Edited by bestselling, award-winning anthologist John Joseph Adams, NIGHTMARE is a digital magazine of horror and dark fantasy. In its pages, you will find all kinds of horror and dark fantasy, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror. Every month NIGHTMARE will bring you a mix of original fiction and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors: from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven't heard of yet. When you ...more
Stray spirits stirred in the dark. They lay like oil slicks across the asphalt, pulled their misty bodies in and out of the doors of Swine Hill’s pork processing plant, and drifted storm-like in Kay’s wake. Her every hot breath was full of the dead. The man had crossed her. Had shouldered into her on the crowded butchery floor where she leaned over a workstation and hacked through bone and bleeding pig meat. Had stolen knives and gloves from the locker that everyone knew was hers. | Copyright 20...more
In the tower where the tax collectors go, I am taken blindfolded up steps and through passages and through interminable pauses in open spaces, myself stumbling and held upright through a firm grip on my upper arm. In those pauses, and sometimes in passing while we move, the master of that grip speaks to others, their fellow bailiffs. The content of these exchanges is indistinct to me, a mumbling burr that I can only distinguish from other noises as the recognizably unnatural rhythm of human spee...more
It’s Uncle Pete’s funeral today, so he puts on his good brown suit with the brass buttons, and we all set out for the cemetery before the sun is up, because we don’t want to get too hot in our good clothes on our way there. Uncle Pete and Pa walk in front, me and Ma follow. When we get there, Uncle Pete’s grave is waiting, shallow and open, and the plaque has already been engraved with his name. Under it, there’s his date of birth and today’s date, even though we don’t know how long it’ll take h...more
She was a bundle on the bottom of the skiff, tossed in with her skirt and petticoat tangled around her legs, hands bound behind her with a thin chain that also wrapped around her neck. She didn’t struggle; the silver in the chain burned her skin. The more she moved the more she burned, so she lay still because the only way to stop this would be to make them kill her. They wanted to kill her. So why didn’t they? Why go through the trouble of rowing this wave-rocked skiff out to this hideous islan...more
Her name was Robyn Howlett, and she was twenty-two years old. Robyn was an alien creature to me, product of conditions wholly at odds with those that produced my kind. She spoke in a language I had never heard. Nevertheless, I understood everything she said. It is the nature of my kind to understand everything that is spoken in our presence, a necessary adaptation given that we are often summoned by creatures as alien to us as we are to them, creatures who often cannot expand their minds enough ...more
This is how Hakim Shafi gave away his life: First, he closed his shop. Next, he sold his house. “What in the name of God are you doing?” I said. Shafi grinned. That grin raised the hackles on my neck, sahib. “Burning bridges,” he said. I looked at him closely. In the four weeks since I’d told him about the qawwals, he had shaved his thick mustache and lost ten kilos. He was always thin, but now he looked like a needler at the end of his days. His temples were wasted, the flesh of his face pulled...more
Jee Inspector Sahib, he came looking for a missing girl in Lahore Park one evening in the summer of 2013, this man known as Hakim Shafi. It was a summer to blanch the marrow of all summers. Heat rose coiling like a snake from the ground. Gusts of evil loo winds swept across Lahore from the west, shrinking the hides of man and beast alike, and Hakim Shafi went from bench to bench, stepping over needles rusting in bleached June grass, and showed the heroinchies a picture. | Copyright 2018 by Usman...more
Mother would have never taken the bus. She had specific prejudices---the train yes, the bus no, taking The Lord’s name in vain, no, calling someone an asshole, yes. It was often hard to follow her dictates; the safest route was to just not say anything or do anything unless directed. Mother had no say in the matter now, and although Miriam wasn’t big on bus travel herself, it gave her an adventuresome frisson to be doing something in such bad taste. | Copyright 2018 by Halli Villegas. Narrated b...more
Madeline had a plain, dull face that only a mother could love, even though hers hadn’t. She’d been a clever child, clever enough to realize early on that fairness was a fairy tale, and clever enough to realize that it wasn’t her mother, really, who was to blame, even if she couldn’t help but blame her. Whenever Madeline’s stepfather had told her to get out of his sight, her mother had repeated the phrase in a ghostly echo. When Madeline emancipated herself at sixteen, she figured that was the en...more
He cut off her arms and threw them on the side of the road. They wanted a boy. Her uncle taught her how to play the game. The last time anyone saw her she was dancing. She was drunk. She was flirting with everyone. She was wearing a short skirt. She had a lot of eyeliner on. She got into the car, which anyone knows is a stupid thing to do. She was stupid. Actually, she was very intelligent, but had no common sense. It wasn’t her fault. But what was she thinking? | Copyright 2018 by M. Rickert. N...more
