Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Stone of Horror


As to the coolest thing I saw at Readercon . . .  You already knew that nowadays all the finalists for the Hugo Awards get a little rocket-shaped pin, all the finalists for the World Fantasy Award get a a bust-of-Lovecraft shaped pin, and I'm pretty sure that the Nebula nominees get a spiral galaxy pin too.  Plus Jay Lake designed and made up a very cool little pin for those who were nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Well, the Shirley Jackson Awards have got them all beat.  Their nominees get a nifty little hand-sized stone, just right for throwing.

And of course there's another story . . .

Because Clarion West is still going.  Here it is.

Dancing in the Dark
Michael Swanwick

Without warning, Angela Traficante found herself standing in total darkness.  She was almost as afraid of darkness as she was of heights.  Then a breeze blew up from somewhere below and in an instant she knew that she was standing at a very great height indeed. 
She did not scream, not out loud anyway.  But she did crouch down and hug her knees.  She was as terrified as she had ever been in her life.

“Stand,” somebody said.
“I can’t,” she replied, almost weeping.
“Then you’ll be here for the rest of your life.”
She was frozen and motionless for what may have been minutes or may have been days.  But eventually, though it took a tremendous effort of will, she stood.  Streaks of color echoed her movement in the sky, dark blues and purples almost indistinguishable from the dark.  Then, as she was still again, they faded.

“How . . . ?” she asked.

“That hardly matters.”  The voice came from behind her.  She whirled about and pinwheels of stars appeared and disappeared in the sky.  If there was anybody there, she couldn’t see him.

From somewhere came music, so soft she couldn’t be sure she wasn’t imagining it.  Arms circled her.  “Dance.”

Clumsily timorously, afraid of stumbling, she did.  “Am I dreaming?”


“Am I dead?”

“Perhaps.  Ask less tedious questions.”

Dancing calmed Angela Traficante, and clarified her thoughts.  It also, she saw, added pale colors to the sky, which grew steadily brighter until she could see that she was on a stony stretch of ground on the very top of a mountain.  Far below were faint, luminous clouds.  Her arms appeared to hold nothing at all, though she could feel the body within them.  “Why can’t I see you?”

“I’m not the sort of thing you can see.”  The voice sounded bored.  “You still haven’t asked anything interesting.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“That’s better.  I want you to dance as if the world depended on it.”

“Does it?”

“Yes,” the person or creature or god or demon said.  “Briefly.”

The words made no sense.  But she didn’t care.  All her fears dropped away.  Invisible arms released her.  “You’re on your own.”

She was.  Perhaps she was dead.  Certainly she had very little time in which to do anything.  So Angela Traficante danced, spinning colors into the sky.

She created a sunrise to break your heart.



Demosthenes said...

Thank you, Michael! I love it! Just thinking about the workshop and reading your stories has been inspiring me to write more these days.


Megan said...

Angela Traficante is awesome.