NIGHTMARES preview: “The Shallows” by John Langan

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.


The Shallows



faut cultiver notre jardin.”
—Voltaire, Candide

could call you Gus,” Ransom said.

crab’s legs, blue and cream, clattered against one another. It did
not hoist itself from its place in the sink, though, which meant it
was listening to him. Maybe. Staring out the dining room window, his
daily mug of instant coffee steaming on the table in front of him, he
said, “That was supposed to be my son’s name. Augustus. It was
his great-grandfather’s name, his mother’s father’s father. The
old man was dying while Heather was pregnant. We … I, really, was
struck by the symmetry: one life ending, another beginning. It seemed
a duty, our duty, to make sure the name wasn’t lost, to carry it
forward into a new generation. I didn’t know old Gus, not really;
as far as I can remember, I met him exactly once, at a party at
Heather’s parents’ a couple of years before we were married.”

great curtain of pale light that rippled thirty yards from his house
stilled. Although he had long since given up trying to work out the
pattern of its changes, Ransom glanced at his watch. 2:02 p.m., he
was reasonably sure. The vast rectangle that occupied the space where
his neighbor’s green-sided house had stood, as well as everything
to either side of it, dimmed, then filled with the rich blue of the
tropical ocean, the paler blue of the tropical sky. Waves chased one
another toward Ransom, their long swells broken by the backs of fish,
sharks, whales, all rushing in the same direction as the waves, away
from a spot where the surface of the ocean heaved in a way that
reminded Ransom of a pot of water approaching the boil.

his head back, Matt had said, How
far up do you think it goes?
don’t know,
Ransom had answered. Twenty feet in
front of them, the sheet of light that had descended an hour before,
draping their view of the Pattersons’ house and everything beyond
it, belled, as if swept by a breeze. This
is connected to what’s been happening at the poles, isn’t it?

Matt had squinted to see through the dull glare. I
don’t know,
Ransom had said, maybe.
Do you think the Pattersons are okay?
Matt had
asked. I
hope so,
Ransom had said. He’d doubted it.)

looked at the clumps of creamer speckling the surface of the coffee,
miniature icebergs. “Gus couldn’t have been that old. He’d
married young, and Heather’s father, Rudy, had married young, and
Heather was twenty-four or -five … call him sixty-five,
sixty-six, tops. To look at him, though, you would have placed him a
good ten, fifteen years closer to the grave.

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

Cover by Nihil

Design by Elizabeth Story