PseudoPod 589: Flash On The Borderlands XLII: Misanthropes

Show Notes

People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone


Sam Gorenstein: “I’d like to dedicate ‘Edgar’ to my late uncle Conan Gorenstein, who passed away in 2013.”


A Bar Story

by Melissa Snark


The gangly youth scurried on long legs and over-sized feet. He stumbled on a cracked tile, but righted himself. Shoulders squared, Daniel Hollar ran a hand through his long orange hair, finger combing the frizzy mess. Hundreds of freckles peppered his pale face, and his green eyes were bright behind wire-rimmed glasses.

He slapped on a polite smile for the middle-aged man crouched on a stool at the end of the L-shaped bar. The customer’s arms rested on the counter, the diamond frame forming a protective barrier about the shot glass cradled between his hands. Sweat bullets lined the customer’s blotchy red forehead. A scraggly crown of damp hair stuck to the collar of his white dress shirt. His gut overhung belted dark trousers. He wore a clean gold band on his left ring finger and his clothing was made from fine fabric.

“Evenin’, sir. What’s your poison?”

The customer’s lips bowed in a fearsome grin, revealing yellowed teeth. A hint of jaundice touched the sclera of his eyes. “Belladonna,” he said softly. “Oh deadly nightshade, beautiful woman.”

“Wha– Sorry?” Daniel dipped his head, trying to make out the man’s words, and got a good whiff. A malignant scent circled the man like a coiled serpent, the combined cologne of booze, cigarettes, and body odor. Gagging, he jerked back and turned his head to the side.

The man lifted his shot glass in toast. “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Daniel’s eyes bulged. What a total nut! Biting his lower lip, he spoke at a pace suited to fools and madmen. “I’m sorry? Would you like something to drink?”

“Jack.”

“Daniel. Pleased to meet you.” He stuck forward his hand, held straight out and rigid.

Wicked humor lit the man’s gray eyes. He refused the proffered hand. “Jack Daniels. Neat. Leave the bottle.”

“Oh.” Cheeks burning, Daniel fumbled through the bottles of booze on the back wall until he located the correct bottle. He poured the man’s drink, sloshing amber liquid over the rim of the shot glass.

The customer dug into his pocket, extracted his wallet, and deposited a hundred dollar bill on the bar.

“You want change?”

“Nah, just put it toward my tab.”

“Yes, sir.”

Daniel retreated to stand beside his boss. Patrick Whalen, a grizzled Irishman and owner of the Albatross Tavern, was known as Twitch by the hardened sea-faring locals who frequented the Portsmouth, Maine wharf side bar.

The youth shoved his hands into the pocket of his navy windbreaker, striving to appear nonchalant. He tipped his head toward the customer. “Odd duck, that one.”

Twitch’s round head rolled on the long stalk of his neck toward the end of the bar. The old man’s eyelid pulled in a constant facial tic–wink wink wink. His stretched taut in a sardonic smile. “Arrogant bastard, ain’t he, Danny me boy? But he pays his tab ‘n comes in regular, so I ain’t got no problems with ’em.”

Doing his best to appear disinterested, Daniel picked up a white rag and wiped down the scratched oaken bar counter. He cast a surreptitious glance down the length of the bar. “Who is he?”

“That?” Twitch tilted his head. “That’s Jack. Jack Thorn. He’s a local author. Horror fic, like that King fellow.”

“Is he famous?”

“Meybe. Yer an English major, ain’tcha?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never heard of ’em.”

The old man sniggered and picked up the ice bucket, limping toward the machine. “His stories got less cursin’, so I reckon that makes him more of a literary figure.”

Too curious to resist temptation, the young man trailed Twitch, hoping to glean more information.

“Are his books movies?”

Twitch shot Daniel a long look as if considering a moron. He sneered. “Course not.  His books are books. Movies is movies. The one ain’t got nuthin’ to do with the other. Everyone with a lick o’ sense knows that.”

Wink wink wink…

Danny hung his head. “Sorry.”

Twitch slapped him on the back, knocking him off his feet. “Don’t worry your wee head ’bout it. Ain’t your fault that you’re greener than the titties on a leprechaun.”

