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Mine is Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air."

spoilered for tl;dr
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
Pa had sent me out to get an extra pail of air. I'd just about scooped it full and most of the warmth had leaked from my fingers when I saw the thing.

You know, at first I thought it was a young lady. Yes, a beautiful young lady's face all glowing in the dark and looking at me from the fifth floor of the opposite apartment, which hereabouts is the floor just above the white blanket of frozen air. I'd never seen a live young lady before, except in the old magazines—Sis is just a kid and Ma is pretty sick and miserable—and it gave me such a start that I dropped the pail. Who wouldn't, knowing everyone on Earth was dead except Pa and Ma and Sis and you?

Even at that, I don't suppose I should have been surprised. We all see things now and then. Ma has some pretty bad ones, to judge from the way she bugs her eyes at nothing and just screams and screams and huddles back against the blankets hanging around the Nest. Pa says it is natural we should react like that sometimes.

When I'd recovered the pail and could look again at the opposite apartment, I got an idea of what Ma might be feeling at those times, for I saw it wasn't a young lady at all but simply a light—a tiny light that moved stealthily from window to window, just as if one of the cruel little stars had come down out of the airless sky to investigate why the Earth had gone away from the Sun, and maybe to hunt down something to torment or terrify, now that the Earth didn't have the Sun's protection.

I tell you, the thought of it gave me the creeps. I just stood there shaking, and almost froze my feet and did frost my helmet so solid on the inside that I couldn't have seen the light even if it had come out of one of the windows to get me. Then I had the wit to go back inside.

Pretty soon I was feeling my familiar way through the thirty or so blankets and rugs Pa has got hung around to slow down the escape of air from the Nest, and I wasn't quite so scared. I began to hear the tick-ticking of the clocks in the Nest and knew I was getting back into air, because there's no sound outside in the vacuum, of course. But my mind was still crawly and uneasy as I pushed through the last blankets—Pa's got them faced with aluminum foil to hold in the heat—and came into the Nest.
* * *

Let me tell you about the Nest. It's low and snug, just room for the four of us and our things. The floor is covered with thick woolly rugs. Three of the sides are blankets, and the blankets roofing it touch Pa's head. He tells me it's inside a much bigger room, but I've never seen the real walls or ceiling.

Against one of the blankets is a big set of shelves, with tools and books and other stuff, and on top of it a whole row of clocks. Pa's very fussy about keeping them wound. He says we must never forget time, and without a sun or moon, that would be easy to do.

The fourth wall has blankets all over except around the fireplace, in which there is a fire that must never go out. It keeps us from freezing and does a lot more besides. One of us must always watch it. Some of the clocks are alarm and we can use them to remind us. In the early days there was only Ma to take turns with Pa—I think of that when she gets difficult—but now there's me to help, and Sis too.

It's Pa who is the chief guardian of the fire, though. I always think of him that way: a tall man sitting cross-legged, frowning anxiously at the fire, his lined face golden in its light, and every so often carefully placing on it a piece of coal from the big heap beside it. Pa tells me there used to be guardians of the fire sometimes in the very old days—vestal virgins, he calls them—although there was unfrozen air all around then and you didn't really need one.

He was sitting just that way now, though he got up quick to take the pail from me and bawl me out for loitering—he'd spotted my frozen helmet right off. That roused Ma and she joined in picking on me. She's always trying to get the load off her feelings, Pa explains. Sis let off a couple of silly squeals too.

Pa handled the pail of air in a twist of cloth. Now that it was inside the Nest, you could really feel its coldness. It just seemed to suck the heat out of everything. Even the flames cringed away from it as Pa put it down close by the fire.

Yet it's that glimmery white stuff in the pail that keeps us alive. It slowly melts and vanishes and refreshes the Nest and feeds the fire. The blankets keep it from escaping too fast. Pa'd like to seal the whole place, but he can't—building's too earthquake-twisted, and besides he has to leave the chimney open for smoke.

Pa says air is tiny molecules that fly away like a flash if there isn't something to stop them. We have to watch sharp not to let the air run low. Pa always keeps a big reserve supply of it in buckets behind the first blankets, along with extra coal and cans of food and other things, such as pails of snow to melt for water. We have to go way down to the bottom floor for that stuff, which is a mean trip, and get it through a door to outside.

You see, when the Earth got cold, all the water in the air froze first and made a blanket ten feet thick or so everywhere, and then down on top of that dropped the crystals of frozen air, making another white blanket sixty or seventy feet thick maybe.

Of course, all the parts of the air didn't freeze and snow down at the same time.

