10 episodes

A mix of dark fantasy and horror short fiction by both established and rising stars, from The Dark Magazine—and with recent stories reprinted in year's best anthologies, listed on Locus Recommended Reading List, and a subscriber base growing every month, “this new dark fantasy zine is settling well into its niche, which is picking up weirdness as it grows"—Locus.

The Dark Magazine Prime Books

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 12 Ratings

A mix of dark fantasy and horror short fiction by both established and rising stars, from The Dark Magazine—and with recent stories reprinted in year's best anthologies, listed on Locus Recommended Reading List, and a subscriber base growing every month, “this new dark fantasy zine is settling well into its niche, which is picking up weirdness as it grows"—Locus.

    House

    House

    House does not want you here. Does not want your laughter in its halls. Does not want your gentle breathing at night. Your cheerful demeanor. Your smiling brood. It does not want your hopeful words to echo off its walls. Your quiet murmurs. Your awkward silence. Your profanities, inanities, the slickness of your sex. Your steps are clumsy when you have drunk too much. Your bickering too comfortable. House does not want the smells of your dinners, your candles, your biological functions. It does not want your spills and scratches, your shattered glasses, your furniture scrapes. Most of all House does not want your lamentations, your soft weeping in the middle of the night, your profound regrets. You may try to hide them in your pillow where your children will not find them, but House will. House knows where you hide all your things. It would tell you this, but it cannot. It is just a house.

    House has grown to dread the sound of heavy, heavy steps. If it had eyes to close it would still hear the virile grunts and clumsy thumps, cumbersome shuffles against shifting wood. Would still smell the fresh air coming through its propped open front door. Would still feel boots against its grain, wrapped edges wedged against corners and frames. Fresh weight slowly dispersed throughout its halls.

    A helpless electricity courses through House upon the arrival of strangers. Not the electricity of the old cloth wiring still secreted in some of its cavities. An energy that only comes when the people approach with their boxes and bundles, their trucks and their vans. Each time there is a moment, a moment when House believes. This moment is filled with warm light and clinking glass and a nameless wish. Maybe this time, it thinks, even as it shudders from beneath. House knows hope is a hollow thing, like the space above its mortar bed.

    House wonders how you never feel it. When you come with your three sons and expectant, huffing wife. When you come with your crippled daughter and timid husband and loud, aggressive dog. When you come with your chittering sisters and ailing mother-in-law. When you come with your third wife and her fourth cat. Your happy family and your happy family and your happy family. When you first arrive by horse and buggy. When you park your Edsel out in front. When you walk the mile from depot to door. When you rattle in by pickup truck. By finned Chevy. By station wagon. And minivan. And minivan. By electric automobile. When you stand out front and drink it in and feel the trees and inhale the day and toe the ground and examine the siding and smile at your family and shrug your shoulders and imagine the moments and caress the railing and walk up and in and in and in and all around. Are you so pregnant with curiosity, with excitement, so filled with glowing light that you do not sense the darkness?

    Your desire to imprint yourself on House is immediate. It is built into you like the lime mortar and floor joists and concrete plinths built into it. And so you change things, even when there is no good reason to. Does the kitchen not service your needs? Can you not boil water, warm soup, bake bread? Is the bedroom not conducive to rest? The parlor not spacious enough for your festivities? Will knocking a hole in that wall repair the hole in your heart? Will a new floor make you steadier on your feet? Will conjuring new spaces from thin air and drywall and plywood affect the lives that live within? You perform alchemy by turning money you’ve spent into money you’re leant. It is worth it, you say. You are adding value, you say. You finished the attic, as though it were incomplete. You subtracted walls and added space. You pulled out the windows and ripped up the floors and rerouted the chimney and switched every knob and handle. You did not like the baseboards, so you replaced them. Same for the chair rail. You peeled off every tattered inch of wallpaper. So much of what made House House has disappeared,

    • 19 min
    Love Sharp Enough to Rend

    Love Sharp Enough to Rend

    She was drowning, gasping brine down her raw and waterlogged throat, so I took her. And why not? This is all you know me for. I take children. I bring them to my cave beneath the sea, I tuck them inside, and I eat them.

    You know why I do it. My own children stolen. Murdered, maybe by me and maybe not; I never found out and I don’t care to. But do you care? No. You only care that I take your children.

