I don’t know if you would call it power, but affliction, we’ll call it. Again, I was hoping that was going to go somewhere. I was waiting for us to find out where in his background this came from. They kept calling him the Wolf of God, but is that just because he was a wolf man or was there more to it than that? Did he get this power by becoming a werewolf, or was there something more? Because it felt to me like there was some sort of religious undercurrent going on there that had to do with something more than however he became a werewolf. Maybe everyone else got it and I didn’t.

No, I completely agree with you, Christie, that all the stuff with the prophecies and the Wolf of God and Lucifer never really gelled for me in season three. I guess that leads into some of my frustrations with the series finale where this resonates with religious people in a way that it doesn’t for me as a non-religious person. I’ve heard John Logan talk about how he sees this as the character’s arc to lose her faith in season two and then get it back in season three. It just fell completely flat for me. I don’t know how you guys felt about it.

Theresa: I was super disappointed in the ending. It’s not so bad a series finale that I can never go back and rewatch the series, not like Lost or the last seasons of Battlestar Galactica or Dexter. I wanted to set fire to everything about Dexter’s finale. But, it was so flat and rushed. Yeah, I thought the ending with her seeing the lord, like, “I see the Lord,” and it did make a little sense in a way because that’s what her big doubt was. That God would never find her again, and she was so lost in the darkness. I get it on one level, but they could’ve made it more epic and more dramatic. It just felt way too rushed. She was separate from Ethan for so long, and then to have the Wolf of God protect her, and then he shoots her? You don’t have to be anything special to shoot Vanessa. That was so lame. Like, what? Really? That’s it? Just a nice, tasteful little bullet in her side to make her all dramatic and a pale pretty corpse. Oh, it was so lame. Boo.

Angela: And the end with a kiss, or whatever that line is. I was like, “Really?” It turned Twilight in thirty seconds or less all of the sudden. It got a little too mushy, I think, for me, at the end.

Christie: I’m rolling my eyes just at the recollection of those scenes. I have nothing good to say about the finale, and we just watched it last night. So, no.

Theresa: The wound is still fresh.

Christie: We sat there just kind of going, “What just happened? Really? That’s it?”

Theresa: We didn’t even get to see her hanging with Dracula. We saw her in her cool black dress for five minutes. I’m like, what the hell were you doing with Dracula? Where did this miasma come from? Can we get a little more with that? Dracula was nothing. He was like, “Yeah, I’m just going to hang on the front porch and play cards. While she’s over in the back room staring at a brick wall or something.” What? What?

Right, and in season three both Vanessa and Ethan have scenes where they embrace the darkness that I just found comprehensibly unpersuasive. They just didn’t seem at all like what those characters would do in any way, shape, or form.

Theresa: Totally agree.

Christie: Until you mentioned it a moment ago, I had forgotten that Ethan and Vanessa had been lovers. Because I’m still wondering what the hell happens to Ethan and Brona. How did they never, ever, ever see each other again?

Theresa: I know. So unsatisfying.

Christie: How did that arc never come back around? Because that was the compelling one to me. I didn’t understand . . . the Ethan and Vanessa thing just . . . zero sparks. Zero chemistry as far as I can tell. But Ethan and Brona/Lily, they’re running in the same circles, but they never see each other again. He never finds out what happened to the person that he was so desperately in love with all that time.

Theresa: The Ethan/Brona thing was inconceivable that we never get any closure on that. Even more than we never see Dr. Jekyll hulk out. Oh my God, all season, “You’ve got quite a temper there, mister. Oh, you better watch yourself or you’ll lose control.” And then nothing. “Oh, okay, peace out. Bye.” I really thought they were going a whole different direction with that. When they first met I was like, “Oh, there’s more to Victor than we know.” I don’t know. Maybe it’s me being too literal about it, but when Jekyll is getting all close up to Victor, and they’re talking about how they experimented in college, I was like, “Oh, this is an interesting angle on Victor and Dr. Jekyll. I could go for this. This is interesting.” And then that never happened either, and he never even hulked out. It got canceled too soon. I thought by the end, the creature and Lily, they were going to bring the band back together for the finale. No, the creature and Lily just walk off. Dorian’s standing in a room for eternity. But then, weirdly, everyone is in Bedlam in the basement. Like, oh, hey Victor, come with us while we go fight Dracula for this woman you vaguely remember from a year ago, maybe. It was just so odd.

