LOVECRAFT’S MONSTERS preview: “That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas
Over the next two weeks in celebration of the forthcoming Lovecraft’s Monsters, Tachyon and editor Ellen Datlow present excerpts from a selection of the volume’s horrifying tales.
Today’s selection comes from “That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas.
Jase stood up, dusted off his ass and teetered toward the mouth of the cave. Stephan thought Jase might start urinating, sending a stream down into the valley below the cave, into the colorless grass. Instead Jase just threw up his arms and shouted, “Fuck love!” If he was hoping for an echo, he didn’t get one—not even a cricket cricketed in response. “I’m lucky,” he said, turning back to Stephan and Melissa, “because I’ve never had a thing to do with love. You know what my childhood was like?”
“Same as anyone else’s,” Melissa said.
"Exactly, yeah, exactly,” Jase said. “Sitting on a couch. Doing stuff, growing up. I catch a ball, my father’s proud. I hurt my foot, my mother clucks her tongue and pulls out the splinter with a pair of tweezers.”
“Sounds dreadful,” said Stephan. He squinted his eyes to keep the flicker of the lamp away, turning Jase into a little buzzing kaleidoscope. “Sounds just like being raped twice a day, every day, for fourteen years or something.”
“Well, here’s the thing,” Jase said. He stomped back up the rock and kicked at it twice, knocking the mud from his heels. “It’s boring. Everything gets boring.”
“Yeah,” said Melissa. “I had a boyfriend once who ended up doing some time in prison.” Stephan and Jase both got quiet at that. “Nothing bad…well, nothing that bad. It was just a fight, but he knew some stuff, judo, and the guy he was fighting ended up in a coma. Anyway, he went to prison for ninety days and he was mostly very bored. He said everyone else was eager for their hour of exercise, even if it meant getting shived or raped by three guys because otherwise it was just boring.”
Jase snorted. “You probably loved him too, eh? Waited for him to get out of prison.”
“It was only three months,” Stephan said. Stephan wondered if someone would wait for him for three months if he ended up in prison for accidentally putting some guy into a coma. Not that he knew how to put anyone into anything, not even a headlock. Maybe he could run somebody down with a car. He could go to prison and be bored except for the hour of raping every day.
“Yeah, I guess I did. I loved him more when he wasn’t around.” She looked a little anxious, or maybe she was just chilly. She was deeper in the cave, where it was wet, on the lip of the dark. “You know, when someone is around you remember the bad breath and the rolls of fat hanging over the elastic of his underwear and that annoying way he winks when he’s saying something he isn’t sure about. So I broke up with him, but I waited until he was out of prison.”
“Because you loved him?” Stephan said.
“Because you were bored?” Jase said.
“Because I didn’t know what else to do. It’s hard to break up with someone in prison. The phone calls are monitored. You have to wait for certain days to go visit, and it’s not a place for a real conversation. You can taste metal on your tongue; it’s like being sick or allergic to everything.”
“Allergic to everything, yeah,” Jase said. “I feel a prophecy coming on.” He shook out his hair. There was a leaf in it.
Stephan leaned back, his arms behind him, a finger brushing against Melissa’s jeans.
Jase trembled, his arms wide, and started doing his tongue tricks. Melissa scooted forward and shifted on her hips to keep from making contact with Stephan. She reached for the Teacher’s and took a pull from the bottle, then put it back on the rock and held her cup to her lips, tilting it backwards to get some last drop she had forgotten before. There was still almost a third left in the bottle so Stephan poured some more into his cup too and said, “What do you think of all the yoobalalala stuff,” which was a pretty good impression of Jase right then.
“I don’t know.”
“Is it real?”
“I don’t know if he’s real, but it’s sure real,” Melissa said. “No denying that now. Not after New York and not after the Mississippi River.”
For more information on Lovecraft’s Monsters, visit the Tachyon site.
Cover and illustration by John Coulthart.