Shadows & Tall Trees: Issue #2 now on sale

So I’m taking a short break from regular blogging. This is looking like a busy month for me and I want to get on top of some things before I pick it up again. I am looking to be back on schedule next week, hopefully. In the meantime, however, issue #2 of Shadows & Tall Trees is now available.

It features:

At the Top of the Stairs by Richard Harland
Back Among the Shy Trees by Steve Rasnic Tem
Memento Mori by Sunny Moraine
The Candle by Ian Rogers
Voices Carry by Eric Schaller
The Pool by Alison J. Littlewood
Devil’s Music by Louis Marvick

This is really a terrific collection of fiction and I’m very pleased to be in such great company. Shadows & Tall Trees has been getting some very positive buzz in general, and I’m privileged to be a part of it.

My own piece, “Memento Mori,” was inspired by the closing passage of Bob Doto of Quiet Earth’s review of Werner Herzog’s My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, which is one of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read (though I confess that I still haven’t seen the film in question). It concerns the question of what that would actually be like, what it might mean and how someone might process the experience. I decided that taking the analogy and running into extremely literal territory with it might produce something pleasingly surreal, and I hope I mostly succeeded in doing that.

Here’s the first little bit of it.

– – –

“I found this. Is it yours?”

It’s not mine–I’m already sure about that before I look up, because I know I didn’t lose anything. I don’t carry much with me to lose and I know it’s all here. So whatever it is, I know it isn’t mine, but the guy sounds friendly, like he means well, so I look up with my mouth already open to say No, thanks anyway, and then I’m face to face with my own skull.

Would you recognize your own skull if you saw it? Would you know the bone structure your own skin has stretched over for as long as you’ve been alive? Those empty sockets–you’ve stared out of those sockets for your whole life, and when you’ve been tired or when you’ve cried, you’ve rubbed your fingers against their curves. There’s the maxilla, the zygomatic–your cheeks, but it sounds like some kind of fancy new vacuum cleaner or something–lacrimal, nasal, sphenoid. The architecture of your own face. So would you know it, if an old man with a Red Sox cap and a metal detector came up to you on the beach and held it out to you?

I do. I have no idea if that’s normal, but I do. So I say, “Yes, thanks.” And I take it, and he nods and smiles and walks away, waving his detector over the sand. I have my skull cradled in my palms, smooth and surprisingly light, and I find myself wondering what else he might find with that thing.

A girl in a blue bikini walks by. She looks at me and I lift a hand and wave, and her face twists with a mixture of confusion and disgust that probably doesn’t have a name, and she walks a little faster. It might have been the skull. I want to try to explain to her that it’s mine and I can’t exactly leave it here on the beach, but I’m pretty sure I would sound like a lunatic; pretty sure she wouldn’t believe me. I’m not dressed for the beach, in jeans and sneakers and a baggy t-shirt, and it occurs to me that maybe I should just go somewhere else. I’m not even sure why I came here in the first place.

I mean, I’m glad I did. Someone else might have gotten to my skull before me, taken it from the man, done God knows what with it.

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