This fiendish anthology, complied by the horror genre's most acclaimed editor, drags you into the twisted minds of modern literary masters at their fiendish best. Visionary storytellers fill this collection of tales lyrical and strange, monstrous and exhilarating, horrific and transformative.
*A sweetly vengeful voice on the radio calls a young soldier out to join a phantom patrol.
*A hotel maid who threw her newborn child from a fourth-story window lingers in an interminable state.
*An intern in a paranormal research facility delves deeply into the unexplained deaths of two staff members.
*A serial killer plans his ultimate artistic achievement: the unveiling of an extremely special instrument in a very private concert.
At once familiar and shocking, these riveting stories will haunt you long after you put down your book and turn out the light.
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About the Author
Ellen Datlow is one of the best-known editors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror working in the field today. She was the fiction editor of OMNI from 1981–1998 and has since edited the online magazines Event Horizon and Sci Fiction. Her many anthologies include Naked City; Snow White, Blood Red; Blood and Other Cravings; and Poe. Datlow has won five Hugo Awards, eight Locus Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, two Shirley Jackson Awards, and nine World Fantasy Awards.
Read an Excerpt
By Ellen Datlow
Tachyon PublicationsCopyright © 2013 Ellen Datlow
All rights reserved.
Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie
Pat Cadigan has twice won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, for her novels Synners and Fools, and been nominated many times for just about every other award. Although primarily known as a science fiction writer (and as one of the original cyberpunks), she also writes fantasy and horror, which can be found in her collections Patterns, Dirty Work, and Home by the Sea. The author of fifteen books, including two nonfiction and one young adult novel, she currently has two new novels in progress.
She lives in North London with her husband, the Original Chris Fowler, and her son Rob.
In the long, late summer afternoons in the alley behind the tenement where Milo Sinclair had lived, the pavement smelled baked and children's voices carried all over the neighborhood. The sky, cracked by TV aerials, was blue, the way it never is after you're nine years old and in the parking lot of La Conco D'Oro Restaurant the garlic-rich aroma of Sicilian cooking was always heavy in the air.
It had never been that way for the boy walking down the alley beside Milo. La Conco D'Oro didn't exist anymore; the cool, coral-tinted interior Milo had glimpsed when he'd been a kid now held a country-western bar, ludicrous in a small industrial New England town. He smiled down at the boy a little sadly. The boy grinned back. He was much smaller than Milo remembered being at the same age. He also remembered the world being bigger. The fence around Mr. Parillo's garden had been several inches higher than his head. He paused at the spot where the garden had been, picturing it in front of the brown and tan Parillo house where the irascible old gardener had been landlord to eleven other families. The Parillo house was worse than just gone—the city was erecting a smacking new apartment house on the spot. The new building was huge, its half-finished shell spreading over to the old parking lot where the bigger boys had sometimes played football. He looked at the new building with distaste. It had a nice clean brick facade and would probably hold a hundred families inplasterboard box rooms. Several yards back up the alley, his old tenement stood, empty now, awaiting the wrecking ball. No doubt another erstwhile hundred-family dwelling would rise there, too.
Beside Milo, the boy was fidgeting in an innocent, patient way. Some things never changed. Kids never held still, never had, never would. They'd always fumble in their pants pockets and shift their weight from one foot to the other, just the way the boy was doing. Milo gazed thoughtfully at the top of the white-blond head. His own sandy hair had darkened a good deal, though new grey was starting to lighten it again.
Carelessly, the boy kicked at a pebble. His sneaker laces flailed the air. "Hey," said Milo. "Your shoelaces came untied."
The boy was unconcerned. "Yeah, they always do."
"You could trip on 'em, knock your front teeth out. That wouldn't thrill your mom too much. Here." Milo crouched on one knee in front of the boy. "I'll tie 'em for you so they'll stay tied."
The boy put one sneaker forward obligingly, almost touching Milo's shoe. It was a white sneaker with a thick rubber toe. And Milo remembered again how it had been that last long late summer afternoon before he and his mother had moved away.
There in the alley behind Water Street, in Water St. Lane, when the sun hung low and the shadows stretched long, they had all put their feet in, making a dirty canvas rosette, Milo and Sammy and Stevie, Angie, Kathy, Flora and Bonnie, for Rhonda to count out. Rhonda always did the counting because she was the oldest. She tapped each foot with a strong index finger, chanting the formula that would determine who would be IT for a game of hide-'n-seek.
