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Authors: Darrell Schweitzer,Martin Harry Greenberg,Lisa Tuttle,Gene Wolfe,Carrie Vaughn,Esther M. Friesner,Tanith Lee,Holly Phillips,Mike Resnick,P. D. Cacek,Holly Black,Ian Watson,Ron Goulart,Chelsea Quinn Yarbro,Gregory Frost,Peter S. Beagle

Tags: #thriller

Full MoonCity (10 page)

BOOK: Full MoonCity
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That was pretty much that. Louise tastes like old hardboiled eggs and does not have any trousers I could borrow to cover my shame afterward, which is what Lily Packmother calls it, only more of those stupid dresses.

Here’s what I can do: Burp up patent-leather shoe buckles.

It took me utterly forever to find one drop of mustard in that whole apartment, for Lord’s sake.

I am Emmeline. I am six. I live at the Plaza Hotel.

I have to. Louise’s mother does not visit often, but when she does, it would be a good idea if there were a little girl of approximully the right age to say hello and what did you bring me? I will have to get used to having a different name now. Lily Packmother says so. She says it is the least I can do so Amanda can keep her job and not have to face a lot of uncomfortable questions from the police. Besides, Amanda says it isn’t as if that rich sow will ever catch wise, not for how little she has ever cared about having a child in the first place, and some people are not fit to raise a begonia let alone a little girl.

I am not a begonia and I am really not Louise. I am still me, Emmeline.

I am going to have
lots
of toys.

I visit Lily Packmother in Central Park all the time. She and Amanda have become very good friends. They both say how proud they are of me for being a big girl and solving a big problem all by myself even if I did solve it with a very messy solution. But Lily Packmother says that is all water and other liquids under the bridge and Amanda says she is only sorry in theory about what I did to that little bitch, no offense meant to Lily Packmother and none taken.

The Vessel of Lyncanthropy has a new name, too. I gave it to him. He is Frankie because that is a lot easier to spell on my drawings of him and also because I still love hot dogs. He says the fact that my power to turn into a wolf in broad daylight manifestoed so soon means that I was the Chosen One and how! He says once I grow up and get the ball rolling, ordinary humans won’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell. Amanda says he should not not not use such language in front of a mere child.

That makes Frankie sad because I am going to take whole entire
ages
to get that ball rolling, on account of the backwards dog years and me being as young as I am to start with. Then he cheers up because he is immortal and good things are worth waiting for and the twenty-first century is not
that
far away. He says the humans may be harder to catch then, on account of all the flying cars and jet packs strapped to their backs, but we werewolves will manage.

I say, “Hello, Housekeeping, send someone up to clean our room there are lots and lots of stains all over from the roast beef dinner I had that exploded please give yourselves a gigantic huge tip thank you and charge it please.”

Now all I have to do all day is play in the Plaza Hotel and not give Amanda too many headaches and see to it that the rest of the pack gets a fair share of any leftovers we have from dinner. Then I watch television. I get to watch
Robin Hood
all I want.

Oh my Lord, there is absolutely too much for one small child to do while waiting around for my loins to spawn and bring about the Kingdom of the Werewolves or to infiltrate the power base of the moneyed classes and overthrow Capitalism, whichever comes first. It will be fun.

Tomorrow I think I’ll write
Comes the Revolution!
on all the tabletops in the Palm Court with Amanda’s Hazel Bishop red lipstick.

Ooooooh, I absolutely
love
waiting for the Revolution!

I am Emmmm…
Louise
. I am six.

For now.

 

Sea Warg by Tanith Lee

O
ne dull red star was sinking through the air into the sea. It was the sun. But eastward the October night had already commenced. There the water was dark green and the air purple, and the old ruinous pier stood between like a burnt spider.

Under the pier was a ghostly blackness, holed by mysterious luminous apertures. Ancient weeds and shreds of nets dripped. The insectile, leprous, wooden legs of the pier seemed to ripple, just as their drowning reflections did. The tide would be high.