    But I take the ones that are already gone. I watch them run, gleeful, into the waves, their sweet little heads never knowing what poison spines narrowly miss the soft soles of their feet, never minding what teeth graze their calves, but still crying as something–seaweed, you say, but they cry because instinct tells them it is fingers–caresses the tender backs of their knees.

    So when I found her drowning, I took her. I wish to the gods I hadn’t.

    Marielle’s first instinct is to scream her daughter’s name and sprint into the ocean so fast she fairly flies. Not the best instinct, but the one any mother would have, and you can’t blame her for it; it’s certainly what I did when I found my children gone.

    The lifeguards shake their heads at her. Of course they do–their instincts are unnatural, trained rather than burned into their DNA.

    But Marielle’s instinct is what allows her to see what she sees: the child’s hand not falling but yanked, the flash of glossy green that could be but isn’t quite seaweed. I think later, when I see her the way I see her little girl, that this is the moment that doomed me.

    And then Marielle falls, face-first, into the water. Who can say what tripped her? An errant pebble, a child’s lost toy, the unexpected pitch of a wave.

    Seaweed, maybe.

    No matter. She goes down in water that’s up to her thighs, she gasps in brine, chokes it out, then gasps in more before she can slog her way up to her knees. She coughs the water out and starts to swim, or, more truthfully, to thrash. The lifeguards are past her now and she doesn’t care. All she’s thinking is please, please, please.

    That doesn’t help. Her daughter is gone, has been gone, and no one, not even the lifeguards with their instincts honed to save such careless lives as these, can swim fast or deep enough to pull her free.

    Is she thinking of the knife already? Surely not now. But is it a little more difficult for her to breathe? Does she toss more glances at the ocean than she should? Oh, yes.

    I should know. I was once standing where she was in the sand, wishing for her daughter’s endless questions and not those of the cop who is ever so sorry about the drowning Marielle knows did not happen.

    Gabby is nine when I take the tender heart from her chest in my cave of bright coral. That heart of hers wishes Daddy would work less, wishes he’d come to the beach even though he hates it, wishes she could get one more hug from her mama. Her hopes and loves and fears slide down my throat with the hot, salty flesh.

    I used to save them. Used to take them to a cave of ivy and briony where they loved and grew up and wove wildflowers into their hair. But what good did that do me, what good did it do them? They still died in the end.

    Rending their selves from bone, weaving their little souls to my own marrow, is so much better than letting them drown.

    Marielle, in some ways, does not emerge from the water she fell into the day her daughter did not drown. I know the taste of this drowning, and I do not savor it.

    Some days the water is rage. Some days the water is grief. Most days, for her, it is the research that her husband first tries to stop and then ignores with a discomfort that never leaves him.

    She finds mermaids first. She remembers movies and books and she remembers that slick green something in the waves and she attacks this avenue with all the fervor of a starved wolf with a frozen, half-gnawed bone.

    But, no, it’s not quite right.

    • 19 min
    Nothing is Wasted

    Nothing is Wasted

    He was sitting in one of the booths at the Conqueror, tending a pint, something golden and silty, alone, his phone facedown on the sticky table, his gaze fixed on some invisible object in the middle distance. The door swung to behind me, shutting out an afternoon of implacably overcast sky, of unrelenting drizzle: I brushed the water from my hair and looked around, surveyed the almost-empty room, assessed my options, which appeared good. At that point, of course, I didn’t know his name, but I knew enough to know that once I knew it, everything else would follow. Such recognition is instantaneous. This is how it works.

    I decided his name was Mark.

    I watched him from a stool as the barman poured my shandy. When it’s time to do it, it isn’t wise to drink too much. But you need a drink, a pint, to look the part: protective colouration. A pack of peanuts, something to do with your hands. Before the cigarette ban, a smoke—cigarettes were excellent props. Nowadays a phone, apps to flick between, a newsfeed to load and refresh. I keep an eye on the news. Too much alcohol, you make mistakes.

    I let my gaze linger until Mark felt it, looked away as he looked up, glanced back to catch his eye. I could see the sadness in those eyes. He had blue eyes, the eyes of a clear day, the sky of someone else’s childhood. My own eyes are grey. The sky outside was the colour of my eyes—perhaps that was a good sign. Mark did not have the look of a man expecting company.