The boy’s face lit like wildfire, drawing another cackle from the old man. Cursing the pale complexion that went with his ginger hair, Daniel tried and failed to keep his speculative gaze averted from Jack Thorn.

The author sat twisted on his stool, engaged in an animated conversation with the empty seat beside him. There was no one else at the bar in either direction.

Twitch filled the ice bucket to the brim, and thrust the container into the boy’s hands. “Here, go dump this in the bin. My leg is achin’ somethin’ fierce.”

Obediently, the young man trotted to the ice machine. He emptied the bucket, and returned to fill it again. “Who’s he talking to?”

“That one’s crazy as a loon.” Leaning forward, Twitch tapped his temple and spoke in a hushed voice. “Talks to himself ‘n lives all alone in a big house out on the promontory.”

Jack Thorn’s disquieting gray eyes pinned him. A chill tore through Daniel’s soul. Hastily, he averted his gaze. He swallowed convulsively, Adam’s apple bobbing. “I’ve seen it.”

The old man’s thin lips stretched to reveal cracked, yellow teeth.

Wink wink wink…

“Jack over there used to have a wife and daughter. Wife was a real beauty and the little girl was an angel. Four years old with blonde pigtails and big blue eyes…”

Danny shivered. He dropped the scoop back into the ice machine and closed the flap. “What happened to them?”

“They ain’t been seen for years. Some says they left ’em, others that he killed ’em. There was a police investigation, but no bodies ever been found. No one knows.”

Danny leaned in close so the old man’s sour breath scoured his nostrils. “What do you think happened?”

Twitch’s predatory smile swelled. He threw up clawed hands and shouted, “He ate ’em!”

Heart slamming against his breast, Daniel leapt backward. He dropped the bucket and ice cubes scattered across the floor. His foot slipped on wetness and his knees locked. He slammed his elbow against the counter. Sharp pain lanced through his entire arm.

Twitch roared with laughter.

Humiliation stung Daniel’s pride worse than his injured elbow. A cold sweat broke out across his body. Staggering, he retreated toward the bathroom, heading toward the smirking author.

Jack Thorn grabbed the boy’s arm as he stumbled past. That ghoulish face, leered at him. “They tasted real good!”


Moon-Face
A Story of Mortal Antipathy

By Jack London


John Claverhouse was a moon-faced man. You know the kind, cheek-bones wide apart, chin and forehead melting into the cheeks to complete the perfect round, and the nose, broad and pudgy, equidistant from the circumference, flattened against the very centre of the face like a dough-ball upon the ceiling. Perhaps that is why I hated him, for truly he had become an offense to my eyes, and I believed the earth to be cumbered with his presence. Perhaps my mother may have been superstitious of the moon and looked upon it over the wrong shoulder at the wrong time.

Be that as it may, I hated John Claverhouse. Not that he had done me what society would consider a wrong or an ill turn. Far from it. The evil was of a deeper, subtler sort; so elusive, so intangible, as to defy clear, definite analysis in words. We all experience such things at some period in our lives. For the first time we see a certain individual, one who the very instant before we did not dream existed; and yet, at the first moment of meeting, we say: “I do not like that man.” Why do we not like him? Ah, we do not know why; we know only that we do not. We have taken a dislike, that is all. And so I with John Claverhouse.

What right had such a man to be happy? Yet he was an optimist. He was always gleeful and laughing. All things were always all right, curse him! Ah I how it grated on my soul that he should be so happy! Other men could laugh, and it did not bother me. I even used to laugh myself–before I met John Claverhouse.

But his laugh! It irritated me, maddened me, as nothing else under the sun could irritate or madden me. It haunted me, gripped hold of me, and would not let me go. It was a huge, Gargantuan laugh. Waking or sleeping it was always with me, whirring and jarring across my heart-strings like an enormous rasp. At break of day it came whooping across the fields to spoil my pleasant morning revery. Under the aching noonday glare, when the green things drooped and the birds withdrew to the depths of the forest, and all nature drowsed, his great “Ha! ha!” and “Ho! ho!” rose up to the sky and challenged the sun. And at black midnight, from the lonely cross-roads where he turned from town into his own place, came his plaguey cachinnations to rouse me from my sleep and make me writhe and clench my nails into my palms.

