Schemers is the latest genre-crossing anthology of new short fiction from Stone Skin Press. From the classic myths to the pages of the Bible, from Shakespeare’s stage to the yellowed pulps of yesteryear, literature runs red with tales of plotting and betrayal.
Of all the contemporary genres, none makes treachery its main course the way espionage fiction does. And it’s had to think of a place and time where it hung thicker in the air than in the death throes of the Soviet surveillance state. Paranoia oozes from the pores like grease in Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s “Buried.”
“In the old days,” and Nicolai makes a gun with his thumb and forefinger, “bang, back of the head.”
“So why did you come in today?” I ask.
“Someone has to hold the gun,” he replies.
“You old Chekist! I came in for the pornography.” Vasily is the embodiment of a bad night out in Tverskaya–booze, grease, a taste for expensive women, and secret police all in one ugly package. He’s tapped the phones of half the prostitutes in Moscow, and gets off on heavy breathing and sex chats.
The last member of our little third-floor office quartet scowls in distaste from the doorway. Comrade Irina is of the opinion that Vasily does not carry out his duties with the professionalism and zeal for Marxism-Leninism that his exalted position in the KGB requires. She sweeps into the office like a snowstorm, puts on her headphones, and makes a very great show of ignoring us.
Vasily ambles to the window and looks out at the square. I join him. “And you, comrade?” he asks me.
I see graffiti on the wall opposite the Lubyanka—an unthinkable transgression up until a few days ago. FUCK THE KGB.
“I wanted to see to see how fucked we are.”
For the rest, get Schemers from Stone Skin Press.
Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (@mytholder) is a writer and game designer. He wrote the Paranoia novel Reality Optional and has contributed stories to several anthologies, including The Lion and the Aardvark from Stone Skin Press. He’s worked on more award-winning roleplaying games than he can readily recall, notably Paranoia, Traveller, The One Ring, Doctor Who and The Laundry Files. He lives in Ireland with more children, spaniels and Apple products than he ever expected.