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Fearful Symmetries, страница 1

 

Fearful Symmetries
 


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Fearful Symmetries


  BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR

  NOVELS

  SEEDS OF CHANGE [1975]

  THE TIME CONNECTION [1976]

  THE TIME-SWEPT CITY [1977]

  THE SECRET SEA [1979]

  GUARDIAN [1980]

  NIGHT THINGS [1980]

  OZYMANDIAS [1981]

  DAY OF THE DRAGONSTAR (WITH DAVID F. BISCHOFF) [1983]

  NIGHT TRAIN [1984]

  NIGHT OF THE DRAGONSTAR (WITH DAVID F. BISCHOFF) [1985]

  TERMINAL ROAD [1986]

  CROOKED HOUSE (WITH JOHN DECHANCIE) [1987]

  LYRICA [1987]

  THE MAGNIFICENT GALLERY [1987]

  FANTASMA [1989]

  DRAGONSTAR DESTINY (WITH DAVID F. BISCHOFF) [1990]

  THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB [1992]

  THE RESURRECTIONIST [1995]

  NIGHT OF BROKEN SOULS [1998]

  THE RECKONING [1999]

  BENEDICTION [2001]

  EYES OF THE VIRGIN [2002]

  SUBMARINE [forthcoming]

  SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS

  DARK STARS AND OTHER ILLUMINATIONS [1981]

  ROUGH BEASTS AND OTHER MUTATIONS [2003]

  ANTHOLOGIES

  THE ARTS AND BEYOND [1977]

  MICROWORLDS [1984]

  BORDERLANDS [1990]

  BORDERLANDS 2 [1991]

  BORDERLANDS 3 [1992]

  BORDERLANDS 4 (WITH ELIZABETH E. MONTELEONE) [1994]

  BORDERLANDS 5 (WITH ELIZABETH E. MONTELEONE) [2003]

  NON-FICTION & ESSAYS

  THE MOTHERS AND FATHERS ITALIAN ASSOCIATION [2003]

  THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO WRITING A NOVEL [2004]

  FEARFUL SYMMETRIES Copyright © 2004 by Thomas F. Monteleone.

  “Burning Bright” Copyright © 2004 Rick Hautala

  Fearful Symmetries is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), The Berne Convention, the Pan-American Copyright Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention as well as all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional/amateur stage rights, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound recording, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as CD-ROM, CD-I, DVD, information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved.

  Inquiries concerning rights should be addressed to: Matthew Bialer, c/o Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates, 55 Fifth Ave NYC NY 10003

  212-206-5676 / fax: 463-8718

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and events are either a product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved.

  Cover art Copyright © 2004 by Michael Bonnell

  Interior Illustrations Copyright © 2004 by Matt Eames

  ISBN 1-58767-053-4

  FIRST EDITION

  Cover and jacket design by Gail Cross

  Typesetting, layout and interior design by E. Estela Monteleone

  Cemetery Dance Publications

  132-B Industry Lane

  Unit 7

  Forest Hill, MD 21050

  www.cemeterydance.com

  This book is for

  ELIZABETH ESTELA,

  whose hand, and heart, and eye,

  have not only

  given it form,

  but life.

  In what distant deeps or skies

  Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

  On what wings dare he aspire?

  What the hand dare seize the fire?

  What the hammer? what the chain?

  In what furnace was thy brain?

  What the anvil? what dread grasp

  Dares its deadly terrors clasp?

  Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

  In the forests of the night,

  What immortal hand or eye,

  Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

  —William Blake, 1793

  A project of this magnitude and stretch of time, when compared to the glaciations and warmings of the earth, is less than a geologic eyeblink, but for me, it represents the culmination of thousands of hours not spent watching ESPN. But more importantly, I know it would have never happened without the inspiration, support, belief, instruction, criticism, assistance, friendship, animus, and general ass-kicking of a legion of wonderful people, whose names will now be recorded in the annals of Literature, never to be forgotten. I list them in no particular order—especially alphabetical or chronological—and for any who believe I overlooked them, I sincerely apologize for not taking my selenium and my ginko biloba tablets this morning. And now, the people who are in some way responsible for what follows in this wondrous tome: my wife Elizabeth Estela, my daughter Olivia Francesca, my two sons Damon and Brandon, Mario Monteleone, Marie Monteleone, Frank Monteleone, Matt Fames, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Theodore Sturgeon, Howie Lovecraft, Rick Hautala, Harlan Ellison, John DeChancie, Charles L. Grant, Pat Lobrutto, Sharon Jarvis, Al Sarrantonio, Roy Torgeson, Marty Greenberg, Roger Elwood, Gardner Dozois, Damon Knight, Eddie Poe, Mary and F. Paul Wilson, Gahan Wilson, Matt and Ann Costello, Peter Straub, Tamara Keurejian, Stephen King, Kirby McCauley, Doug and Lynne Winter, Howard Morhaim, Jules Verne, Rick McCammon, John and Joyce Maclay, Matt Bialer, Herbert George Wells, Steve Bissette, Peggy Nadramia, Ed Gorman, Richard Chizmar, Gary Raisor, Jim Morrison, Stan Wiater, Ray Manzarek, Bill Schafer, Jay Leshinsky, Michael Keating, Bob Schaller, A. E. Housman, Alan Clark, Dennis Etchison, Dave Bischoff, Karl Wagner, Rick Lieder, Johann Sebastian Bach, Pete Crowther, Ambrose Bierce, Arch Oboler, Chet Williamson, Richard Gid Powers, Ted White, Jill Bauman, Roger Zelazny, Frederick Brown, Bill Schafer, Steve Spruill, Bob McCoy, Scott Urban, Dave Hinchberger, Bob and Mary Booth, Dan Booth, Alan Ryan, Ray Harryhausen, Mike Bracken, Grant Carrington, Father Richard Colgan, S.J., Jeff Gelb, Ayn Rand, Kris Rusch, Craig Shaw Gardner, Carlos Batts, Richard Matheson, Phil and Anya Nutman, Andres Segovia, Octavio Paz, Poppy Z. Brite, William Blake, John Helfers, John Agar, Larry Seagriff, Robert Ludlum, Peter Enfantino, Jack London, Dave Silva, Paul Olson, Herman Melville, Walt Disney, Alex Toth, John Godey, Roy Chapman Andrews, Karen and Joe Lansdale, Jerry Williamson, Betsy Engstrom, Mark Ziesing, Mark Rainey, Edgar Allen Dog, a golden retriever, and Roxy, a chocolate lab.

  Foreword

  Intro by Rick Hautala

  Identity Crisis

  Spare the Child

  The Mechanical Boy

  The Night is Freezing Fast

  Yesterday’s Child

  In the Fast Lane

  Nobody’s Perfect

  No Pain, No Gain

  The Ring of Truth

  The Cutty Black Sow

  Love Letters

  The Pleasure of Her Company

  Prodigal Sun

  Carmella and the Missing Piece

  The Roadside Scalpel

  Newspaper Man

  The Wager

  Time Enough for Sleep

  Triptych di Amore

  Looking for Mr. Flip

  Between Floors

  A Mind is a Terrible Thing

  Under Your Skin

  Rehearsals

  Yog Sothoth, Superstar

  Lux et Veritas

  FOREWORD

  My first short fiction collection1 covered my work from the Seventies and early Eighties, and the stories were primarily science fiction or fantasy—the genres where I broke in as a professional writer.

&nb
sp; This one, my third, selects stories largely from the Eighties and Nineties, and reflects my shift into tales of horror, dark fantasy, and suspense. This book marks off an appropriate point, I think, where my sensibilities as a storyteller changed. There were plenty of stories to choose from over the last two decades (more than 50), but I tried to select pieces that reflected my range and my evolution as a writer. For that reason, they appear in the chronological order in which they were originally published.

  The short story is supposedly no longer popular with readers, but I have a hard time believing it because I have always loved the form. And I think I know why. My appreciation comes from a very special moment in my life—an incident that still rings clear and true in my memory, which is a marker of its life-shaping importance.

  I was 14 years old, just starting my freshman year at a Jesuit high school. It was a very traditional place, on a campus that rivalled the scope and beauty of lots of small colleges.

