NIGHTMARES preview: “Lonegan’s Luck” by Stephen Graham Jones

In celebration of the recently released NIGHTMARES: A NEW DECADE OF MODERN HORROR, Tachyon and editor Ellen Datlow present glimpses into terror from several of the volume’s horrifying tales.




Graham Jones

every month, the horse was new. A mare, pushing fifteen years old.
Given his druthers, Lonegan would have picked a mule, of course, one
that had had its balls cut late, so there was still some fight in it,
but, when it came down to it, it had either been the mare or yoking
himself up to the buckboard, leaning forward until his fingertips
touched the ground.

years ago, he would have tried it, just to make a girl laugh.

he took what was available, made do.

anyway, from the way the mare kept trying to swing wide, head back
into the shade of town, this wasn’t going to be her first trip
across the Arizona Territories. Maybe she’d even know where the
water was, if it came down to that. Where the Apache weren’t.

brushed the traces across her flank and she pulled ahead, the wagon
creaking, all his crates shifting around behind him, the jars and
bottles inside touching shoulders. The straw they were packed in was
going to be the mare’s forage, if all the red baked earth ahead of
them was as empty as it looked.

they picked their way through it, Lonegan explained to the mare that
he never meant for it to be this way. That this was the last time.
But then he trailed off. Up ahead a black column was coming into


nodded, smiled.

was dead there was pungent enough to be drawing them in for miles.

do you think, old girl?” he said to the mare. She didn’t answer.
Lonegan nodded to himself again, checked the scattergun under his
seat, and pulled the mare’s head towards the swirling buzzards.
“Professional curiosity,” he told her, then laughed because it
was a joke.

town he’d left that morning wasn’t going on any map.

one ahead of him, as far as he knew, probably wasn’t on any map
either. But it would be there. They always were.

the mare tried shying away from the smell of death, Lonegan got down,
talked into her ear, and tied his handkerchief across her eyes. The
last little bit, he led her by the bridle, then hobbled her upwind.

buzzards were a greasy black coat, moved like old men walking
barefoot on the hot ground.

of watching them, Lonegan traced the ridges of rock all around.

he finally said, and leaned into the washed-out little hollow.

buzzards lifted their wings in something like menace, but Lonegan
knew better. He slung rocks at the few that wouldn’t take to the
sky. They just backed off, their dirty mouths open in challenge.

held his palm out to them, explained that this wasn’t going to take

For more info about NIGHTMARES: A NEW DECADE OF MODERN HORROR, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover by Nihil

Design by Elizabeth Story