Teasers to Lovecraft: Chesya Burke

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece comes from the incomparable Chesya Burke, and takes us on a chilling journey the likes of which Lovecraft himself never dared imagine…

Edgar Kay Morrison died for the first time on August 13, 1900. He would die many nights after that, it would seem, always for the same reason. He was an enigma to some; to others, an evil devil sent to bewitch; and still yet, a prophet to most. However, on that night, he was none of those things. He was a seven-year-old boy who thought God had sent his chariots down for him, on the count of him having been such a good boy all his years.

At least that was what his momma whispered in his ears as he lay there wrenching in pain. The cramps started in his legs two days before, and had quickly taken over his body. That was when Momma sent Papa to get Doc Warner. He would know what to do, she said.

“Calm yo self, boy. God ain’t gonna set no pain on you, as you cain’t take.” Even as his momma spoke, another cramp seized his body. “Them chariots gonna be worth all this if they get you tonight,” she sounded so sure, but he saw tears rolling down her too-pale cheeks.

Edgar closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see her this way. He felt guilty. His sister had died just the year before, and his momma had stayed in bed for two weeks. She had cried so much that she said she had run out of tears. He didn’t want her to go through that again.

The pain — like a lead pipe snapping down on the small of his back — seized him again, and his body contorted; his arms flailing behind him, his head thrown back. He looked for all the world as if he were trying to roll himself up in a big ol’ ball, backward. His fingers were knotted in peculiar shapes, and he couldn’t get them to move.

“The devil,” his younger brother, David, whispered from somewhere behind his head.

“Shush up, boy. Now go on over there and get me something to put under his head. Go on now.”

David watched for another moment, and as Edgar screamed again, he jumped and ran into the other room. He didn’t come back for a full ten minutes, when he did, the only thing he brought with him was the old thick Bible, which was the only thing Momma had gotten from her father when he’d died twenty years before.

Momma took one look at him and shook her head. “Get… Give me that thing.” She took the Bible from David, and placed it under Edgar’s head. “This here will give you comfort in your time of trouble.” She told him, kissing his hand and touching the Good Book.

Outside, thick drops of rain hit the crude windowpane that Papa had cut himself just the year before, before Edgar’s sister had died. David went to the window, rubbed the condensation off, and stared out into the night. He was scared. Edgar couldn’t blame him, but what he couldn’t make out was if the boy really thought that he was the devil…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

Chesya Burke’s 2011 fiction collection, Let’s Play White, was featured in io9 and received praise from Samuel Delany and Nikki Giovanni. She is also recognized for her critical analysis of genre and race issues, such as her articles, “Race and The Walking Dead” and “Super Duper Sexual Spiritual Black Woman: The New and Improved Magical Negro,” published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Chesya is currently getting her MA in African American studies at Georgia State University and is a juror for the 2013 Shirley Jackson awards.

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