I went forth privily in the night-time, and turned his cattle into his fields, and in the morning heard his whooping laugh as he drove them out again. “It is nothing,” he said; “the poor, dumb beasties are not to be blamed for straying into fatter pastures.”

He had a dog he called “Mars,” a big, splendid brute, part deer-hound and part blood-hound, and resembling both. Mars was a great delight to him, and they were always together. But I bided my time, and one day, when opportunity was ripe, lured the animal away and settled for him with strychnine and beefsteak. It made positively no impression on John Claverhouse. His laugh was as hearty and frequent as ever, and his face as much like the full moon as it always had been.

Then I set fire to his haystacks and his barn. But the next morning, being Sunday, he went forth blithe and cheerful.

“Where are you going?” I asked him, as he went by the cross-roads.

“Trout,” he said, and his face beamed like a full moon. “I just dote on trout.”

Was there ever such an impossible man! His whole harvest had gone up in his haystacks and barn. It was uninsured, I knew. And yet, in the face of famine and the rigorous winter, he went out gayly in quest of a mess of trout, forsooth, because he “doted” on them! Had gloom but rested, no matter how lightly, on his brow, or had his bovine countenance grown long and serious and less like the moon, or had he removed that smile but once from off his face, I am sure I could have forgiven him for existing. But no. he grew only more cheerful under misfortune.

I insulted him. He looked at me in slow and smiling surprise.

“I fight you? Why?” he asked slowly. And then he laughed. “You are so funny! Ho! ho! You’ll be the death of me! He! he! he! Oh! Ho! ho! ho!

What would you? It was past endurance. By the blood of Judas, how I hated him! Then there was that name–Claverhouse! What a name! Wasn’t it absurd? Claverhouse! Merciful heaven, WHY Claverhouse? Again and again I asked myself that question. I should not have minded Smith, or Brown, or Jones–but CLAVERHOUSE! I leave it to you. Repeat it to yourself–Claverhouse. Just listen to the ridiculous sound of it–Claverhouse! Should a man live with such a name? I ask of you. “No,” you say. And “No” said I.

But I bethought me of his mortgage. What of his crops and barn destroyed, I knew he would be unable to meet it. So I got a shrewd, close-mouthed, tight-fisted money-lender to get the mortgage transferred to him. I did not appear but through this agent I forced the foreclosure, and but few days (no more, believe me, than the law allowed) were given John Claverhouse to remove his goods and chattels from the premises. Then I strolled down to see how he took it, for he had lived there upward of twenty years. But he met me with his saucer-eyes twinkling, and the light glowing and spreading in his face till it was as a full-risen moon.

“Ha! ha! ha!” he laughed. “The funniest tike, that youngster of mine! Did you ever hear the like? Let me tell you. He was down playing by the edge of the river when a piece of the bank caved in and splashed him. ‘O papa!’ he cried; ‘a great big puddle flewed up and hit me.'”

He stopped and waited for me to join him in his infernal glee.

“I don’t see any laugh in it,” I said shortly, and I know my face went sour.

He regarded me with wonderment, and then came the damnable light, glowing and spreading, as I have described it, till his face shone soft and warm, like the summer moon, and then the laugh–“Ha! ha! That’s funny! You don’t see it, eh? He! he! Ho! ho! ho! He doesn’t see it! Why, look here. You know a puddle–”

But I turned on my heel and left him. That was the last. I could stand it no longer. The thing must end right there, I thought, curse him! The earth should be quit of him. And as I went over the hill, I could hear his monstrous laugh reverberating against the sky.

Now, I pride myself on doing things neatly, and when I resolved to kill John Claverhouse I had it in mind to do so in such fashion that I should not look back upon it and feel ashamed. I hate bungling, and I hate brutality. To me there is something repugnant in merely striking a man with one’s naked fist–faugh! it is sickening! So, to shoot, or stab, or club John Claverhouse (oh, that name!) did not appeal to me. And not only was I impelled to do it neatly and artistically, but also in such manner that not the slightest possible suspicion could be directed against me.