    I thanked the barman, who nodded as I paid, picking up the coins from the bar one at a time. I took my drink and crossed the floor, brushed Mark’s booth as I passed it on my way to the jukebox, felt him shift in his seat and look up at me before his gaze resettled in the middle distance.

    In that dull interregnum between early evening and the dead late afternoon, the pub fell silent except for the odd creak of a chair, the sniff of the barman, a muffled cough: one of those moments of languor and inertia you think might never end. A fake stag head, antlered, stared from the wall, shocked to discover itself both dead and unreal. Through the frosted windows the afternoon light was on the turn. Some music, I thought, remembering music, might improve the mood. In an hour or so the after-work crowd would arrive. I had time to settle my nerves.

    I flicked through CDs, scanned the lists of songs. My memory for certain things—someone’s body odour, the look in their eyes, the precise sensation of being drunk on the evening of the new millennium, twenty-something years ago, in another body, another life—is very sharp. For other things, minutiae, cultural detail, it is not so good. This can make smalltalk tricky, but I have strategies: I have learned to pass.

    The band names meant nothing to me, the song titles less. I sipped my drink and found myself alarmed by sudden uncertainty. Hesitation is never good. My stomach rumbled. I have learned to ride such moments out. I drank again, a deeper gulp, as if I liked the taste, enjoyed it, then pressed some buttons at random. The mechanism cranked into gear. I like to operate a mechanism: I love a jukebox, more for its mode of operation than the music it emits. A guitar chord that meant less than nothing to me began to play.

    I took a seat in the centre of the room, facing the door, facing Mark’s lonely booth. The barman leant on his bar and prodded at his phone. I stared for a while at the back of Mark’s head and wondered if he could feel my gaze.

    Suddenly he drank, set his glass down, rubbed his eyes, then stood. He was very tall. For a moment he appeared dizzy. The barman looked up.

    “Same again?”

    “Thanks.”

    I stared into the middle distance as he turned to look at me. In that same moment, the door swung open, bringing cold wet air and the laughter of women, a trio in colourful raincoats entering, surveying the space, assessing it, deciding it would do,

    • 19 min
    In Hades, He Lifted Up His Eyes

    In Hades, He Lifted Up His Eyes

    OBITUARY. At special behest, we mark this October 9th, 1832, the passing of one Abraham Farley, eighteen years of age, of late a hired hand in The Prospect of Pye, Smithfield. Farley was laid to rest in Blackshaw Cemetery and will be mourned by his mother and sister in York. “Come to me, all ye who are weary and burdened, and I shall give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-30.

    It is a curse to go to your grave as a young man and yet still breathe and weep. A lad shouldn’t feel the worms slithering over his skin and the beetles nipping at his ears. A spider, outraged in the dark at the invasion and crawling over a fluttering eye—the eye of a man such as I. Amongst the fruit, the salt beef and the jug my fellows gave me, here I rest in a narrow hell, my spine aching, with no pillow for my head. On my chest, no cross or flowers; instead, two pistols primed with powder, which cost a pretty penny from a jaded soldier down at the Knightsbridge barracks, and more to secure his silence. A twitch and my brow might knock on wood, bring the night watch running. My nails bite into my palms, my teeth a rictus to rival a corpse, keeping me still as the insects riddle and crawl, delighted by the blood-warm feast.

    In a shallow grave, in the cemetery of Blackshaw Road, I lie awake in the coffin.

    Oh, the taste of dirt and the waiting . . . Come, Hunter, I am your dead! Come at midnight like you always do, with the half-moon high, with your lackeys, your sack and your wooden spade, creeping past the watchmen with your lanthorn shielded. Come, come, I am your lad, your sweet Abe, who you took under your wing down Smithfield way, and then like a man takes a woman, in shadows, secrets and sin. In grunts as you yanked down my breeches and took me roughly over the hop sacks all those weeks ago.

    You said I was your golden boy. I was never as golden as Harry.

    Aye, I was a green thing then, soft in the head like my mother used to say, with an ear for your pretty lies. I was tall and sinewed enough to gain employment in your tavern, but that wasn’t why you hired me. You had me up and down the stairs, hefting your crates, your inebriated patrons and soon enough you, sweating in the gloom with your hand over my mouth lest the drunkards upstairs should hear us.