Some houses never have a soul. It’s not their fault. It’s just the way it is. For a soul to be born to a house, almost too many things have to happen. Three or more families have to have lived there. Someone has to die in the house. Blood has to be spilled. And something, even if it’s just an idea, has to be born in the house. You can always tell when a house has a soul because of the small spiders. They’re everywhere, non-obtrusive, and ever watchful. The small spiders are the eyes of the house...more
My brother was hanged on a Monday and two days later I followed him. When the trapdoor opened for the short drop, the sharp stop never came: instead, my soul slithered loose from my body and I fell through darkness, landing with a crash atop a mountain of junk. Odd battered shoes, gimmicked dice and prosthetic notes---the cheat’s cast-offs, the swindler’s knick-knacks. It all reeked of piss. I pulled the sackcloth off my head. A square moon in a black sky shed some light, but not much. | Copyri...more
Nita: So you thought I made you sign a release as, what, foreplay? [Laughter.] Voice: I was, like, four tequilas deep by the time you walked in and probably at five when you waved that paper in my face. I would’ve signed my soul away to . . . uh, I didn’t actually sign my soul over, did I? Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir, Susan Hanfield, Justine Eyre, Stefan Rudnicki, Cassandra Lalechou, Jim Freund.
Do not make friends was not actually an explicit Rule, but it was implied by some of the others: do not do anything to draw attention to yourself and do not bring anyone to the house and do not stop anywhere between home and school. As a little kid, Kyle had thought his dad was a psychic. It was middle school before he realized that basically half the teachers in the school were just spying on him. It was high school before he realized they were doing it with the best of intentions, rather than ...more
I hear the sound before I open my eyes. Someone is eating, though I should be alone in my room, and it’s too loud, too close. When I look, I see the cat---the one we’re all supposed to adore, that’s meant to have us all therapeutically laughing, lowering our blood pressures by stroking its soft grey fur. I tried once, but it felt to me as soft as cobwebs, as dust, as decaying flesh. The cat is sitting on the shelf wheeled across the bottom of my bed. It’s eating my breakfast. | Copyright 2018 by...more
Have you ever found yourself on a midtown sidewalk on some warm July day when a plummeting body splattered on the pavement, directly in front of you? Close enough to feel the explosive shockwave of hot liquid air, pelting your trousers with meat pellets the size of quarters? Have you ever staggered backward, sodden with gore and spitting out substances you could not stand to identify, half-blinded because some of it got in your eyes, the screams of other pedestrians rising all around you, the sm...more
3 Harvest: Arcon Glass came to dinner in my cabin tonight. A rarity; he has declined all previous invitations on pretext of work. Over dessert, First Mate Law asked him if the Guild of Natural Philosophers’ purpose in sponsoring this voyage is to research a solution to the overfishing of the whale-routes. Law has been my First Mate for a decade now and I bear the man a great affection, but he has a dockhand’s lack of tact for all that he wears an officer’s badge. Glass did not seem offended by t...more
It’d been a warm, sunny spring afternoon. The grass in the cemetery was green, the roses and lavender in the wreaths fragrant. Iqbal’s funeral had been a quiet affair, all things considered. Our circle was getting too old for the type of soap opera drama that had marked our younger years. We’d lived for enough decades that my friends and I had settled into some kind of rhythm, had dared to allow some of our sharp edges to be burnished smooth. So by the time of Iqbal’s funeral, Grey had long sinc...more
Such a beautiful boy, Cornelius Clay. Pity no woman’ll marry him. And to think it ain even his fault, sweet baby, born into money and beauty both, like the good Lord couldn’t part with his blessings fast enough. Lord, this boy. Skin so bright he looks anointed, hair straight as an Indian’s and black as molasses. There’s four generations of freedmen in that skin and hair, and he can name every single one of them. He got a body so fine, even the angels cryin out: silver screen silhouette in a tail...more
The horde is attracted to bright colours, so when you put together your bug-out bag, you pack the drab outfits you’d sworn never to wear again once you’d finally, breathlessly, emerged as your true, radiant self. You pack a heavy hunting knife, because what you carry looks valuable. You’re glad that your arms are gym-strong and intimidating, because the idea of hurting someone, even in self-defense, makes you want to vomit. You leave behind your old name. You try not to wonder if you’re the only...more
The mansion is a study in architecture at war with itself. It’s not just the windows that don’t match and the turrets that don’t overlook anything and the roof that sits flat here while looming at impossible angles there. Nor is it just the exterior walls that, seen from one angle, seem rotted and decrepit and about to collapse, and seen from another, gleam like jewels. Nor is it the gnarled skin of the columns that support the overhang at the front entrance, or the glistening scarlet door that ...more