To this end I bent my intellect, and, after a week of profound incubation, I hatched the scheme. Then I set to work. I bought a water spaniel bitch, five months old, and devoted my whole attention to her training. Had any one spied upon me, they would have remarked that this training consisted entirely of one thing–RETRIEVING. I taught the dog, which I called “Bellona,” to fetch sticks I threw into the water, and not only to fetch, but to fetch at once, without mouthing or playing with them. The point was that she was to stop for nothing, but to deliver the stick in all haste. I made a practice of running away and leaving her to chase me, with the stick in her mouth, till she caught me. She was a bright animal, and took to the game with such eagerness that I was soon content.

After that, at the first casual opportunity, I presented Bellona to John Claverhouse. I knew what I was about, for I was aware of a little weakness of his, and of a little private sinning of which he was regularly and inveterately guilty.

“No,” he said, when I placed the end of the rope in his hand. “No, you don’t mean it.” And his mouth opened wide and he grinned all over his damnable moon-face.

“I–I kind of thought, somehow, you didn’t like me,” he explained. “Wasn’t it funny for me to make such a mistake?” And at the thought he held his sides with laughter.

“What is her name?” he managed to ask between paroxysms.

“Bellona,” I said.

“He! he!” he tittered. “What a funny name.”

I gritted my teeth, for his mirth put them on edge, and snapped out between them, “She was the wife of Mars, you know.”

Then the light of the full moon began to suffuse his face, until he exploded with: “That was my other dog. Well, I guess she’s a widow now. Oh! Ho! ho! E! he! he! Ho!” he whooped after me, and I turned and fled swiftly over the hill.

The week passed by, and on Saturday evening I said to him, “You go away Monday, don’t you?”

He nodded his head and grinned.

“Then you won’t have another chance to get a mess of those trout you just ‘dote’ on.”

But he did not notice the sneer. “Oh, I don’t know,” he chuckled. “I’m going up to-morrow to try pretty hard.”

Thus was assurance made doubly sure, and I went back to my house hugging myself with rapture.

Early next morning I saw him go by with a dip-net and gunnysack, and Bellona trotting at his heels. I knew where he was bound, and cut out by the back pasture and climbed through the underbrush to the top of the mountain. Keeping carefully out of sight, I followed the crest along for a couple of miles to a natural amphitheatre in the hills, where the little river raced down out of a gorge and stopped for breath in a large and placid rock-bound pool. That was the spot! I sat down on the croup of the mountain, where I could see all that occurred, and lighted my pipe.

Ere many minutes had passed, John Claverhouse came plodding up the bed of the stream. Bellona was ambling about him, and they were in high feather, her short, snappy barks mingling with his deeper chest-notes. Arrived at the pool, he threw down the dip-net and sack, and drew from his hip-pocket what looked like a large, fat candle. But I knew it to be a stick of “giant”; for such was his method of catching trout. He dynamited them. He attached the fuse by wrapping the “giant” tightly in a piece of cotton. Then he ignited the fuse and tossed the explosive into the pool.

Like a flash, Bellona was into the pool after it. I could have shrieked aloud for joy. Claverhouse yelled at her, but without avail. He pelted her with clods and rocks, but she swam steadily on till she got the stick of “giant” in her mouth, when she whirled about and headed for shore. Then, for the first time, he realized his danger, and started to run. As foreseen and planned by me, she made the bank and took out after him. Oh, I tell you, it was great! As I have said, the pool lay in a sort of amphitheatre. Above and below, the stream could be crossed on stepping-stones. And around and around, up and down and across the stones, raced Claverhouse and Bellona. I could never have believed that such an ungainly man could run so fast. But run he did, Bellona hot-footed after him, and gaining. And then, just as she caught up, he in full stride, and she leaping with nose at his knee, there was a sudden flash, a burst of smoke, a terrific detonation, and where man and dog had been the instant before there was naught to be seen but a big hole in the ground.

“Death from accident while engaged in illegal fishing.” That was the verdict of the coroner’s jury; and that is why I pride myself on the neat and artistic way in which I finished off John Claverhouse. There was no bungling, no brutality; nothing of which to be ashamed in the whole transaction, as I am sure you will agree. No more does his infernal laugh go echoing among the hills, and no more does his fat moon-face rise up to vex me. My days are peaceful now, and my night’s sleep deep.


