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 entry comes from Kirsten Alene, and takes us to a strange university where stranger things are afoot. This may not be Miskatonic U, but credit hours from one may be applied at the other…
I have been growing bats in the attic of the faculty hall for a long time. The warm, humid atmosphere suits them, and they appear to flourish under my care. Sometimes I take their soft, fat mammalian bodies in my hand and press their chests against my cheek. They are paralyzed by the smooth softness, and the only part of them that moves is their heart, which beats as fast as the vibrato of a piccolo. The morning that the sun rises orange through the rosary window on the fourth floor of the faculty building, I am tending the bats in the attic, and I miss what transpires on the first floor, in the faculty lounge.
Someone rushes up the stairs to tell me, “Anna Beth, there’s been a fire. Anna Beth, there’s been some sort of fire.”
Downstairs the hallway is blackened and crumbling, but the walls are all intact. Teachers and students, a few aids, and a school nurse are walking around the place, expressing their dismay and despair by guttural emissions, which together add up to a general monastic hum.
Under the remains of a light fixture, which sparks benignly overhead, is a small blonde thing with ashes fluffing out from her head in a halo. She’s very dirty, and the other faculty members do not approve. Who does she think she is, running around setting fires and then becoming blackened by them? She’s just ruining the whole atmosphere of tragedy, standing there getting everything dirty where there wasn’t any dirt before.
The host of helpful faculty members who supposedly appeared when the explosion sounded are closing in on me, relaying information they think must be relevant in catlike whispers near my ears so that no one else will hear and take credit for their powers of observation.
“A sign like a snake and a cross,” says one.
“And the smoke was a bright reddish green, Anna Beth, tinged, a chemical reaction of some sort.”
“I was, of course, preparing for my lecture and then the sound… like an elephant trumpet.”
“Like a bassoon.”
“Like a man screaming.”
Then, the only really relevant piece of information comes from Peabody, a professor of Japanese ceremonial dress: “I think a man was inside.”
The little blonde child turns slowly to face Peabody. My first instinct is to remove her from the nurse’s claws, which are grasping at her, searching for wounds. But when she opens her mouth to speak, she no longer looks vulnerable at all.
“There was a man inside,” she says…
For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.
Kirsten Alene is the author of three books, most recently Japan Conquers the Galaxy (Eraserhead Press, 2013). Her fiction has appeared in a number of publications in print and online, including In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch; Innsmouth Magazine; and New Dead Families. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, dog, and cat.