Taina crawls underneath the shack to unearth her wooden cigar box. She opens it and places the items in front of her: a piece of leftover mundillo lace from an unfinished handkerchief, an ivory ribbon she stole from Don Victor’s store, and the rosary beads given to her by Abuela. Everything is right where she left it. She carefully places the items back and covers the box with dirt. “Shhh,” Taina whispers, hugging the dog Choco. Choco licks the side of her cheek and nuzzles his cold wet nose on ...more
Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wou...more
She’s born in a pine-wood cottage, birches tangled over its roof, snow burying the log pile. When she’s still young, her father disappears in a war of musket-shot and horses screaming into the gunpowder dark. Her mother scrapes a living by stealing flowers from the gardens of the fine half-timbered houses round the fountain and hocking them in the market. Mornings, the girl accompanies her mother, the armfuls of pilfered calla lilies leaving pollen-smears on her skin. Afternoons, the girl return...more
Mill—a charmer and a rake of no respectable talent whatever—insinuated himself into the home of the widow Annie Holcomb and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alice. But Mrs. Holcomb turned him out, once she realized he’d been gallanting Alice as much as her. Mill spent the next four nights chanting obscene tirades under her window and left a dead rat in the mail slot on the fifth. Night patrols chased him off park benches; friends robbed him. Sleepless and humiliated, he broke into the house and ...more
Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey a...more
This is not about the movie. The movie that launched her career, where she played the pretty wife of a headstrong cop. Pretty, blonde, smart, convincing. Unhappy. The dutiful wife, killed, dismembered, beheaded. Just like the only other woman in the film, the fatal object of sin manifest. How ironic was it that The Actress first made such a strong cinematic impression with her portrayal of a character whose severed head does indeed end up in a packing crate in the middle of a field so that The A...more
She stands on the side of the road in the dewy high grass and waits. She wanders among the tangled weeds heavy with crickets, and waits. She drifts among the gathering fireflies blinking their yellow-green light into the darkening forest. And waits, and waits, and waits. They will come, she knows. They will come and see her and take her away from this dreadful place. They will clothe her and feed her and wrap her in a warm blanket, and everything will be perfect again. She knows it’s only a matt...more
Everyone knows and loves the Super Little Dead Girls™! These feisty girls are all gutsy, gallant, and gung-ho about fighting monsters and undead menaces, but they’ve got their distinct personalities, too. Take our quiz to find out which Super Little Dead Girl™ is your super alter-ego! (1.) On a Friday night, where could a potential murderer or evil spirit most likely find you? | Copyright 2017 by Nino Cipri. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
I met you in the summer when the butterflies began to dance. You were missing your nose, your right eye, and the top of your lips. Some of your teeth. It made conversation a sort of whistle. The war had taken half of your face. It had burned your skull into spotted pink and black, like the underbelly of some amphibious creature. Before the war you were classically beautiful, with classic emerald eyes and a classic strong jaw and classic full lips, but none of these descriptions do you justice. I...more
Uncle Reggie couldn’t afford to fly to Ireland to find a selkie wife, so instead he drove across the country to Carmel-by-the-Sea and came back with a selkie queer. I was fifteen then, and so ready to get out of Perrysville that California sounded like paradise. | Copyright 2015 by Caspian Gray. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
I first saw the demon the Sunday after you died. It was 11:53 p.m. Just seven minutes until I would have grabbed my knapsack and biked home to Mom and bed and a life of sound sleep. That night the flurries were drifting down like nuclear ash. | Copyright 2015 by Matthew Kressel. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
Hand in hand, your family and some friends stand in a circle around your father. Ten seconds have passed since his last breath, and you’re counting, wondering if it was his last breath or his last breath. Your eyes lock on his face, and you try to remember when he last opened his eyes and looked around. Days, at least. The memory blooms in your head, something like a flower or a drop of ink expanding in water. | 2015 by Nate Southard. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
They took shelter outside of Boulder, in a cookie-cutter subdivision that had seen better days. Five or six floor plans, Dave Kerans figured, brick facades and tan siding, crumbling streets and blank cul-de-sacs, no place you’d want to live. By then, Felicia had passed out from the pain, and the snow beyond the windshield of Lanyan’s black Yukon had thickened into an impenetrable white blur. | Copyright 2015 by Dale Bailey. Narrated by John Nelson.