Edgar

By Samuel Joseph Gorenstein


I.

Edgar would like to not go to the zoo. He would like to not marvel at the giraffes, nor the toucans, nor the goats. Edgar would like his nephew to pick a different place. He makes this clear. His nephew offers a counterpoint in the form of banging his light-up fire truck against the wooden leg of the living room table. Edgar would like to not have people crack his furniture with their playthings. He makes this clear as well. His nephew, Stanley, offers a counterpoint by continuing to bang his light-up fire truck against the wooden leg of the living room table. Edgar will go to the zoo.

He is a good babysitter, Edgar. His sister will see this. He did not lose Stanley’s older brother Charlie at a carnival three years ago. Even if he had, he also found his nephew’s older brother Charlie at that same carnival not long after. Rather, the police found him. Someone found him, and it’s the finding that was truly important.

“Because we’re all lost in our own unique ways,” Edgar had said. “All searching, all elbowing to find our way through, and isn’t it more worth celebrating the relief of any of those losses than in lamenting their addition?”

Edgar’s sister offered a counterpoint in the form of not speaking with him for two and a half years.

They hurry by the jaguar cage, the reptile garden, the aquarium. Edgar holds his nephew on his shoulders and they watch the penguins contemplate their captivity.


II.

The Ukrainian Tea bird is a violent, non-flying creature with a plume of tail feathers that curl back towards its head like a handle. If the lighting is proper, its coloring and sheen are close to that of expired cough syrup. It screeches with ceaseless terror at anything larger than a pigeon approaching its cage. Edgar’s nephew will not leave it alone.

“I want it to bite me,” his nephew says, pounding on the plastic.

Some people stare, though most don’t, and the ones that do are gone before Edgar can decide if he should offer an excuse. There are other things to look at, of course. Edgar suggests they go look at one of those other things. He tugs at a corduroy strap on Stanley’s overalls, but Stanley pulls away from him with a little shout and continues to pound.

There are no holes large enough for the bird to fit its beak through. Edgar tells his nephew this. There are holes large enough for Edgar’s nephew to fit his fingers through, as they both find out. Edgar yanks him back from the cage. Stanley is bleeding.


III.

The first-aid station is closed until four. Edgar presses a paper towel to his nephew’s index finger as they sit on a bench nearby. Stanley refuses to do so himself, beaming, attempting to show his wound to other visitors.

“I got bit,” he shouts. “It bit me!”

Edgar agrees that he is not responsible for the cut. He did not pull his nephew away too quickly. The edges of those air holes were not sharp enough to break skin. There are specifications to which factories build cages, safety regulations to predict misuse. He couldn’t have stopped his nephew from reaching in, strong-willed as children often are, but he took every correct step as a result. He caused no harm. He is still a good babysitter. He lifts the paper towel to check again.

Still bleeding, but definitely a bite. No doubt. He looks closely to see if the blood is congealing. It truly is a bite, he realizes. Yes, definitely not his fault. Although, if he is remembering properly, the bird had been cowering on the other side of the cage at the time.


IV.

There’s another bite on the ride home. Edgar doesn’t notice it until they’re a mile and a half from the zoo. He is only checking the rear view mirror to make sure his nephew doesn’t pick at the single adhesive bandage Edgar was able to unearth from his glove compartment. The aid station had not reopened at four.

His nephew hunches down, out of view of the mirror, no doubt hiding his actions, no doubt playing games with uncle Edgar. Edgar is certain of this. He cranes upward, his nephew pulling down further. The car’s ceiling prevents Edgar from angling up any more. He considers re-adjusting the mirror, but that would be too obvious, too close to admitting he doesn’t know what his nephew is doing. A good uncle knows without needing to check.

As does a good uncle pay attention to the road, he realizes, veering back into the correct lane. He looks at the mirror. His nephew is sitting straight again, face blank. The bandage appears untouched. Edgar concedes to his inevitable defeat and adjusts the mirror. His nephew’s right leg is bleeding near the ankle, bleeding quickly. He pulls over in a fast food parking lot and unbuckles to examine it more carefully. It’s another bite, two rigid cuts symmetrically plucked into his nephew’s skin, deep cuts.