The sea pushed softly against the land. It was destroying the land. The cliffs, eaten alive by the sea (smelling of antique metal, fish odour of Leviathan, depth, death), were crumbling in little pieces and large slabs, and the promenade, where sea-siders had strolled not more than thirty years ago, rotted and grew rank. Even the
danger
notices had faded and in the dark were only pale splashes, daubed with words that might have been printed in Russian.

But the sea-influencing moon would rise in a while.

Almost full tonight.

Under the pier the water twitched. Something moved through it. Perhaps a late swimmer who was indifferent to the cold evening or the warning
danger-keep out.
Or nothing at all maybe, just some rogue current, for the currents were temperamental all along this stretch of coast.

A small rock fell from above and clove the water, copying the sound of a rising fish.

The sun had been squashed from view. Half a mile westward the lights of hotels and restaurants shone upward, like the rays of another world, another planet.

When the man had stabbed him in the groin, Johnson had not really believed it. Hadn’t
understood
the fountain of blood. When the next moment two security guards burst in and threw the weeping man onto the fitted carpet, Johnson simply sat there. “Are you okay?
Fuck
. You’re not,” said the first security guard. “Oh. I’m-” said Johnson. The next thing he recalled, subsequently, was the hospital.

The compensation had been generous. And a partial pension, too, until in eighteen years’ time he came of age to draw it in full. The matter was hushed up otherwise, obliterated. Office bullying by the venomous Mr. Haine had driven a single employee-not to the usual nervous breakdown or mere resignation-but to stab reliable Mr. Johnson, leaving him with a permanent limp and some slight but ineradicable impairments both of a digestive and a sexual nature. “I hope you won’t think of us too badly,” said old Mr. Birch, gentle as an Alzheimer’s lamb. “Not at all, sir,” replied Johnson in his normal, quiet, pragmatic way.

Sandbourne was his choice for the bungalow with the view of the sea-what his own dead father had always wanted, and never achieved.

Johnson wasn’t quite certain why he fitted himself, so seamlessly, into that redundant role.

Probably the run-down nature of the seaside town provided inducement. House prices were much lower than elsewhere in the south-east. And he had always liked the sea. Besides, there were endless opportunities in Sandbourne for the long, tough walks he must now take, every day of his life if possible, to keep the spoilt muscles in his left leg in working order.

But he didn’t mind walking. It gave extra scope for the other thing he liked, which had originally furnished his job in staff liaison at Haine and Birch. Johnson was fascinated by people. He never tired of the study he gave them. A literate and practiced reader, he found they provided him with
animated
books. His perceptions had, he was aware, cost him his five-year marriage: he had seen too well what Susan, clever though she had been, was up to. But then, Susan wouldn’t have wanted him now anyway, with his limp and the bungalow, forty-two years of age, and two months into the town-city and walking everywhere, staring at the wet wilderness of waters.

“I see that dog again, up by the old pier.”

“Yeah?” asked the man behind the counter. “What dog’s that, then?”

“I tol’ yer. Didn’ I? I was up there shrimping. An’ I looks an’ it’s swimming aroun’ out there, great big fucker, too. Don’ like the looks of it, mate. I can tell yer.”

“Right.”

“Think I oughta call the RSPCee like?”

“What, the Animal Rights people?” chipped in the other man.

“Nah. He means the RSPCA, don’t ya, Benny?”

“ ’S right. RSPCee. Only it shouldn’ be out there like that on its own. No one about. Just druggies and pushers.”

The man behind the counter filled Benny’s mug with a brown foam of coffee and slapped a bacon sandwich down before the other man at the counter. Johnson, sitting back by the café wall, his breakfast finished, watched them closely in the way he had perfected, seeming not to, seeming miles off.

“An’ it’s allus this time of the month.”

“Didn’t know you still had them, Benny, times of the month.”

Benny shook his head, dismissing-or just missing-the joke. “I don’ mean that.”

“What
do
ya mean then, pal?”