  The main building housed a huge library defined by vaulted alcoves, polished mahogany wainscotting, 12ft. leaded windows, long reading tables with brass lamps and green-glass shades, and endless shelves of books. During the first week of class, they put all the freshman through “orientation,” wherein they get you familiar with all the shticks at the school. One of the exercises was to spend a few hours wandering around the library, getting familiar with everything. It was an interesting way to get us freshman involved with the process of discovery and learning.

  So, here I was, 14 years old, wearing my required sport coat and tie, meandering among the alcoves and stacks and carrels of the library, reading this title and that, pulling down ones that sounded interesting, learning the locations of various categories of reference materials. One of the orientation assignments included checking out a book to read for a report, and I was eager to find something that would be a kick to read.

  And here’s the weird part: I’m surrounded by thousands of old books, no dust jackets on most of them, no pictures or lurid covers to catch my adolescent eye—just a lot of cloth bindings and gold-stamped spines looking very classical—and I paused as my gaze settles, most randomly it seemed, upon a title called Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Yeah that one—by Edgar Allan Poe. Now, believe it or not, I’d never heard of him. He certainly hadn’t been on the reading list of St. Charles Borromeo’s Elementary School, and nobody’d ever recommended him to me. And other than my comics and stacks of SF and HDF paperbacks littering my room, we didn’t have many books in our house. The name “Poe” meant nothing to the tabula rasa that was my puerile mind.

  And yet, I reached out and pulled the book from its niche…as though drawn to it by some arcane force.

  I can still remember the mental jolt I received as I read down the table of contents. You know what I’m talking about: “The Black Cat,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and on and on. The story titles seemed to glow like barbed, neon signs, leaping off the page to hook themselves in my imagination. I can remember thinking something like this dude sounds pretty weird—my kind of stuff…(well, maybe I didn’t think of Poe as a dude, but then again, maybe I did…)

  And so I checked out the book, and spent the next few nights reading into the middle of the night, lost in the dark fantasies of a brilliant, but tormented soul. It was a simple and pure joy I haven’t experienced very often in life. I’d discovered Poe. In the same serendipitous way of all great discoveries, and it was like his work was mine, and nobody else knew about him. I can remember turning my friends, Bobby Schaller and Mike Keating, onto Poe, they dug him too. Such was my excitement and need to share it that I mentioned to my freshman English instructor how I happened onto this book of great short stories by a guy name Poe, and by the way, have you ever heard of him?

  “Slightly,” said my teacher with a smile.

  So what’s the point of this personal, although highly fascinating, aside? Simply this: it’s hard for me to accept that I pulled down that book of Poe stories totally by accident. I mean, out of tens of thousands of books I could have stumbled upon, I just happened to have selected a collection of what may be the most seminal and influential group of tales in the history of literature, and surely in the history of darkly imaginative fiction…?

  Yeah, sure. Somehow, I just can’t buy it. A preferable answer is I was drawn to it by means beyond my power to understand. Some of us are mutants, you see. We want to read the weird stuff, and a small percentage of our lot are compelled to actually write it. And as such, we beings who carry the gene for Darkness, we have an unconscious sensory power which helps us locate the good stuff and savor it the way one might sip a fine vintage in a cool cellar.

  Yeah, I like that explanation, don’t you?

  And so, using Poe as an early model, I wrote short stories throughout adolescence. Even back then, I believed it was the toughest thing to write well. I’ve written books, stage plays, feature-length screenplays, articles, essays, and even some bad poetry, so I speak from experience. When I talk to aspiring writers, I always tell them: if you can write a good short story, you can write anything.

  So, knowing that, you should surmise by now this hook is very special to me. If you pressed me, I might admit to being more proud of it than any of my novels because it represents a span of time, and volume of energy spent, far eclipsing the amount expended on any other project I’ve ever created.

  Okay, one more thing:

  There’s always a story behind every story. And throughout this book, I will introduce each story with something intrinsic to how the story came into being. If some of you aren’t into etiological arcana, then just blow off these little italicized pieces, and go right into the stories.