Speaking of how this should have ended, I liked this listener comment from Agnes Denny, she says what she would have liked to see was the Catriona character saves Vanessa and they ride off together. Christie: Can we talk about her for a moment? Ugh, what was that? Again, you cannot tell me that this was supposed to be the final season. You just introduced her, and I don’t know who she is. I looked her up. She doesn’t seem to be any kind of canon character. Insights?

Angela: I thought she had such a great introduction, and then the couple of interactions that she had with Vanessa in those two episodes where they were really clicking, I was like, “This is going somewhere. I support this 100 percent.” Then she just came and killed a couple of vampires in the end, and then we never know what happens to her after that. She was like this really awesome super woman, and then she was just gone. I was like, “Wait, but I liked her. Where did she go? Bring her back. She was great.”

Theresa: I kind of hated her. She was like the Poochie of Penny Dreadful. I did like her introduction. I was like, “Oh, this researcher into death.” I liked her with Vanessa. But, the more she hung out, and it was like, “Oh, she’s great at everything.” She was such that Mary Sue kind of character. She learned all these languages, and she fights karate, and she wears pants, and has short hair. She doesn’t feel any of the loneliness and isolation that Vanessa does. I guess we didn’t get to know her very well. Then she’s showing up in the finale, and Ethan and Sir Malcolm are making eyes at her, especially Sir Malcolm. It’s like, “Blech, gross, dude.” You should be looking at Dr. Seward. Be age appropriate. It just felt like they were trying so hard. Like, look at this cool character. It reminded me of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. That kind of thing. Too anachronistic for me. I was not feeling it. I did read something saying they did think about doing a spin off with Catriona and Sir Malcolm, perhaps. But, I wouldn’t have watched it for very long.

I agree with you that she didn’t seem to fit the milieu as well as the other characters did. I thought she was cool. I think if they had introduced her abilities and character over a much longer span of episodes, I think it would have worked better for me, but just how suddenly she comes and does all this stuff. It was another thing that felt rushed and weird toward the end of the show.

Theresa: I felt like since Ethan and Sir Malcolm were away they needed to introduce a character by Vanessa who could be in physical fights, like physically protect Vanessa because Vanessa wasn’t a fighter like that. But Vanessa has her own powers. She doesn’t need a ninja, fencer lady.

I’m kind of struck that I think Theresa and Christie both said this was their favorite show on TV, if I’ve got that right? And then Angela you said you were evangelizing for it, but then it sounds like you guys have really mixed feelings about the show by the end. Do you want to talk about that a bit?

Christie: Sure, I mean, every show, no matter what, I’m never going to be 100 percent satisfied with anything, but I felt like it spoke to my creative sensibilities. Again, it warmed my Gothy little heart. All the nods to Gothic literature, and again, they did so many things right. They really did. It was really only in the last two or three episodes that they lost me. I think they got canceled, and whatever they say, it wasn’t their fault. You cannot convince me that this was supposed to end right now. But, of course, I think as writers and creators, we’re always looking for things that we can improve in our own work and in the entertainment that we consume. So, if I’m critical of things like killing off Angelique, that’s why. Because I would like to see it done better. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love the show, and it doesn’t mean that I didn’t love her. I did. That’s why I was upset. But, again, still my favorite show. Now it’s gone, and I don’t know what’s going to replace it.

Theresa: I have no idea what could fill the Penny Dreadful-shaped hole in my heart, which was still healing from Hannibal. Like Christie, I was also teenage Goth, inside still Goth, still covered in eyeliner. What I loved about this, Penny Dreadful and Orphan Black both had licensed agreements with Hot Topic, so you could buy scorpion tops and little cheapie knock off corset kind of things and bustles at Hot Topic, and teenage me would have gone berserk for this. What a perfect thing. Between that and Orphan Black, how good is that to be a teen right now loving this kind of stuff? Yeah, you can love something and have problems with it. I’ve been reviewing Game of Thrones for six years now, and there’re things I love about it, and there’re things that I will take them to task heavily for. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Angela, do you want to add anything to that?

