Want to read a totally trippy, insane short story that will keep you guessing—and possibly a little bit uncertain of the solidity of your surroundings? You’re in luck, because there’s a weird-as-hell Laird Barron short story over at Apex Magazine.
I can’t even begin to summarize “Nemesis,” except that there’s a fish called Hercules, and some kind of apocalyptic event, and a mysterious Machine, and a main character who was murdered by their father—but how, and when? It keeps changing.
Here’s how it begins:
Poe died of rabies, didn’t he? Died raving, at any rate.
Here we are at end in a cheap motel along the lost highway. You’ve been walking for a long time and the time has come to rest. Your sandals are worn through to the bone. Your beard could host sparrows. Your eyes have seen too much.
Sit in the armchair by the table. Here’s a tumbler and an unmarked bottle. The bottle should be green with electric lime, but it’s black. Pour a shot, set it aside. That’s the hammer cocking back. That’s the muzzle and the bore of the universe bearing down; that’s the naked bulb in the eighty-dollar a night room snapping on. The window frames the world like a television screen. That shadow flowing over the tundra is the moon coming too close to its mother. While all other points of fire wink out, a wandering star sparkles, black flame from a black nozzle magnified by the whiskey glass bottom pressed to your eye. Press RECORD. Time has come to get down to cases.
This room is a microcosm of everything that exists. You are alone with the monkey that rides your back. DO NOT DISTURB has arranged this tête-à-tête. There’s no mirror, there’s only you and him and you aren’t friends. There are, however, questions you’ve got to ask yourself here at the brink. Let’s make it easy. These are yes/no questions. Be honest. Honesty is best.
For a moment back there you got to be a god. There were infinite possibilities. Look at what you did with that split second of omnipotence. Look into the mirror, if you are able. You open your mouth and the mirror shivers and somewhere a supermassive black hole dilates.
“But it wasn’t that way at all,” you say. “My father killed me when I was a boy.”
You sound so sincere.
You can read the rest over at Apex Magazine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Top image: Apex Magazine #79 cover art by Irek Konior
Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All The Birds in the Sky, coming Jan 26 from Tor Books. Follow her on Twitter, and email her.