In a Swamp Thing comic, John Constantine was standing in the ruins of a flooded town, by a bus stop. Several skeletons were piled next to the bus stop sign. And he chuckled, took a drag on his cigarette, and said, “Don’t worry, three will all come along at once.”
As a teenager, I totally didn’t get that. I read that panel over and over again, wondering why was he talking to the skeletons? Did this somehow relate to the story? Three of what? Three more bodies? Three more cigarettes?
After an embarrassing forever that lasted for literally a decade, I eventually doped out that Constantine was just riffing on the old “You wait forever for a bus, and then three show up at once” gag. I was not a bright kid.
Still, that’s writing for you; I’ve gone eight months without a single sale, and then they show up in clusters. This is a particularly hot week, with three sales to mention, so let’s get moving!
Sale #1: “In Extremis,” To Space And Time
This is my flash-fiction zombie story, written from the perspective of a priest who’s trying desperately to make sense of a world gone mad with zombies. An excerpt:
Napkins. He was supposed to get napkins at Costco. Instead, he’s grabbing the firearm from the Last Rites kit in his back seat, running down the freeway, towards the sound of screams.
Why do they always gawk? Rush-hour commuters emerge from stopped cars, forcing him to dodge flung-open doors as soccer moms crane their necks to see what’s happening. They know what’s happening. They should be running. It’s as though they want to watch him shoot a man. Well, not a man, but the body of a man.
How is he going to get the napkins today?
The accident is bad. A truck’s smashed into a now-upturned SUV, glass and plastic scattered all over the median, smoke and dirt still hanging in the air. He checks for bodies on the ground, knowing they won’t stay there for long. There are none. But he hears the shear and creak as the truck driver pushes himself out of the crushed cab, tearing one arm off as he shoves off the crumpled door. He’s wearing a stained Budweiser hat, knocked askew. His teeth have been shattered to splinters from his face hitting the steering wheel, but that’ll just make it worse when he bites.
Father raises the gun, willing his trembling hands still….
I’m particularly happy to sell this one to Space and Time, as it’s a market I long tried to crack in my pre-Clarion days. A little mark on the bucket list.
Sale #2: “Dead Merchandise,” to Kaleidotrope
This story’s particularly dear to my heart in many ways, as it was the first time a slush editor pulled me out at a convention to say, “Did you ever sell that story? I loved that story.” Well, I’m glad to tell Daniel that I did, because this tale tells what I think will happen once the singularity hits. Hint: it’s not pretty.
The ad-faeries danced around Sheryl, flickering cartoon holograms with fluoride-white smiles. They told her the gasoline that sloshed in the red plastic canister she held was high-octane, perfect for any vehicle, did she want to go for a drive?
She did not. That gasoline was for burning. Sheryl patted her pockets to make sure the matches were still there and kept moving forward, blinking away the videostreams. Her legs ached.
She squinted past a flurry of hair-coloring ads (“Sheryl, wash your gray away today!”), scanning the neon-edged roads to find the breast-shaped marble dome of River Edge’s central collation unit. River’s Edge had been a sleepy Midwestern town when she was a girl, a place just big enough for a diner and a department store. Now River’s Edge had been given a mall-over like every other town – every wall lit up with billboards, colorful buildings topped with projectors to burn logos into the clouds. She was grateful for the dark patches that marked where garish shop-fronts had been bombed into ash-streaked metal tangles.
The smoke gave her hope. Others were trying to bring it all down – and if they were succeeding, maybe no one was left to stop her.
This one should be going up within the next month or two, so keep an eye peeled? Oh, who are we kidding? I’ll tell you.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.