Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as a holiday treat to our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today we’ve got a little bit of downhome weirdness courtesy of Stephen Graham Jones’ “Doc’s Story,” and you can bet your bottom dollar this ain’t no shaggy dog tale…
My grandfather was a werewolf.
Not by the time I knew him — transforming at his age would have been a death sentence — but my Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren had stories. Grandpa halfway up an old wooden windmill, howling at the moon, swiping at it with his claws. Grandpa on the porch one morning after two nights gone, his man-chin caked with blood, his whiskers not grown in like you’d think, him having run off into the woods without a razor.
When the hair pulls back in to wrap around your bones or wherever it goes, it’s like a reset button, I guess. If you had a beard before, you’ll wake without one.
One of those mornings, he had to go into town to the doctor, though.
Another thing you don’t expect is the bugs. If it’s summer or even a late fall without a hard enough freeze yet, the insects’ll still be crawling, and if you pull a deer down, then, well, ticks, they just care that you’ve got warm, drinkable blood, and can’t reach all your scratchy places.
What my Aunt Libby figured happened was that, while Grandpa was rooting around in the slit-open belly of a fat deer, one of that deer’s ticks jumped ship, went to where the beating heart was.
It wasn’t Lyme disease that sent Grandpa to the doctor, though. Wolfed out, his system probably could have kicked smallpox.
No, what sent him to town was that tick. When Grandpa fell to sleep on the porch, and his hair started slithering back into its pores, that tick was a cartoon character, climbing a tree that was sinking into the ground as fast it could climb, and then just riding that hair down.
It impacted itself in one of the wide pores on the back of Grandpa’s arm, just under the shoulder. If it hadn’t been headfirst, then it would have starved, shriveled up, turned to dirt.
Headfirst like it was, though, it could slurp and slurp and slurp…
For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.
Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six story collections, two novellas and a hundred and seventy or so stories in magazines (Weird Tales, Cemetery Dance, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Prairie Schooner), anthologies (The Weird, Creatures, Fearful Symmetries), and multiple best-of-the-year annuals. Stephen’s been a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and a Colorado Book Award finalist, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction, This is Horror’s Novel of the Year and an NEA fellowship. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and kids and various old trucks, and teaches in the MFA programs at CU-Boulder and UCR Palm Desert. More @SGJ72 and demontheory.net.