    And later hefting bodies too, fresh and pale from the grave, bound for a handful of willing anatomists from Lambeth to Bethnal Green. Riding St George in the cellars or digging up cadavers would see the both of us swing and no mistake. They did for Burke up in Edinburgh, the notorious ‘resurrectionist’ hung in the square, his accomplice and the doctor they sold to escaping the arm of the law. But your own labours furnish you with guineas and guineas are your true love, are they not? Though you wailed to find me in the kitchen, silent, pale on the floor, the both of us know the devilment that squirms in your heart, Jebediah Hunter.

    And so I wait, your Abe, your Lazarus, for the hour of my unearthing.

    The days of our labours and passions, how well I remember them. In the smoky bowels of the Prospect of Pye, there wasn’t much trouble slipping them the poison; often your quarry was blootered enough. The air in your establishment curdled with pipes, lanterns and sour gin breath, with the laughter of merchants, soldiers and whores, the slap of hand on bosom and thigh while I made your foul acquaintance, running trays to this and that table, lugging barrels and swabbing floors. Outside the stink of London, the belch of factories and Thames fog pressing against the windows, the wind blowing the odd traveller in like how it blew in Harry.

    Before all that, you’d watch me with eyes dulled by laudanum and drudgery. On occasion you’d lick your chops, a dog staring at scraps. When you trusted me enough, when we’d made sufficient congress for me to know that to snitch was to risk my hide—not that anyone would take my word over yours—you showed me the powders you procur...

    • 28 min
    Mal de Caribou

    Mal de Caribou

    Dorothy is thin, predominantly. Like most rich people in a certain age bracket, she wears fussy, preppy neutrals, and her hair is expensively coloured, though threadbare. Her pink scalp edges out from the corners of her up-do. When she smiles the soft tissue of her face shifts into unnatural shapes; I am able to trace the topography of fillers lifting the creases away from her skin. She is smiling now, waving one veined hand. “Well, you know how it is,” she says, “it’s all just a bit much, isn’t it? But you’ve come highly recommended, and I thought—oh, why not? Why not treat myself?”

    “Why not,” I agree. My own smile feels foreign, a feral thing captured behind bars. “I have your taste list printed out here. What I normally do with my clients is text them each morning, to let them know the following day’s menu. If you have any issues, any preferences, you can fill me in then. I deliver between two and four. If you’re home, or if someone else will be, that’s great. Everything can go in the microwave whenever you’re ready to eat.” I flick my ponytail behind my shoulder. “Some clients prefer for me to set things up for them—I can let myself into the house, set the table, keep food warming in the oven. It’s entirely up to you.”

    “I haven’t come home to a hot meal in years,” says Dorothy, laughing. “My husband wasn’t much of a cook, even before he left. My housekeeper can let you in every afternoon.”

    I spread my hands. Offering her my imaginary feast. Sit, eat. “Would you like to start on a trial basis? A week or two? If you’re happy after that, I operate on a three-month contract.”

    “Wonderful.” Dorothy sounds fervent. Her eyes shift nervously over me. Taking me in, spitting me out. “You’re a real godsend, aren’t you?”

    Modest as a saint, I bow my head. “I’m just here to help,” I say.

    For two weeks I feed Dorothy the way no one ever has. I lovingly roast camone tomatoes until their pink-black skins char and spit out citrusy sweetness, serve the pulp pureed with hand-cut duck-egg tagliatelle. I toast ancient grains, sugar them with coconut blossom nectar, mix in grated ginger, tuiled papaya, Mexican cinnamon. Tenderly, and with great care, I wrap quail in a mantel of holy basil and banana leaves, ready to be shredded over a salad of sprouted seeds and candied jalapeño. I tailor my menus to fit Dorothy’s preferences. Tease her out of old habits. Introduce her to flavours she might never have encountered, ensconced as she is in her own whiteness, her own middle age. At the end of the fortnight she calls me up. “Obviously I’m keeping you,” she says, and she giggles, like a much younger woman. “What do I have to do, sell you my firstborn?”

    It has been a long day. My joints all feel shredded, my nerve-endings hypervigilant. I’m still sweeping crockery shards from between the kitchen tiles. Some days are like this: Leda and I have been working hard on reducing their number. “Oh, gosh, nothing like that,” I say, my eyes on the window, where the sunset stains the neighbourhood bloody. “I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the service! I’ll send over the contracts right away.” On a whim, I add, “I’m taking a glazed apricot tart tatin out of the oven right now, actually. Can I bring you a piece tomorrow?”