“I don’ like it. Great big bloody dog like that, out there in the water when it starts ter get dark and just that big moon ter show it.”

“Sure it weren’t a shark?”

“Dog. It was a dog.”

“Live and let live,” said the counter man.

Benny slouched to a table. “You ain’t seen it.”

After breakfast Johnson had meant to walk up steep Hill Road and take the rocky path along the clifftop and inland, through the forest of newish high-rises, well-decked shops, and SF-movie-dominated cinemas, to the less fashionable supermarket at Crakes Bay.

Now he decided to go eastwards along the beach, following the cliff line, to the place where the warning notices were. There had been a few major rockfalls in the 1990s, so he had heard; less now, they said. People were always getting over the council barricade. A haunt of drug-addicts, too, that area, ‘down-and-outs holing up like rats’ among the boarded-up shops and drownfoundationed houses farther up. Johnson wasn’t afraid of any of that. He didn’t look either well-off or so impoverished as to be desperate. Besides, he’d been mugged in London once or twice. As a general rule, if you kept calm and gave them what they wanted without fuss, no harm befell you. No, it was in a smart office with a weakened man in tears that harm had happened.

The beach was an easy walk. Have to do something more arduous later.

The sand was still damp, the low October sun reflecting in smooth, mirrored strafes where the sea had decided to remain until the next incoming tide fetched it. A faintly hazy morning, salt-smelling and chilly and fresh.

Johnson thought about the dog. Poor animal, no doubt belonging to one of the drugged outcasts. He wondered if, neglected and famished, it had learned to swim out to sea, catching the fish that a full moon lured to the water’s surface.

There were quite a few other people walking on the beach, but after the half mile it took to come around to the pier-end, none at all. There was a dismal beauty to the scene. The steely sea and soft grey-blue sky featuring its sun. The derelict promenade, much of which had collapsed. Behind these the defunct shops with their look of broken toy models, and then the long, helpless arm of the pier, with the hulks of its arcades and tea-rooms, and the ballroom, now mostly a skeleton, where had hung, so books on Sandbourne’s history told one, sixteen crystal chandeliers.

Johnson climbed the rocks and rubbish-soggy pizza boxes, orange peels, beer cans-and stood up against the creviced pavement of the esplanade. It looked as if bombs had exploded there.

Out at sea nothing moved, but for the eternal sideways running of the waves.

At the beginning of the previous century, a steamboat had sailed across regularly from France, putting in by the pier, then a white confection like a bridal cake. The strange currents that beset this coast had made that the only safe spot. The fishing fleet had gone out from here too, this old part of the city-town, the roots of which had been there, it seemed, since Saxon times. Now the boats put off from the west end of Sandbourne, or at least they did so when the rest of Europe allowed it.

Johnson wondered whether it was worth the climb, awkward now with his leg, over the boarding and notices. By day there were no movements, no people. They were night dwellers very likely, eyes sore from skunk, skins scabrous from crack.

And by night, of course, this place would indeed be dangerous.

As he turned and started back along the shore, Johnson’s eye was attracted by something not the cloud-and-sea shades of the morning, lying at the very edge of the land. He took it at first for some unusual shell or sea-life washed ashore. Then decided it must be something manufactured, some gruesome modern fancy for Halloween, perhaps.

In fact, when he went down the beach and saw it clearly, lying there as if it had tried to clutch at the coast, kept its grip but let go of all else, he found it wasn’t plastic or rubber but quite real. A man’s hand, torn off raggedly just behind the wrist bone, a little of which stuck out from the bloated and discolouring skin.

Naturally he thought about it, the severed hand.

He had never, even in London, come across such an item. But then, probably, he’d never been in the right (wrong) place to do so.

Johnson imagined that one of the down-and-outs had killed another, for drugs or cash. Maybe even for a burger from the Alnite Caff.

He did wonder, briefly, if the near-starving dog might have liked to eat the hand. But there wasn’t much meat on a hand, was there?

