When Kurt Cobain died, Susan didn’t leave her bedroom for four days straight. She closed her door on that Saturday morning and stayed put until I went over and saw her on the Tuesday afternoon. She never joined the groups that gathered at our college when the following week broke; the circles of teenagers who grimly shuffled in the canteen and classrooms, who shrugged and sighed and slowly shook their heads. It was, I suppose, our defining moment. Naturally, none of us realised it at the time. As a generation we had no Great War or Woodstock, social media was science fiction and everyone’s parents had jobs. We were fortunate enough to be insulated from existence. It took a dead rock star to communalise our experience, to sharpen our senses, to force us to cower as the world fired its first warning shot. A snatched photograph of an outstretched leg with a limp Converse training shoe was the image that blew our adolescent minds. This was when the penny dropped that shit had finally got real.
Duncan Coffey felt a mild agitation. At first, he marked the subtle change as curiosity and then, making small measurements, corrected the assessment. A retired rewrite man for The Saxon Sentinel, he was frightfully aware that his capacity for surprise had long fled him. Odd moments told him he might have another person sharing his skin. This was one of those odd contemplations now working on him. His old fishing pal Ed LeBlanc used to say he had bitten off more than he could chew in this life, dwelling too often on little things, getting hung up in details, losing the big picture. “Duncan,” he offered a few times, “You could choke on a blade of grass and lose the whole thing.” He’d never explained what the whole thing was, but Coffey got the meaning.
He told me he was Special Forces. I thought it was a lie; sounds so sexy, I’m Special Forces. I imagined legions of girls in soaked underwear.
Me, I didn’t care. My daughter was one year old, I moved to Manhattan to a 5th Avenue apartment believing in a Cinderella story, only to find Lelle’s car seat in front of my door one morning with a “Sorry!” note. The prince paid the $12,000 monthly rent to fulfill the lease and told me to keep the 3 carat Harry Winston engagement ring.
They say the wolf ate the magician.
They find the man lying on the stone floor, chunks of his flesh unfurled around him like oversized rose petals, torn apart by thorny fangs. Broken bottles litter the shelves of his home, caught in liquid pools of strange colors that hiss and spread like angry tears. Tattered black books pattern the floor, spines up and pages squashed, sprawled open like dead crows.
The woman just turned up at the house one morning. That was not unusual in itself. People turn up at other people’s houses without invitation or warning. All the time. It is even more usual in Dhulivadzimu, being so close to the border post. It was little wonder that the VhaVenda gods and ancestral spirits had chosen this dusty, barren gorge as their dwelling place. It is as if they had known that this is where all their benevolence and guidance would be most needed. Always.
Rose Dawkins had a terrible secret. It wasn’t something she had done, per say, but it was a secret, a tightly coiled spasm of shame in her chest, a roiling nausea in her stomach. The nausea, in fact, was related to the secret.
November 29, 2018, 10:31:03 a.m.
Interview room at the Sports League of America (SLA) headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The room has video and audio recording equipment, a conference table seating twenty, water in plastic bottles on ice with glasses and napkins. In attendance is a court reporter, a camera operator, Elsa Dayton, Chief Investigator for the SLA; John Henry Brown (JHB), running back for the Kansas Kings; Abigail Thornton, attorney for JHB, Tucker Borden agent for JHB
Alicia snapped awake. There was a fine silk cobweb covering her face. It felt as if she was suffocating. She reached out, clawing at her face, scratching off the surface texture. She was down to the scars when the blood started to flow.
“We launched the plant conservation study in an abandoned natural reservoir. Fields of sagebrush set against three icy active volcanos. And there I was, naked on the side of the dirt road. Covered in ticks. A poison oak rash burned up my waist. I had four wasp stings.”
Sometimes investigative reporters come sniffing around for news of Lionel Fetlar. They’ve heard he’s living on the south coast now, a town that remains resolutely unfashionable while those nearby have undergone a modest transformation following the influx of the affectedly on trend from that London.