Angela: I feel like any time a show ends, there’s that bittersweet period where it was never going to live up to what you wanted it to be, and especially something like this where the end was a pseudo-surprise. I feel like there’s always that sense of dread, pardon the pun. So, I think that’s just where I’m at with it. I will never not have loved three-quarters, five-eighths, or whatever of this show, and the fact that it ended on more of a whimper than I wanted it to doesn’t smear the entire show for me. It’s still going to be one of my favorite shows. I’m definitely also going to have that Penny Dreadful-sized hole in my heart for a while, which is probably what Penny Dreadful would have wanted for me. In that regard, it ended as it should have. It’s a letdown, but I will take many memories . . . what was the line? “Think of me only when you dance.” Then it’s like, “Well, I shall have to dance more often.” I will dance more often now. We mentioned that the ratings for this were never what they needed to be. Do you think that was inevitable, that it couldn’t have been more popular just given its nature, or do you think that they could’ve tweaked some things that would have made it appeal to a larger audience without losing what you guys liked about it?

Theresa: That’s a tough question because it had all that. Penny Dreadful itself, even what it’s named after, has all those lowest common denominator carrots like tits and gore, you know? Everybody likes that. Well, most people like that in their entertainment. It’s an easy hook to be look, “Oh look, cable, murder, sex, hard-R rating.” But to make it more accessible, I don’t know. Maybe people were turned off by the historical nature of it, the period piece and the literary aspect of it. Maybe people are burned out from Game of Thrones and Outlander. There are all these other historical kind of shows on, and this one was so different. I think if anyone could figure out what would have made them be more popular, there would be a lot more great television shows on.

Angela: I think that there were so many things that were . . . I don’t know if they were specific to a certain kind of audience, but when we talk about the Easter eggs for people who have read, say, Dracula or The Picture of Dorian Gray, or something like that, there are those things where it would catch on with that core audience, and if it didn’t catch on beyond that, after a certain point then maybe it never would have, and if it would have tried to appeal more broadly then all of the original fans who came for those little Easter eggs, and those things that said “I like that thing you like,” then maybe it would have lost its core fan base in the process. It’s a very tough question to answer, I think.

Angela, in one of you articles you quote John Logan: “This show is just too hyper- literate.” And he says, “Thank you, I agree.”

Angela: Yeah, I think if you tell him his show is “bookish” it’s probably the biggest compliment you could ever possibly give him. I think he also said something to the effect of his show will probably hold the record somewhere for the most long phrases of poetry ever recited on a television show. He’s gotten away with citing more Wordsworth than any show runner in the history of cable. But, again, that’s sort of a specific thing that appeals to a certain set of us who wore eyeliner in high school, or at least exclusively black eye liner in high school.

Christie: I think it’s literate. It’s dark. And I think the grotesquerie of it is really a turn off to a lot of people. Just even the opening sequence, there’s dissection going on. That appeals to people who like Hannibal. It’s a real turn off to people who don’t. It would have lost its heart if it didn’t have those very specific kind of notes to it, and it’s what drew me to the show. I love the dark and the grotesque. I love the demons, and the reanimations, and the resurrectionists. I’m into all of that. Not everybody is. Most of my local friends are not. I would not be able to get any of them to watch that show, but where we kind of intellectually and creatively live, we can find our kind on the internet quite easily, but I don’t know that we necessarily are reflective of the population at large.

Right, because this show is very deliberately paced, and I would say when I first started watching it, I really liked that, and it felt very artistic and serious in a way that most television doesn’t feel to me. But, then by season three, I felt like some of the scenes were so long. I was just like, “Oh, get on with it.” I do wonder if they had tightened up the pacing a little bit if that would have cast a wider net as far as potential fans.

Angela: It might have prevented some attrition for sure. I don’t know about getting more later. I agree. There were some slogging things that were happening in season two and three, but I think that would be more a matter of losing people than not gaining them at that point. Because it seems like it would be hard to jump into, wouldn’t it?