First to drop out was the carbon dioxide—when you're shoveling for water, you have to make sure you don't go too high and get any of that stuff mixed in, for it would put you to sleep, maybe for good, and make the fire go out. Next there's the nitrogen, which doesn't count one way or the other, though it's the biggest part of the blanket. On top of that and easy to get at, which is lucky for us, there's the oxygen that keeps us alive. Pa says we live better than kings ever did, breathing pure oxygen, but we're used to it and don't notice. Finally, at the very top, there's a slick of liquid helium, which is funny stuff. All of these gases in neat separate layers. Like a pussy caffay, Pa laughingly says, whatever that is.
* * *

I was busting to tell them all about what I'd seen, and so as soon as I'd ducked out of my helmet and while I was still climbing out of my suit, I cut loose. Right away Ma got nervous and began making eyes at the entry-slit in the blankets and wringing her hands together—the hand where she'd lost three fingers from frostbite inside the good one, as usual. I could tell that Pa was annoyed at me scaring her and wanted to explain it all away quickly, yet could see I wasn't fooling.

"And you watched this light for some time, son?" he asked when I finished.

I hadn't said anything about first thinking it was a young lady's face. Somehow that part embarrassed me.

"Long enough for it to pass five windows and go to the next floor."

"And it didn't look like stray electricity or crawling liquid or starlight focused by a growing crystal, or anything like that?"

He wasn't just making up those ideas. Odd things happen in a world that's about as cold as can be, and just when you think matter would be frozen dead, it takes on a strange new life. A slimy stuff comes crawling toward the Nest, just like an animal snuffing for heat—that's the liquid helium. And once, when I was little, a bolt of lightning—not even Pa could figure where it came from—hit the nearby steeple and crawled up and down it for weeks, until the glow finally died.

"Not like anything I ever saw," I told him.

He stood for a moment frowning. Then, "I'll go out with you, and you show it to me," he said.

Ma raised a howl at the idea of being left alone, and Sis joined in, too, but Pa quieted them. We started climbing into our outside clothes—mine had been warming by the fire. Pa made them. They have plastic headpieces that were once big double-duty transparent food cans, but they keep heat and air in and can replace the air for a little while, long enough for our trips for water and coal and food and so on.

Ma started moaning again, "I've always known there was something outside there, waiting to get us. I've felt it for years—-something that's part of the cold and hates all warmth and wants to destroy the Nest. It's been watching us all this time, and now it's coming after us. It'll get you and then come for me. Don't go, Harry!"

Pa had everything on but his helmet. He knelt by the fireplace and reached in and shook the long metal rod that goes up the chimney and knocks off the ice that keeps trying to clog it. Once a week he goes up on the roof to check if it's working all right. That's our worst trip and Pa won't let me make it alone.

"Sis," Pa said quietly, "come watch the fire. Keep an eye on the air, too. If it gets low or doesn't seem to be boiling fast enough, fetch another bucket from behind the blanket. But mind your hands. Use the cloth to pick up the bucket."

Sis quit helping Ma be frightened and came over and did as she was told. Ma quieted down pretty suddenly, though her eyes were still kind of wild as she watched Pa fix on his helmet tight and pick up a pail and the two of us go out.
* * *

Pa led the way and I took hold of his belt. It's a funny thing, I'm not afraid to go by myself, but when Pa's along I always want to hold on to him. Habit, I guess, and then there's no denying that this time I was a bit scared.

You see, it's this way. We know that everything is dead out there. Pa heard the last radio voices fade away years ago, and had seen some of the last folks die who weren't as lucky or well-protected as us. So we knew that if there was something groping around out there, it couldn't be anything human or friendly.

Besides that, there's a feeling that comes with it always being night, cold night. Pa says there used to be some of that feeling even in the old days, but then every morning the Sun would come and chase it away. I have to take his word for that, not ever remembering the Sun as being anything more than a big star. You see, I hadn't been born when the dark star snatched us away from the Sun, and by now it's dragged us out beyond the orbit of the planet Pluto, Pa says, and taking us farther out all the time.

I found myself wondering whether there mightn't be something on the dark star that wanted us, and if that was why it had captured the Earth. Just then we came to the end of the corridor and I followed Pa out on the balcony.

I don't know what the city looked like in the old days, but now it's beautiful. The starlight lets you see pretty well—there's quite a bit of light in those steady points speckling the blackness above. (Pa says the stars used to twinkle once, but that was because there was air.) We are on a hill and the shimmery plain drops away from us and then flattens out, cut up into neat squares by the troughs that used to be streets. I sometimes make my mashed potatoes look like it, before I pour on the gravy.

Some taller buildings push up out of the feathery plain, topped by rounded caps of air crystals, like the fur hood Ma wears, only whiter. On those buildings you can see the darker squares of windows, underlined by white dashes of air crystals. Some of them are on a slant, for many of the buildings are pretty badly twisted by the quakes and all the rest that happened when the dark star captured the Earth.