“What happened?” asks Edgar.

“I got bit,” says his nephew.

“By what?”

His nephew stares at the car door and says nothing.


V.

They ask Edgar if he saw his nephew trying to harm himself.

“No,” says Edgar.

They ask Edgar if he’s tried to harm his nephew.

“No,” says Edgar.

They do not believe him. They will have to call the boy’s mother.

“Fine,” he says.

He sits in the hospital waiting room as Stanley gets stitches. The cuts were even deeper than Edgar had thought, a few millimeters from the bone. Edgar had wondered if something in the back seat had scraped up against his nephew, but Edgar’s car was clean. There was nothing back there, certainly nothing that could draw blood.

Edgar stacks the gardening magazines on the table next to him by color, then by relative size, looking for any variation around the perimeters of different issues of the same publication. Then he unstacks them, and places them with their cousins in a varnished magazine rack on the wall. He rescues a peanut butter candy bar from a brown, twist-knob vending machine. He leaves it in the tray on the bottom. He sits back down.

“Hello Uncle Edgar,” says Charlie.

“Hello Charlie,” says Edgar.

Charlie is taller now, up to his mother’s shoulders. His hair a little brighter. His voice is a little louder, a little easier to follow. Edgar’s sister says nothing. She has the doctors take her in immediately. She almost forgets Charlie and leaves him with Edgar, but comes back to pull her elder son along. Edgar is alone again. He gets up and checks to see if the candy bar is still in the tray of the vending machine. It isn’t. He sits back down.

Edgar realizes the man behind the check-in desk is staring at him, has been staring at him. Edgar looks away and moves to another chair. He looks back at the desk. The man is still staring, muttering something. This was the man who checked Edgar in, when Edgar had carried Stanley from the car, when Edgar could not stop the bleeding.

Edgar is not responsible. The man must be made to know this, he must understand this. The man does not need to look at Edgar as if Edgar is a disgusting thorn on a human thicket. Edgar gets up and goes to the man.

“I am not responsible,” he says.

The man understands now. He continues to stare at Edgar, who takes the magazines back out from the rack and sits back down.


VI.

There are four bites now, Charlie tells him: one on the other leg, another on the elbow. Four bites and Edgar wasn’t around for two of them. The doctors saw them form, so it can’t be his fault. Unless, as the doctors now believe, it’s an infection, or a contagion and the bites aren’t bites but lesions. Edgar’s nephew is quarantined, and Edgar won’t be allowed to leave until they’re sure he’s not spreading it. His sister still says nothing to him. No, she says two things:

“What did you give him?”

“I didn’t give him anything,” says Edgar.

“What did he touch?”

“He touched everything,” says Edgar.

It’s not just Edgar they keep from leaving, though they keep him the longest. By the end of the night there’s five bites, by morning eight. There’s fourteen at the end of the week, but nothing on Edgar, nothing on Charlie, or Edgar’s sister, or any of the other patients or doctors or visitors. They let him go, let him visit his younger nephew, though they still don’t let him get close.

His nephew is not crying, not upset, though much less excited than Edgar last saw him. They’ve hooked him to an I.V. and a television remote. The marks are clear: On his chin, on his stomach, on his arms, his hands, his shoulders. But they’re too uniform, too deliberate. He’s not bleeding anymore. They can stop that fast enough for now.

“It’s still biting me,” he says.

“Where is it?” asks Edgar. “Is it following you?”

Edgar’s nephew closes his eyes and shakes his head.

“It’s biting me from where I found it.”

“Can you get it to stop?” asks Edgar.

Edgar’s nephew shakes his head again and turns toward the television. Edgar can see another bite start to form on his nephew’s forehead.


VII.

Edgar would like to not be at the zoo. He would like it to not be 3 AM, but 3 AM is the only time he even has a chance. There are guards. Of course there are guards. There are cameras, and alarms, and locked doors, so of course there have to be guards. But Edgar has a crowbar, and he is fast. Despite not having a need to run for some time, Edgar remembers he is fast as he climbs over the fence.