Theresa: I feel that way a lot about most TV nowadays. I think the way people view TV is starting to change because they can binge it on demand whenever they want. I didn’t get into Penny Dreadful until after the first season had aired, and then I spent a really awesome weekend just watching it for hours on end and enjoying it, but I couldn’t imagine going into it in season two, fresh. We don’t watch TV like that anymore. You can always go back and find it on Netflix, find it on demand, streaming on Amazon. I don’t think people expect to come into a second season or a third season new. I think it presents a challenge for show runners with how are they going to grow an audience by word of mouth if they’re not getting enough people to actually watch it because I think critics like the show. I don’t think they liked it as much as they liked Hannibal, and Hannibal had an even more active fan base on social media. Penny Dreadful, I really can’t say that much about it. I don’t know many people who even have Showtime in general, which is going to be really weird for the new Twin Peaks series.

One other thing I wonder that might have killed off the show is how expensive it is to produce. I mentioned the sumptuousness of it. You just look at it and it looks like it cost a lot of money to make. One scene that jumped out at me, in particular, is there’s the big dance ball in Dorian Gray’s mansion where then all the costumes get soaked in blood, and I was like, “Oh my God, how much did it cost to have all those costumes and all that fake blood and everything.” I just couldn’t believe the scale of that scene. Angela: I don’t know what the cost-benefit analysis is for something like that, but I hear what you’re saying. That could have been something that definitely when you look at a balance sheet, like, “Well, is this giving us what we want here?”

We’re pretty much out of time now, any final thoughts on Penny Dreadful? Theresa, final thoughts, anything else you want to say on Penny Dreadful?

Theresa: I still will look forward to watching episodes again. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I think I will come up with my own alternate head canons after season two, when we see Vanessa becoming a master of her inner dark in her soul. I’ll just try to imagine my own story. And also where Victor and Dr. Jekyll are murder husbands of a different sort.

I forgot to mention something. The Angelique character was played by an actor named Jonny Beauchamp, and my girlfriend, Stephanie, was actually good friends with him growing up, and they used to pretend to be witches together.

Christie: No way. That’s amazing.

Theresa: So jealous.

And so when I met her she mentioned, “Oh, there was this guy, Johnny Beauchamp I was friends with, and he moved to another school, and we lost track of him, and I tried to Google him, and we couldn’t find what had happened to him, and then it just turned out that he had been bullied so badly that he decided to leave school and go to become an actor.” So then he just showed up. He was in the Stonewall movie, there was something else he was in too. It was pretty interesting to have him show up in this thing that we were watching.

Theresa: That makes me extra mad about Angelique.

Christie: Likewise. Well, may success be the best revenge for him.

Christie, any final thoughts on Penny Dreadful?

Christie: Yes, someone please, please, please bring it back. I’m having a Firefly moment, guys. This is really not okay. I guess if no one is going to, then I’m going to go write some Brona and Ethan fan fic. Theresa: I think I smell an anthology brewing. Continue on your favorite shows in thinly veiled fan fiction.

Christie: I like it. I’ll see what I can do.

Angela, final thoughts?

Angela: I would say, if nothing else, please find another home for Eva Green on cable. I just need her to be in something that I get to watch every week. It doesn’t have to be all year long. It can be a ten- or twelve-episode arc. I feel like she’s an actress who’s always great, and I’m always so happy to see her, but I never see her enough, so please get her another HBO show or Cinemax, Showtime show. If we can’t get Penny Dreadful back, at least get me Eva Green back. The letter writing campaign starts now. That’s all I’ll say about that.

I wanted to mention, man, no one plays possessed like Eva Green. Oh man. She’s absolutely terrifying.

Angela: Her eyes go gaunt, and yeah, there’s something expressive about her face and her bone structure that she can relay that so well without even thinking about it. It’s incredible.

Theresa: The way she drops her voice. You can just tell. Her whole body language changes completely. So impressive.

All right, so someone make a show about someone who’s possessed.

Angela: Starring Eva Green.

We’re going to wrap things up there. We’ve been speaking with Theresa DeLucci, Christie Yant, and Angela Watercutter. Guys, thank you so much for joining us.