Since we were little, Oona’s collected Victorian photographs. A certain subset of people love them, but I got a library book of them once, just before I met her, and I’ve never not been appalled. I don’t know what a book like that was doing lost in our local library. It’s exactly the kind of thing that would normally have been removed by a logical parent. | Copyright 2014 Maria Dahvana Headley. Narrated by Judy Young.
Something in the lab smelled like nectarine jam. I looked up from the industrial autoclave, frowning as I sniffed the air. Unusual smells aren’t a good thing when you work in a high-security bio lab. No matter how pleasant the odor may seem, it indicates a deviance from the norm, and deviance is what gets people killed. | Copyright 2014 by Seanan McGuire. Originally published in THE END IS NIGH, edited by John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey. Reprinted by permission of the author. Narrated by Kate Ba...more
1. Because it would take the patience of a saint or Dalai Lama to smilingly turn the other cheek to those six savage boys day after day, to emerge unembittered from each new round of psychological and physical assaults; whereas I, Jared Shumsky, aged sixteen, have many things, like pimples and the bottom bunk bed in a trailer, and clothes that smell like cherry car air fresheners, but no particular strength or patience. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
The boy isn’t very large. The way things are these days, he figures that’s a plus. He is less of a target at night, and for this reason he has come to trust the darkness. Strange to trust darkness in a world overrun with nightmares . . . but that’s the way it is. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
She was dressed like a private detective from a low-budget TV show—a pair of slacks, modest high heels, and the most ridiculous trench coat I’d ever seen, one of the shorter ones, that hung just above the knees. I couldn’t help but laugh, and it was obvious my reaction annoyed her, but she did her best to hide her feelings as she pressed a finger to my lips, quieting me, and gently nudged me back inside my apartment. Narrated by Alex Hyde-White.
The men went out in boats to fish the cold waters of the bay because their fathers had, because men in this village always had. The women waited to gather in the catch, gut and clean and carry the fish to market because they always had, mothers and grandmothers and so on, back and back. Narrated by Susan Hanfield.
Folscyvio saw the Thing in a small cramped shop off the Via Silvia. In fact, he almost passed it by. He had just come from the Laguna, climbed the forty mildewy, green-velveted steps to the Ponte Louro, and crossed over to the elevated arcades of the Nuova. Then he glanced down, and spotted Giavetti, who owed him money, creeping by below through the ancient alleys. Narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir.
He stared bleary-eyed at the broken glass studding the land. This was his crop, seeded over the span of four weeks, irrigated from the residue of Napa Valley grapes, sun-kissed until it glistened like dew. It was the bounty of his desperation, and now was the time to harvest. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
The cook didn’t like that the eyes of the dead fish shifted to stare at him as he cut their heads off. The cook’s assistant, who was also his lover, didn’t like that he woke to find just a sack of bloody bones on the bed beside him. “It’s starting again,” he gasped, just moments before a huge, black, birdlike creature carried him off, screaming. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Clara Maloney peered down the long Brooklyn block. She and baby Sally had been waiting in the cold for twenty minutes, and still no sign of Pop. Figured. Even to pick out his wife’s casket, the old man was late. Narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir.
Some things you can’t figure out. Not even with a whole heap of scratch paper and a ribbon of data from a chattering teletype machine. Not before time runs out. And time is like progress—she’s not stopping for anybody. The answer is out there, though, in the weather. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Randolph hadn’t expected the map to misrepresent the route to the motorway quite so much. The roads were considerably straighter on the page. The high beams roused swarms of shadows in the hedges and glinted on elongated warnings of bends ahead, and then the light found a signpost. It pointed down a lane to somewhere called Lorn Hall. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
I have this persistent sleep disorder that makes life difficult for me, but still I want to keep it. Boy, do I want to keep it. It goes back twenty years, to Vietnam. To Graves. Narrated by Bruce Turk.
Night descended on Interstate-90 as I crossed over into the Badlands. Real raw weather for October. Snow dusted the asphalt and picnic tables of the deserted rest area. The scene was virginal as death. Narrated by Dave Robison.
The house was occupied, but no one lived there. That’s how Malcolm Crow thought about it. Houses like the Croft place were never really empty. Like most of the kids in Pine Deep, Crow knew that there were ghosts. Even the tourists knew about the ghosts. It was that kind of town. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.