His sister still won’t talk to him, though she knows what’s happening is not Edgar’s fault. Edgar does not mind, does not blame her. Some things make people beg to stop talking, even when the people around them need them to talk. Edgar’s sister has no one she can stop talking to other than Edgar. He understands.

It’s a short distance to the back door of the aviary from where Edgar came in. Nobody’s seen him yet. He pries it open. He doesn’t hear an alarm, but he knows he must have triggered one. He does hear the chirps and screeches of the other birds his entrance has woken up. He runs down the narrow hall to the Ukrainian Tea bird, and smashes his way in through the feeder’s door. He raises his crowbar above the bird, but realizes the bird is already bleeding, or was already bleeding. Bite marks all over it. Dead.

And now there’s a bite mark on Edgar’s arm. He feels splintering teeth and he knows he is not alone in the cage, though he cannot see what else is there, so he swings, swings, swings, hoping to hit something. And the bite marks continue. He doesn’t stop to watch them form, but he can feel them: on his neck, his stomach, his temples, his knees, his bones, his heart. He won’t stop.

Edgar is a good babysitter, a good uncle. His sister will see this.

About the Authors

Sam Gorenstein

Sam Gorenstein is a writer, journalist, and comic from the Albany, New York area. He’s a member of the improvisational theater company MopCo, and a regular at the Lark Tavern Comedy Open Mic, Mondays at 8 PM in Albany.

Find more by Sam Gorenstein

Elsewhere

Melissa Snark

Melissa Snark lives in the San Francisco bay area with her husband, three children, and a glaring of litigious felines. She reads and writes fantasy and romance, and is published with The Wild Rose Press & Nordic Lights Press. She is a coffeeoholic, chocoholic, and a serious geek girl. Her Loki’s Wolves series stems from her fascination with wolves and mythology.

Find more by Melissa Snark

Elsewhere

Jack London

JACK LONDON (1876-1916) was an American writer best known for outdoor adventures like THE CALL OF THE WILD, many of them permeated with a sense of terror and the sublime. As a young man, London dropped out of the University of California to tramp the country, sail the seas, and brave the hardships of Alaska’s Klondike gold rush. Much of his fiction celebrates a brawny life force; his heroes triumph over the extremes of physical adversity through raw strength and will, or else they succumb, in the end, to the pitiless forces of nature. London eventually became a convert to socialism and, in THE IRON HEEL (1907), depicted a 1930s America ruled by a fascist dictatorship. Yet unquestionably his most fiendish villains are the shadowy revolutionary cult in THE MINIONS OF MIDAS (1901), who, preaching an extreme form of Social Darwinism, attempt to extort millions of dollars from the nation’s industrialists by the random murder of scores of ordinary citizens. Mankind, in London’s fiction, can be every bit as pitiless as nature..

Find more by Jack London

Elsewhere

About the Narrators

Kaz

Kaz is actually three tentacles in a trench coat, able to mimic human speech through an obscure loophole in Eldritch Noise Ordinances.   By day, Kaz pretends to be a member of the terrestrial band When Ukuleles Attack.

Find more by Kaz

Elsewhere

B.J. Harrison

“BJ Harrison is a master at his craft, with smooth narration skills that reflect every nuance of emotion and bring stories to life with every breath. He’s professional, efficient, and I highly recommend his services.” -New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster

BJ Harrison has recorded in virtually every genre to astounding acclaim. His ability to create compelling character voices and use convincing, authentic accents when needed has consistently transformed written words into breath-taking performances. Gothic castles, Victorian England, dystopian futures, contemporary romances and heart-stopping thrillers have all been elevated to the next level through the considerable abilities of BJ Harrison. (more…)

Find more by B.J. Harrison

Elsewhere

Tad Callin

Tad Callin is an Associate Editor at Pseudopod and the Wikia Wrangler for Escape Artists, Inc. He has had many adventures over the years, serving as a linguist in the U.S. Air Force, failing at truck driving, and raising his family. He published most of those stories in his 2016 memoir/novelTad’s Happy Funtime. Other previous published work includes an urban fantasy story, “Silver,” published on the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine podcast. His current projects include finishing his family history, drafting a sci-fi novel, and completing his long-dormant music degree.

Find more by Tad Callin

Elsewhere