That evening, after he had gone to the supermarket and walked all the way back along Bourne Road, he poured himself a Guinness and sat at his table in the little ‘study’ of the bungalow and wrote up his find in his journal. He had kept a journal ever since he started work in Staff Liaison. Case-notes, histories…
people
-cameos, whole bios sometimes.

Later he fried a couple of chops and ate them with a green salad.

Nothing on TV. He read Trollope until 11:36, then went to bed.

He dreamed of being in the sea, swimming with great strength and ability, although in reality he had always been an inadequate swimmer. In the dream he was aware of a dog nearby, but was not made afraid by this. Instead he felt a vague exhilaration, which on waking he labeled as a sort of puerile pleasure in unsafety. Physically he had long outgrown it. But there, deep in his own mind, perhaps not so?

The young man was leaning over his motorbike, adjusting something apparently. The action was reminiscent of a rider with his favourite steed, checking the animal for discomfort.

Johnson thought he had seen him before. He was what? Twenty-five, thirty? He had a thick shock of darkish fair hair, cut short the way they did now, and a lean face from which the summer tan was fading. In the sickly glare under the streetlight his clothes were good but ordinary. He had, Johnson thought, very long fingers, and his body was tall and almost athletic in build.

This was outside the pub they called in Sandbourne the “Biker Inn.”

Johnson didn’t know the make of the bike, but it was a powerful model, elegant.

Turning off Ship Street, Johnson went into the
Cat In Clover.
He wasn’t yet curious as to why he had noted the man with the bike. Johnson noted virtually everyone. An hour into the evening he did, however, recall where he had twice seen him before, which was in the same launderette Johnson himself frequented. Nice and clean then. Also perhaps, like Johnson, more interested in coming out to do the wash than in buying a machine.

During the rest of the week Johnson found he kept seeing the man he then named, for the convenience of the journal, Biker. The rather mundane region where Johnson lived was one of those village-in-city conurbations featured by London journalists writing on London -like Hampstead, for example, if without the dosh. You did get to be aware, indirectly, sometimes, of the locals, as they of you, perhaps. Johnson believed that in fact he wasn’t coincidentally and now constantly “bumping into” Biker, but that he had become
aware
of Biker. Therefore he noticed him now each time he saw him, whereas formerly he had frequently seen him
without
noticing, therefore without consciously
seeing.

This kind of thing had happened before.

In the beginning, when in his teens, Johnson had thought it meant something profoundly important, particularly when it was a girl he abruptly kept on seeing-that was,
noticing.
Even in his thirties he had been misled by that idea, with Susan. He had realized, after their separation, that what had drawn him to her at first wasn’t love or sex but her own quirkiness and his observation of it. She had worked it out herself, eventually. In the final year of their life together she came to call those he especially studied (including those at Haine and Birch) his “prey.” “Which of your prey are you seeing tomorrow?” she would ask playfully.

Now grasping that it was some type of acuity in him that latched on to certain others in this fashion, Johnson had not an instant’s doubt that he had reacted differently to Biker.

So what was it then, with Biker?
What
had alerted Johnson there under the streetlamp on that moonless night?

During the next week, Johnson took his washing to the launderette about 6 p.m., and there Biker sat.

Biker was unloading his wash, but raised his eyes. They were very long eyes, extraordinarily clear, a pale, gleaming grey.

“Cold out,” said Johnson, dumping the washing.

“Yeah,” said Biker.

“Damn it, this machine isn’t working.”

“Yeah,” said Biker. He looked up again. “Try kicking it.”

“You’re joking,” said Johnson placidly.

“No,” said Biker, and he came over quite calmly, and did something astonishing. Which was he jumped straight upward with enormous agility and power, and fetched the washer the lightest but most expressive slap with his left foot. Landing, he was like a lion-totally co-ordinated, unfazed. While the machine, which had let out a rattling roar, now gulped straight into its cycle. Biker nodded and returned to his wash.

“Wow,” said Johnson. “Thanks.”

BOOK: Full MoonCity
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