  But I should warn you—if you really are that much of a troglodyte, you’re gonna miss an entire level of nuance, wit, and insight into the creative process. Because I plan to give you a look behind the curtain, a peek into the darker corners of a mind (mine, of course) always running at DEFCON 4, always alert, and always ready to do what my Jesuit high school instructors always urged me to do—ask the next question.

  You see, that’s the secret of not only being a competent human being, but also being a competent writer. I have always tried to look at things I encounter in life from every aspect, by turning it and twisting it and stretching it and squeezing it. Never being satisfied with just a single answer, I always bug and noodge my sources to give up everything they know.

  Then you’re ahead of the game. You know everything they know, plus everything you already knew.

  I’ve tried to keep that philosophy in place whenever I sit down to write a new short story—and I’ve written and published over a hundred of them. The result, I hope, has been stories that weren’t just tired re-treads of stuff you’ve read somewhere else. Chain-clanking ghosts; leering, seductive vampires; adulterous husbands and wives with schemes to eliminate their unsuspecting spouses; and let’s not forget the shopworn voodoo curses; the sullen, methodical serial-killers; and all the re-inventions of Faust.

  Now, I’m not going to tell you I’ve never used any of the familiar trappings of horror, dark fantasy, or suspense—especially since becoming one of the Usual Suspects in the anthology rackets2—but I will promise you my stories only use the standard genre props to set-up the tale. When I write a story, I think about the easy way to do it, the familiar route to follow, and then I summarily dismiss it. Time to take the theme or the idea and turn it inside-out, check out a new perspective, and of course—ask the next question about how I can make my story unique.

  Okay, enough already.

  Well, almost…

  I would be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about the spectacular illustrations that accompany the text in this book. The artist is a young guy, Matt Eames, who was discovered working in a full-service copy-center shop by Elizabeth. When she saw a few samples of his work, she came home and told me she’d met a fello
w-mutant, and she told me how good he was and how he needed to be working professionally. He showed us his sketchbooks and we could feel energy and enthusiasm and dedication leaping off the pages. He had that ineluctable something, that spark of original vision and talent that is somehow always recognizable, that separates the special from the mundane.

  So I asked Matt if he would be interested in taking a shot at illustrating some of my short stories for an upcoming book. I gave him my short course of Monteleone’s Theory of Great Illustration3, and he was cool, kept his composure, and tried to act like it was no big deal. Sure, I can do that. No prob. I e-mailed him a few stories and he came back with these dark images that knocked me out. Beautiful stuff full of drama and contrast. I contacted Rich Chizmar at CD Publications, told him I had discovered a new talent, and would like to have him be part of Fearful Symmetries. Rich trusted my instincts in these matters, and now you get to enjoy the work of Matt Eames too.

  Okay. Time to get to work.

  Grantham, New Hampshire

  May, 2004

  1 entitled Dark Stars and Other Illuminations, Doubleday, New York, 1981. (with an introduction by Roger Zelazny)

  2 Even though the “serious critics,” the New York Literati, and the ethereal ruminations of academe have all elegized the death of the short story for more than fifty years now, it’s an unassailable fact the short story enjoys a very vigorous and exciting life in the groves of genre fiction. The stubborn popularity of original anthologies has been a major contributing factor. Elizabeth and I edited the Borderlands series, and there have been others over the years which have produced first-rate short fiction such as Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions, Kirby McCauley’s Frights and Dark Forces, Charles Grant’s Shadows, Dennis Etchison’s Cutting Edge, Douglas Winter’s Prime Evil and Revelations, and Al Sarrantonio’s 999. There’s also been an endless stream of theme-anthologies, which focus upon a particular idea or leit-motif and find writers who can create stories to fit the theme. They can be as familiar as Great Stories About Haunted Castles to something as esoteric as Strange Tales of Suspense Involving Optometrists. The part about finding writers to create stories for these theme anthologies is where it gets interesting. If you’ve been around long enough, you meet lots of writers (many of whom become good friends), editors, agents, and publishers. And if you’re any good at what you do, you get noticed and you get asked to contribute stories to magazines and anthologies. You become one of the Usual Suspects who gets pulled in for a line-up every time a new anthology idea gets sold. Hence the reference footnoted above.

 
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