With award-winning, superstar editor Ellen Datlow’s “superb sampling of some of the most significant short horror works published between 1985 and 2005” Darkness being featured as part of the Humble Horror Book Bundle, we’re sharing excerpts from nine select stories over the next seven days.
Our next glimpse comes from “The Power and the Passion” by Pat Cadigan.
The voice on the phone says, “We need to talk to you, Mr. Soames,” so I know to pick the place up. Company coming. I don’t like for company to come into no pigsty, but one of the reasons the place is such a mess all the time is, it’s so small, I got nowhere to keep shit except around, you know. But I shove both the dirty laundry and the dirty dishes in the oven — my mattress is right on the floor so I can’t shove stuff under the bed, and what won’t fit in the oven I put in the tub and just before I pull the curtain, I think, well, shit, I shoulda just put it all in the tub and filled it and got it all washed at once. Or, well, just the dishes, because I can take the clothes over to the laundromat easier than washing them in the tub.
So, hell, I just pull the shower curtain, stack the newspapers and the magazines — newspapers on top of the magazines, because most people don’t take too well to my taste in magazines, and they wouldn’t like a lot of the newspapers much either, but I got the Sunday paper to stick on top and hide it all, so it’s okay. Company’ll damned well know what’s under those Sunday funnies because they know me, but as long as they don’t have to have it staring them in the face, it’s like they can pretend it don’t exist.
I’m still puttering and fussing around when the knock on the door comes and I’m crossing the room (the only room unless you count the bathroom, which I do when I’m in it) when it comes to me I ain’t done dick about myself. I’m still in my undershirt and shorts, for chrissakes.
“Hold on,” I call out, “I ain’t decent, quite,” and I drag a pair of pants outa the closet. But all my shirts are either in the oven or the tub and company’ll get fanny-antsy standing in the hall — this is not the watchamacallit, the place where Lennon bought it, the Dakota, yeah. Anyway, I answer the door in my one hundred percent cotton undershirt, but at least I got my fly zipped.
Company’s a little different this time. The two guys as usual, but today they got a woman with them. Not a broad, not a bitch, not a bimbo. She’s standing between and a little behind them, looking at me the way women always look at me when I happen to cross their path — chin lifted up a little, one hand holding her coat together at the neck in a fist, eyes real cold, like, “Touch me and die horribly, I wish,” standing straight fuckin’ up, like they’re Superman, and the fear coming off them like heat waves from an open furnace.
They all come in and stand around and I wish I’d straightened the sheets out on the mattress so it wouldn’t look so messy, but then they’d see the sheets ain’t clean, so six of one, you know. And I got nothing for anyone to sit on, except that mattress, so they just keep standing around.
The one guy, Steener, says, “Are you feeling all right, Mr. Soames?” looking around like there’s puke and snot all over the floor. Steener don’t bother me. He’s a pretty man who probably was a pretty boy and a pretty baby before that, and thinks the world oughta be a pretty place. Or he wants to prove pretty guys are really tougher and better and more man than guys like me, because he’s afraid it’s vice versa, you know. Maybe even both, depending on how he got up this morning.
The other guy, Villanueva, I could almost respect him. He didn’t put on no face to look at me, and he didn’t have no power fantasies about who he was to me or vice versa. I think Villanueva probably knows me better than anyone in the world. But then, he was the one took my statement when they caught up with me. He was a cop then. If he’d still been a cop, I’d probably respect him.
So I look right at the woman and I say, “So, what’s this, you brought me a date?” I know this will get them because they know what I do to dates.
Check out the Humble Horror Book Bundle which includes works from Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Joss Whedon, Joe Hill, Max Brooks, Robert R. McCammon, and Dan Simmons.
For more info about Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Ann Monn.