NIGHTMARES preview: “Omphalos” by Livia Llewellyn

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.



Livia Llewellyn

doesn’t begin when Father pulls the Volkswagen camper out of the
driveway, and speeds through the sleepy Tacoma streets toward Narrows
Bridge. It doesn’t begin on the long stretches of Route 16 through
Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, and Bremerton, your twin brother Jamie fast
asleep beside you on the warm back seat, his dark blond hair falling
over his eyes. It doesn’t begin with the hasty lunch at the small
restaurant outside Poulsbo, where your father converses with the worn
folds of the Triple-A map as your mother slips the receipt into a
carefully labeled, accordioned envelope. 16 whittles down to 3,
blossoms into 104 as the camper crosses Hood Canal onto the Olympic
Peninsula, and still your vacation does not begin. Discovery Bay,
Sequim, Dungeness: all the feral playgrounds of vacations and summers
past: no. It is in Port Angeles, under a storm-whipped sky, against
the backdrop of Canada-bound ferries gorging their wide, toothless
mouths on rivers of slow-moving cars, when Father turns away from
your mother, thin-lipped and tearful from the forced confession that
another envelope holding four passports sits on the quiet kitchen
counter back in Tacoma. You roll your eyes. Why do they go to such
trouble of pretense? Oh, yes: for the neighbors. For the pastor, for
colleagues and relatives, for all the strangers and passers-by who
wouldn’t understand, who want to hear only the normal. Father sees
the look on your face, and takes you aside as his large flat thumb
rubs against your cotton-clad arm in that old familiar way, that way
you’ve known all of your fifteen long and lonely years, the way
that always sends your mind into the flat black void. Old Spice
tickles your nose, and you rub the itch away as Jamie scowls, the
color fading from his perfect face like the sun.

worry, June-Bug. I know a place. Better than Victoria. No
distractions, no tourists. Where there’s nothing at all. You know
the place. You’ve been there, before. It’s where you always go.”
He places his calloused finger at the center of your forehead, and
you almost piss yourself in fear: does he know?

we can—you know.”

mother takes Jamie aside, her fingers sliding around his slender
waist as she spins her own version of the same tale. Father winks and
parts his lips, coffee and cigarette breath drifting across your face
as he whispers in your ear.


has begun.

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

Cover by Nihil

Design by Elizabeth Story