Eenie, meenie, ipsateenie
Goo, gah, gahgoleenie
Ahchee, pahchee, Liberace
Out goes Y-O-U!
Stevie pulled his foot back. He was thin like Milo but taller and freckled all over. Protestant. His mother was living with someone who wasn't his father. The Sicilian tongues wagged and wagged. Stevie didn't care. At least he didn't have an oddball name like Milo and he never had to get up for church on Sunday. His black high-top sneakers were P.F. Flyers for running faster and jumping higher.
Eenie, meenie, ipsateenie ...
Nobody said anything while Rhonda chanted. When she counted you, you stayed counted and you kept quiet. Had Rhonda been the first to say Let's play hide-'n- seek? Milo didn't know. Suddenly all of them had been clamoring to play, all except him. He hated hide-'n-seek, especially just before dark, which was when they all wanted to play most. It was the only time for hide-'n-seek, Rhonda always said. It was more fun if it was getting dark. He hated it, but if you didn't play you might as well go home, and it was too early for that. Besides, the moving van was coming tomorrow. Aunt Syl would be driving him and his mother to the airport. He might not play anything again for months. But why did they have to play hide-'n-seek?
Out goes Y-O-U!
Kathy slid her foot out of the circle. She was never IT. She was Rhonda's sister, almost too young to play. She always cried if she lost a game. Everyone let her tag the goal so she wouldn't cry and go home to complain Rhonda's friends were picking on her, bringing the wrath of her mother down on them. Her mother would bust up the game. Milo wished she'd do that now, appear on the street drunk in her housedress and slippers, the way she did sometimes, and scream Rhonda and Kathy home. Then they'd have to play something else. He didn't like any of them when they were playing hide-'n-seek. Something happened to them when they were hiding, something not very nice. Just by hiding, they became different, in a way Milo could never understand or duplicate. All of them hid better than he could, so he always ended up being found last, which meant that he had to be IT. He had to go look for them, then; he was the hunter. But not really. Searching for them in all the dark places, the deep places where they crouched breathing like animals, waiting to jump out at him, he knew they were all the hunters and he was the prey. It was just another way for them to hunt him. And when he found them, when they exploded from their hiding places lunging at him, all pretense of his being the hunter dropped away and he ran, ran like hell and hoped it was fast enough, back to thegoal to tag it ahead of them. Otherwise he'd have to be IT all over again and the things he found squatting under stairs and behind fences became a little worse than before, a little more powerful.
Out goes Y-O-U!
Sammy's sneaker scraped the pavement as he dragged it out of the circle. Sammy was plump around the edges, the baby fat he had carried all his life melting away. He wore Keds, at war with Stevie's P.F. Flyers to see who could really run faster and jump higher. Sammy could break your arm. Milo didn't want to have to look for him. He'd never be able to outrun Sammy. He stared at Rhonda's fuzzy brown head bent over their feet with the intentness of a jeweler counting diamonds. He tried to will her to count him out next. If he could just make it through one game without having to be IT, then it might be too late to play another. They would all have to go home when the streetlights came on. Tomorrow he would leave and never have to find any of them again.
Out goes Y-O-U!
Bonnie. Then Flora. They came and went together in white sneakers and blue Bermuda shorts, Bonnie the follower and Flora the leader. You could tell that right away by Flora's blue cat's-eye glasses. Bonnie was chubby, ate a lot of pasta, smelled like sauce. Flora was wiry from fighting with her five brothers. She was the one who was always saying you could hear Milo coming a mile away because of his housekeys. They were pinned inside his pocket on a Good Luck key chain from Pleasure Island, and they jingled when he ran. He put his hand down deep in his pocket and clutched the keys in his sweaty fist.
Out goes Y-O-Me!
Rhonda was safe. Now it was just Milo and Angie, like a duel between them with Rhonda's finger pulling the trigger. Angie's dark eyes stared out of her pointy little face. She was a thin girl, all sharp angles and sharp teeth. Her dark brown hair was caught up in a confident ponytail. If he were IT, she would be waiting for him more than any of the others, small but never frightened. Milo gripped his keys tighter. None of them were ever frightened. It wasn't fair.
Out goes Y-O-U!