    Apricot is one of Dorothy’s favourites. It says so right here, on the list taped into my leather binder. She makes a sound I struggle to categorise as anything but sexual. “You’re trying to spoil me, aren’t you?” she demands. “Just admit it.”

    I laugh. I twirl a strand of hair around my finger. Glazed apricot tart tatin takes three hours, if you’re making the puff pastry from scratch. It’s already nine o’clock. I nudge a shard of white porcelain away from the baseboard with one bare toe. “Everyone deserves a little spoiling, don’t they?” I ask.

    Do you know what it feels like to be hungry? she asks me,

    • 38 min
    Knotlings

    Knotlings

    There came a day, six years into my marriage, when my husband was hit by a van. It skidded on black ice in a car park, and crushed him against a post.

    He did not suffer, they told me later, in the hospital.

    Sure, I said. He wasn’t really the type. My son Aaron and I went on without him.

    Aaron made an expression of surprise, of discomfort. It bent his beautiful mouth out of shape. He leaned forward, his hands clamped over his stomach. It was early morning; he was on his way out the door, to school. I froze, on the bottom stair in the hallway. I went to him, took him back inside the house, and hugged him tight. I knew what was causing it: a feeling I had lived with since my own first release, thirty years ago.

    I had dreaded the moment, hoping he had escaped my condition, but when it came I felt relief. He was not like his father after all. He was suffering, and to suffer well, one must live a long time.

    I let him feel the pain for a few days before I attempted to explain what it was. I knew he would need to go through the sensations to get to the point where he was willing to listen. He came to me late in the evening of the third day and described the symptoms so well, choosing his words with a precision that made me proud.

    “—squeezing, inside, like a beat, like a light winking on and off, but also burning. A strong, hot light. And a tearing feeling too, as if my guts are twisting. I thought it might go away—”

    “It won’t,” I told him. He was beside me on the sofa. I took care not to make direct eye contact for more than a few seconds. He hated intensity. I was the same, at fifteen.

    “You know what it is, then?”

    I explained it, as best as I could.

    “Seriously?” he said, but he did not laugh at me, or push the idea away. “And you’ve got the same thing?”

    “Had it since I was your age.”

    “Why?” he said. I couldn’t answer. Who knows why? I told him what I hold true to this day: we are alone in illness, whether we share its existence with others or not. If there are textbooks and societies, answers and alleviations, I don’t want to know of them. I went through a phase of thinking otherwise. The doctor did not believe me and I could not demonstrate my symptoms on cue. I came to my own solutions through exploration, and through luck.

    Sometimes things that look as if they came into this world whole, planned and executed all at once, are in fact made over years of trial and error. So it was with my shed. I never set out to have a site purely for releasing. I was only looking, at first, for a large garden, overgrown, to which I could go and crouch, give way to the pain. Aaron’s father saw no reason for me to stay out there without protection in all weathers, so he bought a small shed and left it empty for me. As the frequency intensified, into my late twenties, I started to collect egg boxes and glue them to the walls, to keep the sounds I made from escaping. Then paint, all colours, splashed wherever I felt while waiting for the release to come. The painting seemed to help, a little.

    The box I used—with the snap-shut lid—I’ve had since the beginning. It was left over from Christmas, had once housed fancy iced biscuits. I grabbed it the first time I released, standing in my parents’ kitchen in the early hours of the morning, alone and scared, trying to be so quiet. It’s been my receptacle of choice ever since.

    But the key to it all is the garden. When we first viewed the house, looking to buy, I took one look at the overgrown expanse backing on to a wide, unkempt field that merged into a wood, thick trees keeping out the light, and knew it was what I needed. I won’t ever move, no matter what happens. Let them come. I’m staying put.

    The morning after Aaron shared his condition with me, I took him down to my shed.

    I’d like to think that the things I told him that day have stuck with him, were meaningful. Resonant,

    • 31 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
12 Ratings

12 Ratings

Opal Castmin ,

Good podcast for short dark fiction

Seems like a really good magazine and podcast. Check out the recent story "Mother Love," by Clara Madrigano.

Top Podcasts In Arts

The Pink House with Sam Smith
Lemonada Media
Fresh Air
NPR
The Moth
The Moth
99% Invisible
Roman Mars
Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked
Snap Judgment
The Magnus Archives
Rusty Quill