Over the next two weeks, in celebration of Halloween and the new anthology The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen, Tachyon and editor Ellen Datlow present excerpts from a selection of the volume’s horrifying tales.
Today’s selection comes from “Cuts” by F. Paul Wilson.
It started in Milo’s right foot. He awoke in the dark of his bedroom with a pins-and-needles sensation from the lower part of his calf to the tips of his toes. He sat up, massaged it, walked around the bedroom. Nothing helped. Finally, he took a Darvocet and went back to bed. He managed to get to sleep but was awake again by dawn, this time with both feet tingling. In the wan light, he inspected his lower legs.
A thin, faintly red line around each leg about three inches up from the ankle. Milo snapped on the night table light for a closer look. He touched the line. It was more than a line—an indentation, actually, like something left after wearing a pair of socks too tight at the top. But it felt as if the constricting band were still there.
He got up and walked around. It felt a little funny to stand on partially numb feet but he couldn’t worry about it now. In just a couple of hours he was doing a power breakfast at the Polo with Regenstein from TriStar, and he had to be sharp. He padded into the kitchen to put on the coffee.
As he wove through L.A.’s morning commuter traffic, Milo envied the drivers with their tops down. He would have loved to have his 380SL opened up to the bright early morning sun. Truthfully, he would have been glad for an open window. But for the sake of his hair he stayed bottled up with the AC on. He couldn’t afford to let the breeze blow his toupee around. It had been especially stubborn about blending in with his natural hair this morning, and he didn’t have any more time to fuss with it. And this was his good piece. His backup had been stolen during a robbery of his house last week, an occurrence that still baffled the hell out of him. He wished he didn’t have to worry about wearing a rug. He had heard about a new experimental lotion that was supposed to start hair growing again. If that ever panned out, he’d be first on line to—
His right hand started tingling. He removed it from the wheel and fluttered it in the air. Still it tingled. The sleeve of his sports coat slipped back, and he saw a faint indentation running around his forearm, just above the wrist. For a few heartbeats he studied it in horrid fascination.
What’s happening to me?
Then he glanced up and saw the looming rear of a truck rushing toward his windshield. He slammed on the brakes and slewed to a screeching stop inches from the tailgate. Gasping and sweating, Milo slumped in the seat and tried to get a grip. Bad enough he was developing mysterious little constricting bands on his legs and now his arm, he had almost wrecked the new Mercedes. This sucker cost more than his first house back in the seventies.
When traffic started up again, he drove cautiously, keeping his eyes on the road and working the fingers of his right hand. He had some weird-shit disease, he just knew it, but he couldn’t let anything get between him and this breakfast with Regenstein.
For information on The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Josh Beatman.