The Lost Man

In 1948, a man was found on a beach in South Australia. The circumstances of his death and his identity were rich with mystery. When an amateur sleuth became obsessed, he could not imagine where the clues would lead him.

A Murder

A farm family is beset by body horrors, crows, and the appearance of a mysterious figure.

"I wish some flood would cover me and bring me peace and comfort. Every day I miss my mother. My heart seems to have been torn from my chest, just like my father’s. Sometimes I go up to her sewing room when Janna is busy with our father. I close the door so that Fig can’t follow, and I sit in the armchair that no one ever used, the one our mother draped swatches of calico over when she didn’t have anywhere else to put them. The room is full of Mother’s smell, lavender and starchy cloth, and the hyssop that flavored her tea. It has also retained her silence, the atmosphere of quiet contentment that she exuded when busy with her sewing. Her ancient Singer sewing machine seems to dominate the room, its black enamel and fussy gold lettering giving it an air of slightly pompous authority as it perches on the battered oak desk. The dressmaker’s dummy occupies one corner, iron hoops and wooden moulds in the shape of a lady’s torso, its head a shrunken knob. The window opens outward, and you can climb over the windowsill and step out onto the roof."

Dial Tone

An unsettling story of murder and telemarketing; originally published in 2007 and recently anthologized in The New Black, edited by Richard Thomas.

"There is a noise—the noise teeth might make biting hurriedly into melon—punctuated by a series of screams. It makes me want to tear the headset away from my ear. And then I realize I am not alone. Someone is listening. I don't know how—a certain displacement of sound as the phone rises from the floor to an ear—but I can sense it."

Ex Machina

An online mystery surrounding animal abuse and porn.

"A different room, a different couch, but the rest of the room just as bare as the other. The couch is a futon, in couch form for now; it will be in its bed form but only much later. The camera's pushed far back enough that you can see the couch entire and you can see part of a window above it, the thick pebbly glass of the plastic-lipped pane. The Porn Star sits upon the couch. He is reading a magazine, right leg propped, wagging. The shoes he wears have fat black tongues and the laces that keep them on tight are bright orange. His pants are riding low on him, the chain on his wallet cascading the fabric. He's wearing a hoodie, the hood cinched in close and the sleeves of the sweatshirt tube down past his hands. He's reading the magazine, foot faintly wagging. There's a look on his face but it cannot be seen."

The Twenty-Third of June

Two lovers, a new home, a repeating cycle.

"That night, I will dream a dream of trains, and of the sound of waves. I will dream that I am the woman searching for something lost. I will dream the man’s dream, and walk into the night alone, guided by the moon. The earth is cool under my feet. It is summer. I can smell the light from the sun that has left the trees. I am knee-deep in the swaying ferns. They are so tall I only have to bend a little to reach them with my fingertips, and then I let my legs fold under me, and I lie down in the ferns. I close my eyes and listen to the ferns, try to understand their secret whispers. When I open my eyes again, the ferns begin to blossom, their fragile white petals bright against the night sky."

YOU ARE BUT A PILGRIM TRAVELING TO A STRANGE AND HONEST LAND

Strangers unleash a mysterious mantra upon a weary traveler.

"From his glove box he pulled a laminated flyer no bigger than a bookmark. I took it with hesitation and studied the print. The first sentence said DID YOU KNOW HOPE AND DESPAIR ARE SISTER AND BROTHER AND YOU THEIR DISTANT COUSIN? There was a picture at the top of two people tugging a rope. There was a woman and a man and they looked like hieroglyphic people who had been locked in eternal struggle."

The Revolution Room: Station One

A horror/mystery story about heart removal, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Chinese food bags.

"It is not easy to remove a heart with a spoon from the chest of a man, nor is it clean. The spoon was purchased 48 hours earlier from the Bed, Bath & Beyond on 9th Street. The Nicole Miller Moments 5 pc Flatware Set was $24.99. The salad fork, dinner knife, dinner fork, and soup spoon were disposed of. Only the teaspoon remained.

Nirvana

A husband struggles with the needs of his paralyzed wife and his creation of a hologram version of an assassinated President; new fiction from the author of The Orphan Master's Son.

"After the doctor left, I went into the garage and started making the President. A psychologist would probably say the reason I created him had to do with the promise I made Charlotte and the fact that the President also had a relationship with the person who took his life. But it's simpler than that: I just needed to save somebody, and with the President, it didn't matter that it was too late."

Sing a Little

Confusion and nervousness ensue when items slowly go missing at a nursing home.

"After that conversation, more glasses went missing. Sometimes we found them on the wrong peoples’ faces. Sometimes a pair showed up, perched in the middle of a bowl of oatmeal. Everyone was confused; Miss Marilyn panicked. Even my grandma had her theories—a rat had carried things off and dropped them in sly places. But I knew who was responsible and I kept quiet. I couldn’t break a man’s spirit.

Five Stories

A series of mysterious, interconnected explorations of misdeeds and criminal activities.

"Did we remember anything about the van? White. We knew the color of their van. We thought more about it. Paint. The little girl’s dress. Was the dress white? Check. Now we began to see something. And what else was white? The sneakers. Check. The men were wearing white sneakers. Nothing dark on their feet. The sneakers didn’t have a speck of dark, neither did the van, check, neither did the girl’s dress, check, no dark, these men opposed anything dark and the men were—but we stopped. Dead end. The sack was black. They had put a dark sack over the girl’s head. The sack. How did the dark sack fit together with the white sneakers, white van, white dress? So why wouldn’t they just use a white sack? Black tangled into so much white."

Mysterious Circumstances

The world’s foremost Sherlock Holmes expert found dead in a locked room, leaving no note.

There was something else, he said, something critical. On the eve of his death, he reminded me, Green had spoken to his friend Keen about an "American" who was trying to ruin him. The following day, Gibson said, he had called Green's house and heard a strange greeting on the answering machine. "Instead of getting Richard's voice in this sort of Oxford accent, which had been on the machine for a decade," Gibson recalled, "I got an American voice that said, 'Sorry, not available.

Cash for Genes

A DHL tycoon’s small plane disappeared near the Phillipines amidst rumors of children fathered with teenage Asian villagers. Every scrap of his DNA went missing, but that didn’t stop a forensic mathematician.