Angela: Thanks for having me.

Christie: Thanks for having us.

Theresa: Thank you for letting me join the coven. ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction/fantasy talk show podcast. It is produced by John Joseph Adams and hosted by: David Barr Kirtley, who is the author of thirty short stories, which have appeared in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, and Lightspeed, in books such as Armored, The Living Dead, Other Worlds Than These, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, and on podcasts such as Escape Pod and Pseudopod. He lives in New York. AUTHOR SPOTLIGHTS Author Spotlight: Dale Bailey Sandra Odell | 774 words

From an innocuous title, to a no-holds barred beginning, “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” drives the reader straight to the heart of the story. Tell us a little of what inspired you to write such a delightfully horrific tale.

I set myself a challenge a few years ago to write a series of stories using the titles of cheesy SF/horror movies from the 1950s as a source of inspiration. The idea was to honor the pulpy nature of the material while treating it with subtlety and emotional nuance. So far, three of them have seen print—The Creature from the Black Lagoon (retitled “The Creature Recants”), “I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” and “Teenagers from Outer Space,” with another one forthcoming (“Invasion of the Saucer- Men”). In this particular case, I was struck by the fact that there have been lots of teenage werewolf movies, from the original Michael Landon flick to Teen Wolf and Ginger Snaps and When Animals Dream. Clearly the teenage werewolf motif is a popular one. I wrote the story to try to figure out why.

Fans of classic B-grade horror movies will recognize many of the characters and the references to plot elements in the 1957 “I Was a Teenage Werewolf”. Here, you pull back and explore the dark lands between the thrill of being frightened and the true meaning of horror that reaches beyond the screen. What is it about that thrill of horror, of being scared, that appeals to readers and moviegoers?

This is the question every horror writer faces at one time or another. In trying to answer it, I suppose I’d reach all the way back to Aristotle and the idea of catharsis—the notion that we purge ourselves of our fears by facing them in an essentially safe space. Horror stories are like amusement park rides in that way: no matter how bad it gets, you know you’re going to step off safe when it’s over.

Though you step off the silver screen, you perfectly capture much of the tension of the generation gap at the heart of the movie. In its own way, this tension plagued the older generations of the 1950s: Elvis; rock music; changing politics; the post-war economic boom; children growing up with “minds of their own.” Even the I Was a Teenage Werewolf movie was considered to be a bad influence on the youth of the day. As a writer, do you see much of the same response to today’s popular culture and how it affects the up and coming generations? To the extent that pop culture is teen culture, I think adults will always worry about how it might affect their kids. I know I do. I’m the parent of a teenager. I’m pretty sure she’s a werewolf.

You make good use of a distant narrative tone, granting a wider point of view, delving into character’s thoughts and emotions, creeping under the thin veneer of the movie in pursuit of a different story. Why did you choose this particular style of story telling?

The real answer is that the story chooses its own telling—or at least that’s been my experience. In this case, I think the narrative voice serves the larger ideas in the piece, which isn’t about any one single teenager, but about the way teenagers in general experience the world differently than adults do, and the tensions between the two groups that consequently arise. But that insight, for whatever it’s worth, is the product of looking back on the story. I didn’t think much about it as I was writing it. It’s just the way the story unfolded itself.

If you could write yourself into a classic horror movie or story, which one would you choose? Would you be a monster, a hero, or both?

I would never do this. This seems like a fundamentally unwise thing to do.

Who tickles your fancy between the covers? What authors give you the shivers when you want to get your horror on?

I’ve got the standard set of influences, I suppose. The seminal writers for me were Stephen King and . That said, I cast a pretty wide net. Right now I’m reading a lot of short fiction—, David Case (who’s written his fair share of werewolf stories), Michael Shea. It differs from day to day.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Sandra Odell is a forty-seven-year old, happily married mother of two, an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic. Her work has appeared in such venues as Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, Daily Science Fiction, Crosssed Genres, Pseudopod, and The Drabblecast. She is hard at work plotting her second novel or world domination. Whichever comes first. Author Spotlight: Brian Evenson Lisa Nohealani Morton | 648 words

Tell us a bit about “Blood Drip”. How did you come to write it?