Milo backed away, his breath exploding out of him in relief. Angie pushed her face against the wall of the tenement, closing her eyes and throwing her arms around her head to show she wasn't peeking. She began counting toward one hundred by fives, loud, so everyone could hear. You couldn't stop it now. Milo turned and fled, pounding down the alley until he caught up with Stevie and Sammy.
"Don't follow us!" "Your keys are jingling!" "Milo, you always get caught, bug off!" Stevie and Sammy ran faster, but he kept up with them all the way across the parking lot down to Middle Street, where they ducked into a narrow space between two buildings. Milo slipped past them so Stevie was closest to the outside. They stood with their backs to the wall like little urban guerrillas, listening to the tanky echoes of their panting.
"She coming?" Milo whispered after a minute.
"How the hell should we know, think we got X-ray vision?"
"Why'd you have to come with us, go hide by yourself, sissy-piss!"
Milo didn't move. If he stayed with them, maybe they wouldn't change into the nasty things. Maybe they'd just want to hurry back and tag the goal fast so they could get rid of him.
Far away Angie shouted, "Ready or not, here I come, last one found is IT!" Milo pressed himself hard against the wall, wishing he could melt into it like Casper the Friendly Ghost. They'd never find him if he could walk through walls. But he'd always be able to see them, no matter where they hid. They wouldn't make fun of him then. He wouldn't need his housekeys anymore, either, so they'd never know when he was coming up behind them. They'd be scared instead of him.
"My goal one-two-three!" Kathy's voice was loud and mocking. She'd just stuck near the goal again so she could tag it the minute Angie turned her back. Angie wouldn't care. She was looking for everyone else and saving Milo for last.
"She coming?" Milo asked again.
Sammy's eyes flickered under half-closed lids. Suddenly his hand clamped onto Milo's arm, yanking him around to Stevie, who shoved him out onto the sidewalk. Milo stumbled, doing a horrified little dance as he tried to scramble back into hiding. Sammy and Stevie blocked his way.
"Guess she isn't. Coming." Sammy smiled. Milo retreated, bumping into a car parked at the curb as they came out and walked past him. He followed, keeping a careful distance. They went up the street past the back of Mr. Parillo's to the yard behind the rented cottage with the grapevine. Sammy and Stevie stopped at the driveway. Milo waited behind them.
The sunlight was redder, hot over the cool wind springing up from the east. The day was dying. Sammy nodded. He and Stevie headed silently up the driveway to a set of cool stone steps by the side door of the cottage. The steps led to a skinny passage between the cottage and Bonnie's father'sgarage that opened at the alley directly across from the goal. They squatted at the foot of the steps, listening. Up ahead, two pairs of sneakers pattered on asphalt.
"My goal one-two-three!" "My goal one-two-three!" Flora and Bonnie together. Where was Angie? Sammy crawled halfway up the steps and peeked over the top.
"See her?" Milo asked.
Sammy reached down and hauled him up by his shirt collar, holding him so the top step jammed into his stomach.
"You see her, Milo? Huh? She there?" Sammy snickered as Milo struggled out of his grasp and slid down the steps, landing on Stevie, who pushed him away.
"Rhonda's goal one-two-three!" Angie's voice made Sammy duck down quickly.
"Shit!" Rhonda yelled.
"Don't swear! I'm tellin'!"
"Oh, shut up, you say it, too, who're you gonna tell anyway?"
"She says it, too, tattletale!"
Milo crept closer to Stevie again. If he could just avoid Angie till the streetlights came on, everything would be all right. "She still there?" he asked.
Stevie crawled up the steps and had a look. After a few seconds he beckoned to Sammy. "Let's go."
Sammy gave Stevie a few moments headstart and then followed.
Milo stood up. "Sammy?"
Sammy paused to turn, plant one of his Keds on Milo's chest, and shove. Milo jumped backward, lost his balance, and sat down hard in the dirt. Sammy grinned at him as though this were part of a prank they were playing on everyone else. When he was sure Milo wouldn't try to get up, he turned and went down the passage. Milo heard him and Stevie tag their goals together. He closed his eyes.
The air was becoming deeper, cooler, clearer. Sounds carried better now. Someone wished on the first star.
"That's an airplane, stupid!"
"Is not, it's the first star!"
And then Angie's voice, not sounding the least bit out of breath, as though she'd been waiting quietly for Milo to appear after Sammy. "Where's Milo?"
