Authors: Christopher Barzak
Maple Shade, New Jersey
Copyright © 2013 Christopher Barzak.
all rights reserved
. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilm, and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published in 2013 by Lethe Press, Inc.
118 Heritage Avenue, Maple Shade, NJ 08052
lethepressbooks.com / [email protected]
: 978-1-59021-369-8 / 1-59021-369-6
: 978-1-59021-285-1 / 1-59021-285-1
Credits for previous publication appear at the end.
These stories are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, whether living or dead, business establishments, organizations, clubs, events, locales, services, or products is entirely coincidental.
Interior design: Alex Jeffers.
Cover art and design: Steven Andrew.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
[Short stories. Selections]
Before and afterlives : stories / Chri
ISBN 978-1-59021-369-8 (pbk. : alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-1-59021-285-1 (e-book)
1. Ghost stories, American. 2. Paranormal fiction. 3. Magic--Fiction. I.
Praise for Christopher Barzak and
Before and Afterlives
“Barzak’s sympathy and humor, his awareness, his easeful ve
rnacular storytelling, are extraordinary.”
, author o
“Throughout this collection, Barzak effectively writes people contending with their fears and doubts but most especially he writes about loneliness, and it is this writerly radar for alienation that perhaps makes him so perceptive when it comes to his teen characters. ...Barzak makes it all seem so easy, these gentle glimpses into his characters’ lives, and even though these lives might include mermaids or ghostly parents or talking fireflies, the extraordinary aspects are not what make his tales so magical. It’s the way he sees plain ordinary people that gives his stories such power; the way he sees us and yet loves us anyway. Bravo.”
“Masterfully crafted...each one packs a punch.”
“[Barzak] treads a delicate line between the paranormal ghost romance and the more nuanced literary tradition that includes Shirley Jackson, Peter S. Beagle, and Robert Nathan..
Before and Afterlive
is a fine introduction to the short fiction of an author who, in a fairly short career, has established himself as one of the most distinctive voices and lyrically effective prose stylists in recent fantasy.”
Gary K. Wolfe
Also by Christopher Barzak
One for Sorro
The Love We Share Without Knowin
(co-edited with Delia Sherman) 2009
Birds and Birthday
For Tony Romandetti
Before, After, Always
But is the house truly haunted?
Of course the house is haunted. If a door is closed on the first floor, another on the second floor will squeal open out of co
ntrariness. If wine is spilled on the living room carpet and scrubbed at furiously and quickly so that a stain does not set, another stain, possibly darker, will appear somewhere else in the house. A favorite room in which malevolence quietly happens is the bathroom. Many speculate as to why this room draws so much attention. One might think that in a bathroom things would be more carefree, in a room where the most private of acts are committed, that any damned inhabitants could let down their hair or allow a tired sigh to pass through their doomed lips.
Perhaps this is exactly what they are doing in the bathroom, and we have misunderstood them. They turn on the shower and write names in the steam gathered on the mirror (never their own names, of course). They tip perfume bottles over, squeeze the last of the toothpaste out of its tube, they leave curls of red hair in the sink. And no one who lives in the house—no one li
ving, that is—has red hair, or even auburn. What’s worse is when they leave the toilet seat up. They’ll flush the toilet over and over, entranced by the sound of the water being sucked out. This is what these restless inhabitants are endlessly committing: private acts.
The latest victims
Always there has been a family subject to the house’s torture. For sixty-five years it was the Addlesons. Before that it was owned by the Oliver family. No one in town can remember who lived in the house before the Olivers, not even our oldest residents. We have stories, of course, recountings of the fam
ily who built — House, but their name has been lost to history. If anyone is curious, of course there is the library with town records ready to be opened. No one has opened those records in over fifty years, though. Oral history, gossip, is best for this sort of situation.
Rose Addleson believed the house was trying to commun
icate something. She told her husband women know houses better than men, and this is one thing Rose said that we agree with. There is, after all, what is called “Women’s Intuition”. What exactly the house was saying eluded Rose, though, as it eludes the rest of us. Where Rose wanted to figure out its motivations, the rest of us would rather have seen it burn to cinders.