I’d written another story called “Black Bark” which was a kind of nightmarish piece with an inset story, in which the telling of the story itself is extremely unsettling to one of the characters (and, hopefully, to the reader). In the frame of the story, there’s brief mention of one of the character’s injured legs creating a kind of bloody, human-like form on the side of his horse, which he calls a blood angel. That image stuck with me. “The Blood Drip” began with the idea of writing something in which that image would be part of an unsettling story told by a character, rather than part of the frame story. “Black Bark” opens my story collection A Collapse of Horses and “The Blood Drip” closes it, and I think reading the stories that way, as echoes of each other, tends to make readers feel a little bit like they’re going crazy in a way analogous to the characters within both stories.

“Something’s wrong,” thought Karsten, “but the worst part of it is that I don’t know for certain what or how much.” This quote could also serve as a summary, of sorts, of “Blood Drip”—the reader knows from the beginning that something is wrong, and spends the length of the story finding out what. Can you talk a bit about the role of suspense in horror?

That sentence could kind of serve as a summary for most of my reading. The horror that has the strongest impact on me has always been horror in which suspense is primary and gets coupled with a kind of dread, so that you feel sure that something is wrong, but that you’re only touching the tip of the iceberg. A friend of mine and I were talking about how disappointing most horror movies are when the monster you’ve been seeing bits and pieces of is finally revealed: it’s almost always a disappointment. It’s much more frightening when you only partly know what’s there, what’s tearing up the world around you, and can’t quite take it in. I can only think of a small handful of movies in which that reveal isn’t a disappointment: The Thing for instance, but it’s not a disappointment there because the creature is protean, is never quite something you can pin down. Fiction, too, has the advantage of never having to completely reveal the monster, of being able to keep us suspended in doubt.

What are you working on these days? Any upcoming publications or exciting projects you’d like to tell readers about? I just published a novella with called “The Warren,” which is probably best described as existential SF horror. Under the name B.K. Evenson, I just finished co- writing a novel with James DeMonaco, director of , which will be out in April. I’m also about halfway toward completing a new collection of stories.

If you had to be the villain from a horror novel, which one would you choose?

It’s pushing the boundary a little bit of what horror is, but I’d say Judge Holden of Blood Meridian. I find him a terrifying and fascinating figure, and many-faceted. Or, if you want to go with a more clearly horror-based choice, I’d say Eli in Let the Right One In, who I find very appealing. I’m also very fond of Dick Dart in ’s The Hellfire Club, but I wouldn’t want to be him exactly . . .

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Born and raised in Honolulu, Lisa Nohealani Morton lives in Washington, DC. By day she is a mild-mannered database wrangler, computer programmer, and all-around data geek, and by night she writes science fiction, fantasy, and combinations of the two. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, and the anthology Hellebore and Rue. She can be found on Twitter as @lnmorton. Author Spotlight: Livia Llewellyn Jude Griffin | 1011 words

How did “The Low, Dark Edge of Life” come about?

The original idea came from a catalog entry I wrote for Nate Pedersen’s The Starry Wisdom Library (PS Publishing), concerning a certain profane tome titled Las Reglas De Ruina—a Lovecraftian book that was originally created by writer Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. for one of his novels. The catalog entry was properly academic in tone, with little plot but a lot of creepy little details about the history of the book and what its purpose might be. I wanted to expand on those details and write a proper story about the book and the female- centric cult that created it, and so I did.

Can you talk about the Lovecraftian elements of the story?

I’m not sure what to say about them. I like vastness, and I’m drawn to Lovecraftian fiction that plays with massive spaces, and with the natural strangeness of horizons and landscapes that seem to defy human definition—not cosmic, but planetary, the spaces that we try to occupy and “civilize” but never truly can. And I wanted to write a character who doesn’t just see that vastness and inhumanness in the natural world, but recognizes it in herself. To me, the very essence of “Lovecraftian” is the discovery and acknowledgement of a place that cannot be colonized or defined by humanity. To exist and thrive in those places means redefining or rejecting altogether what it is to be a human being, especially if that place happens to be your actual flesh and mind. And so the typical Lovecraftian elements in the story (cults, rituals, books) are ones that Lilianett recognizes as too small and confining for the elements she knows have the true transformative power, elements that can’t be seen or imagined by most people, because most people (even with face bees!) don’t know how to see and interpret things in a vast, non-human way. Does any of that make sense? I don’t know.