He sprang up and ran. Sammy would tell where they'd been hiding and she'd come right for him. He sprinted across Middle Street, cut between the nurse's house and the two-family place where the crazy man beat his wife every Thursday to Middle St. Lane. Then down to Fourth Street and up to the corner where it met Middle a block away from the Fifth Street bridge.
They were calling him. He could hear them shouting his name, trying to fool him into thinking the game was over, and he kept out of sight behind the house on the corner. Two boys went by on bikes, coasting leisurely. Milo waited until they were well up the street before dashing across to the unpaved parking area in front of the apartment house where the fattest woman in town sat on her porch and drank a quart of Coke straight from the bottle every afternoon. There was a garbage shed next to the house. The Board of Health had found rats there once, come up from the polluted river running under the bridge. Milo crouched behind the shed and looked cautiously up the alley.
They were running back and forth, looking, listening for the jingle of his keys. "He was back there with us!" "Spread out, we'll find him!" "Maybe he sneaked home." "Nah, he couldn't." "Everybody look for him!" They all scattered except for Kathy, bored and playing a lazy game of hopscotch under a streetlight that hadn't come on yet.
Impulsively Milo snatched open the door of the shed and squeezed in between two overflowing trash barrels. The door flapped shut by itself, closing him in with a ripe garbagey smell and the keening of flies. He stood very still, eyes clenched tightly, and his arms crossed over his chest. They'dnever think he was in here. Not after the rats.
Thick footsteps approached and stopped. Milo felt the presence almost directly in front of the shed. Lighter steps came from another direction and there was the scrape of sand against rubber as someone turned around and around, searching.
"He's gotta be somewhere." Sammy. "I didn't think the little bastard could run that fast." Milo could sense the movement of Sammy's head disturb the air. The flies sang louder. "We'll get him. He's gonna be IT."
"Call 'olly, olly, out-free.' " Stevie.
"Nah. Then he won't have to be IT."
"Call it and then say we had our fingers crossed so it doesn't count."
"Let's look some more. If we still can't find him, then we'll call it."
"He's a sissy-piss."
They went away. When the footsteps faded, Milo came out cautiously, choking from the smell in the shed. He stood listening to the sound of the neighborhood growing quieter. Darkness flowed up from the east more quickly now, reaching for the zenith, eager to spill itself down into the west and blot out the last bit of sunlight. Above the houses a star sparkled and winked, brightening. Milo gazed up at it, wishing as hard as he could.
Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have this wish ...
Eenie, meenie, ipsateenie ...
Don't let me be IT
He stood straining up at the star. Just this once. If he wouldn't have to be IT. If he could be safe. Just this once—
"Angie! Angie! Down here, quick!"
Excerpted from Hauntings by Ellen Datlow. Copyright © 2013 Ellen Datlow. Excerpted by permission of Tachyon Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction Ellen Datlow,
Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateenie Pat Cadigan,
Hunger: A Confession Dale Bailey,
Cargo E. Michael Lewis,
Delta Sly Honey Lucius Shepard,
Nothing Will Hurt You David Morrell,
The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4) Caitlín R. Kiernan,
Haunted Joyce Carol Oates,
The Have-Nots Elizabeth Hand,
Closing Time Neil Gaiman,
Anna F. Paul Wilson,
Mr. Fiddlehead Jonathan Carroll,
The Fooly Terry Dowling,
The Toll Paul Walther,
The Pennine Tower Restaurant Simon Kurt Unsworth,
Distress Call Connie Willis,
The Horn Stephen Gallagher,
Everybody Goes Michael Marshall Smith,
Transfigured Night Richard Bowes,
Hula Ville James P. Blaylock,
The Bedroom Light Jeffrey Ford,
Spectral Evidence Gemma Files,
Two Houses Kelly Link,
Where Angels Come In Adam L. G. Nevill,
Hunger, An Introduction Peter Straub,
What People are Saying About This
"This diverse 25-story anthology is a superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005. Editor extraordinaire Datlow (Poe) includes classic stories from horror icons." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"With her keen eye for craftsmanship, prolific anthologist Datlow always delivers first-class entertainment, whether her genre-at-hand is sf, fantasy, or, in this case, horror." —Booklist
"Anytime you sample a collection edited by veteran anthologist Ellen Datlow (Snow White, Blood Red; Teeth; Supernatural Noir), you know that you are in for a treat." —Shroud Magazine
"Worth a space on any bookshelf." —Kirkus