I am ugliness in body and bone, breath and heartbeat. I am muddy rocks and jagged scars snaking across salt-sown fields. I am insect larvae wriggling inside the great dead beasts into which they were born. Too, I am the hanks of dead flesh rotting. I am the ungrateful child’s sneer, the plague sore bursting, the swing of shadow beneath the gallows rope. Ugliness is my hands, my feet, my fingernails. Ugliness is my gaze, boring into you like a worm into rotting fruit.
Even once a month, Arceneaux hated driving his daughter Noelle’s car. There was no way to be comfortable: He was a big old man, and the stick-shift hatchback cramped his legs and elbows, playing Baptist hell with the bad knee.
She had never intended to be a nineteen-year-old virgin. She wasn’t opposed to the idea of sex, didn’t think the simple act of having sex with someone had to be a big deal, and sure, she went to Mass and knew what the priests taught, but she figured God was actually a lot less concerned about that sort of thing than they were. She just hadn’t ever wanted to badly enough.
The egg of the gorgonoid is, of course, not smooth. Unlike a hen’s egg, its surface texture is noticeably uneven. Under its reddish, leather skin bulge what look like thick cords, distantly reminiscent of fingers. Flexible, multiply jointed fingers, entwined—or, rather, squeezed into a fist.
My essence, my soul, whatever you wanted to call it, burst into that place beyond places. After dozens of trips, the ecstasy of the reverse-explosion was as intense as the first time.
Beatrice’s heart skipped and skipped again, the tiny pistons clattering in their brassbound prison. Her ribs ached, and there were narrow darts of pain throughout her chest. She was dying.
This is the incomplete story of Paints, grandson of Paints No More. It begins in shadow. Like this: As far as reincarnation goes, I became a believer on the day that I found a dead mole in my Gran’s stuffy one-car garage. The old Volvo had obviously run the mole over, or at least its back half; the head and forearms still looked ready to rise and crawl away.
Begin at the beginning: His many hats. Felt derbies in charcoal and camel and black. Sporting caps and straw boaters. Gibuses covered in corded silk for nights at the theatre. Domed bowlers with dashingly narrow brims. The ratty purple silk top hat, banded with russet brocade, that he keeps by his bedside.
The courtiers and servants did their best to conceal the truth, but that was a losing battle. The final straw, so to speak, was when their beautiful young queen managed to elude her Ladies in Waiting and greet the South Islands Confederation ambassador while wearing only a skirt made of broom straw and a gardenia pot for a hat. After that incident there was little point in denying the obvious: Mei Janda II, newly crowned Queen of Lucosa, was barking mad.
Of course it would rain. Hungry and footsore after three days of walking, his back and shoulders aching from carrying his heavy pack, all Malik needed now was to be soaked in water that barely resisted becoming ice.