I kept getting a little of the Dracula/Bram Stoker vibe; was that in the back of your mind at all?

Not at all! Maybe because Stoker’s Dracula and my story are both epistolary in form? Also, I can see some similarities between Mina and Lilianett—I reread Dracula several years ago while writing a story for Suffered From the Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula (Lethe Press), and was surprised to find how forward-thinking and modern Mina was (by 1897 standards), and that she was more than a little frustrated by the limitations placed on her by society and by the men and women around her. I think Lilianett is cut from the same cloth; and I also think they both have the ability to speak to their circumstances in language that is both conventionally formal yet conversational and very to-the-point. There’s a certain clarity in how they see the world, that cuts through all the bullshit trappings of their lives.

What was the logic behind the missing elements (in terms of why did you pick what you did to leave out)?

There wasn’t much in the way of logic; it was really more of an intuitive process. I watch a lot of found-footage horror movies, and I think after so many viewings (seventeen years’ worth and counting), you get a feel for when the footage will cut out and jump to another scene. And it sometimes seems like a mess, but really it’s all very tightly orchestrated and edited for maximum emotional and visceral impact, so that even while you know you’re missing information, you’re still invested enough (hopefully, if it’s any good!) to stick with it all the way to the end. I think I tried to do the same with the story, so as to heighten the mystery and suspense but not be so confusing in the omission of specific facts and scenes that readers (or I should say, the majority of readers) would get frustrated and lose interest.

The bees! I loved them! So weird and creepy and fantastic. Where did they come from?

I have a fascination with insect hive populations and mega-colonies and their various forms of communication, and I’ve always wondered if at some point, insects will figure out a way to manipulate humans into becoming walking bone radios or wetware smart phones or whatever it is they need us to be. And I think of insects as wholly alien and therefore probably excellent at transmitting messages between dimensions, acting as voice carriers or even as video cameras for beings in other planes of existence. So, there might have been a bit of that in the story. I honestly have no idea. Sometimes what I write is a mystery even to myself.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know about this story?

Only that the Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a real place, and it is spectacular—it is exactly as I described it in the story, but more of everything, more beautiful, more mysterious. I spent two weeks there in 2007 with my sister, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Leuven, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit Belgium, I highly recommend a day trip to the city. All the tourists go to Bruges, but Leuven is equally lovely, and far less crowded. Also, the Stella Artois factory is there—so go for the medieval architecture and stay for the giant vats of beer!

Any news or projects you want to share?

I’m still working on my novel and will be finished by Thanksgiving. That’s pretty much it for the time being. I have some shorter projects after that, but right now I can’t think of anything else except clawing my way to “the end.”

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Jude Griffin is an envirogeek, writer, and photographer. She has trained llamas at the Bronx Zoo; was a volunteer EMT, firefighter, and HAZMAT responder; worked as a guide and translator for journalists covering combat in Central America; lived in a haunted village in Thailand; ran an international frog monitoring network; and loves happy endings. Bonus points for frolicking dogs and kisses backlit by a shimmering full moon. Author Spotlight: Priya Sridhar Erika Holt | 403 words

Are you a singer or otherwise into music?

Yes; I was in choir from elementary school up into my first year of college. I was a first soprano through and through. Music is one of my passions; I enjoy listening to orchestra, Broadway, video game and animation music. If you want to win me over, tell me what you think of Hamilton or Undertale. In addition, I trained in the basics of violin playing.

Can you tell us a little bit about the mythology that inspired “The Opera Singer”?

Part of it was the Greek mythos of Circe, a sorceress who would turn any person that came to her into a pig. She was a seductress, and one who holds all the cards. On a standardized test there were tales of asteroids that hit people, tiny rocks that at best were the size of bowling balls. It was interesting to ponder that, instead of giant hellbringers that destroyed the dinosaurs, these could simply cause a random head injury.

Are there any themes you like to revisit in your work? Do you tend to write mostly in one genre?

I tend to write about family, about betrayal and about the mundane things in life that fascinate me. I also enjoy writing about fandom culture. My go-to genres tend to be fantasy and horror, but I also have science fiction and an unpublished mystery tale.

Congratulations on obtaining your MBA! Are you still able to find time to write? Are you finding that easier or harder now that you’ve graduated?

Thank you! I still make the time to write, though my guilty pleasure now is creating entries on TVTropes. Writing has been harder since I started my degree and completed it, but I am determined to get back to my undergraduate energy and optimism.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing some short stories on commission for Philip Lee McCall, a Florida fantasy author and publisher, and preparing for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). I also hope to revise several short stories, one about voice acting, and another about a toy pig that serves as a guardian. I hope that Nightmare will enjoy either of them when they’re ready.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER Nightmare assistant editor Erika Holt lives in Calgary, Alberta, where she writes and edits speculative fiction. Her stories appear in several anthologies including Not Our Kind, What Fates Impose, and Evolve Two: Vampire Stories of the Future Undead. She is also co-editor of two anthologies from EDGE and Absolute XPress: Rigor Amortis, about sexy, amorous zombies, and Broken Time Blues, featuring such oddities as 1920s burlesque dancers and bootlegging chickens. Find her at or on Twitter as @erikaholt. MISCELLANY Coming Attractions, January 2017 The Editors | 115 words

Coming up in January, in Nightmare . . . We have original fiction from Cadwell Turnbull (“Loneliness is in Your Blood”) and (“Redcap”), along with reprints by Lilliam Rivera (“The H8te”) and Ashok Banker (“Blood Mangoes”). We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors and a feature interview. It’s another great issue, so be sure to check it out. And while you’re at it, tell a friend about Nightmare. Looking ahead beyond next month, we’ve got new fiction on the way from , Andrew Fox, Eric Schaller, Nate Southard, and more. Thanks for reading! Stay Connected The Editors

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If you enjoy reading Nightmare, please consider subscribing. It’s a great way to support the magazine, and you’ll get your issues in the convenient format of your choice. You can subscribe directly from our website, via Weightless Books, or via For more information, visit We also have individual ebook issues available at a variety of ebook vendors, and we now have Ebook Bundles available in the Nightmare ebookstore, where you can buy in bulk and save! Buying a Bundle gets you a copy of every issue published during the named period. Buying either of the half-year Bundles saves you $3 (so you’re basically getting one issue for free), or if you spring for the Year One Bundle, you’ll save $11 off the cover price. So if you need to catch up on Nightmare, that’s a great way to do so. Visit for more information. About the Nightmare Team The Editors

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief John Joseph Adams

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If you enjoy reading Nightmare, you might also enjoy these anthologies edited (or co- edited) by John Joseph Adams.

THE APOC​ALYPSE TRIP​TYCH, Vol. 1: The End is Nigh (with ) THE APOC​ALYPSE TRIP​TYCH, Vol. 2: The End is Now (with Hugh Howey) THE APOC​ALYPSE TRIP​TYCH, Vol. 3: The End Has Come (with Hugh Howey) Armored Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015 (with Joe Hill) Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2016 (with Karen Joy Fowler) [forthcoming Oct. 2016] Brave New Worlds By Blood We Live Dead Man’s Hand Epic: Legends Of Fantasy Federations The Improbable Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects Lightspeed: Year One The Living Dead The Living Dead 2 Loosed Upon the World The Mad Scientist’s Guide To World Domination Operation Arcana Other Worlds Than These Oz Reimagined (with Douglas Cohen) Press Start to Play (with Daniel H. Wilson) Robot Uprisings (with Daniel H. Wilson) Seeds of Change Under the Moons of Mars Wastelands Wastelands 2 The Way Of The Wizard What the #@&% Is That? (with Douglas Cohen) [forthcoming Nov. 2016] Visit to learn more about all of the above. Each project also has a mini-site devoted to it specifically, where you’ll find free fiction, interviews, and more.