Here and there a few icicles hang, water icicles from the first days of the cold, other icicles of frozen air that melted on the roofs and dripped and froze again. Sometimes one of those icicles will catch the light of a star and send it to you so brightly you think the star has swooped into the city. That was one of the things Pa had been thinking of when I told him about the light, but I had thought of it myself first and known it wasn't so.

He touched his helmet to mine so we could talk easier and he asked me to point out the windows to him. But there wasn't any light moving around inside them now, or anywhere else. To my surprise, Pa didn't bawl me out and tell me I'd been seeing things. He looked all around quite a while after filling his pail, and just as we were going inside he whipped around without warning, as if to take some peeping thing off guard.

I could feel it, too. The old peace was gone. There was something lurking out there, watching, waiting, getting ready.

Inside, he said to me, touching helmets, "If you see something like that again, son, don't tell the others. Your Ma's sort of nervous these days and we owe her all the feeling of safety we can give her. Once—it was when your sister was born—I was ready to give up and die, but your Mother kept me trying. Another time she kept the fire going a whole week all by herself when I was sick. Nursed me and took care of the two of you, too.

"You know that game we sometimes play, sitting in a square in the Nest, tossing a ball around? Courage is like a ball, son. A person can hold it only so long, and then he's got to toss it to someone else. When it's tossed your way, you've got to catch it and hold it tight—and hope there'll be someone else to toss it to when you get tired of being brave."

His talking to me that way made me feel grown-up and good. But it didn't wipe away the thing outside from the back of my mind—or the fact that Pa took it seriously.
* * *

It's hard to hide your feelings about such a thing. When we got back in the Nest and took off our outside clothes, Pa laughed about it all and told them it was nothing and kidded me for having such an imagination, but his words fell flat. He didn't convince Ma and Sis any more than he did me. It looked for a minute like we were all fumbling the courage-ball. Something had to be done, and almost before I knew what I was going to say, I heard myself asking Pa to tell us about the old days, and how it all happened.

He sometimes doesn't mind telling that story, and Sis and I sure like to listen to it, and he got my idea. So we were all settled around the fire in a wink, and Ma pushed up some cans to thaw for supper, and Pa began. Before he did, though, I noticed him casually get a hammer from the shelf and lay it down beside him.

It was the same old story as always—I think I could recite the main thread of it in my sleep—though Pa always puts in a new detail or two and keeps improving it in spots.

He told us how the Earth had been swinging around the Sun ever so steady and warm, and the people on it fixing to make money and wars and have a good time and get power and treat each other right or wrong, when without warning there comes charging out of space this dead star, this burned out sun, and upsets everything.

You know, I find it hard to believe in the way those people felt, any more than I can believe in the swarming number of them. Imagine people getting ready for the horrible sort of war they were cooking up. Wanting it even, or at least wishing it were over so as to end their nervousness. As if all folks didn't have to hang together and pool every bit of warmth just to keep alive. And how can they have hoped to end danger, any more than we can hope to end the cold?

Sometimes I think Pa exaggerates and makes things out too black. He's cross with us once in a while and was probably cross with all those folks. Still, some of the things I read in the old magazines sound pretty wild. He may be right.
* * *

The dark star, as Pa went on telling it, rushed in pretty fast and there wasn't much time to get ready. At the beginning they tried to keep it a secret from most people, but then the truth came out, what with the earthquakes and floods—imagine, oceans of unfrozen water!—and people seeing stars blotted out by something on a clear night. First off they thought it would hit the Sun, and then they thought it would hit the Earth. There was even the start of a rush to get to a place called China, because people thought the star would hit on the other side. But then they found it wasn't going to hit either side, but was going to come very close to the Earth.

Most of the other planets were on the other side of the Sun and didn't get involved. The Sun and the newcomer fought over the Earth for a little while—pulling it this way and that, like two dogs growling over a bone, Pa described it this time—and then the newcomer won and carried us off. The Sun got a consolation prize, though. At the last minute he managed to hold on to the Moon.

That was the time of the monster earthquakes and floods, twenty times worse than anything before. It was also the time of the Big Jerk, as Pa calls it, when all Earth got yanked suddenly, just as Pa has done to me once or twice, grabbing me by the collar to do it, when I've been sitting too far from the fire.

You see, the dark star was going through space faster than the Sun, and in the opposite direction, and it had to wrench the world considerably in order to take it away.

The Big Jerk didn't last long. It was over as soon as the Earth was settled down in its new orbit around the dark star. But it was pretty terrible while it lasted. Pa says that all sorts of cliffs and buildings toppled, oceans slopped over, swamps and sandy deserts gave great sliding surges that buried nearby lands. Earth was almost jerked out of its atmosphere blanket and the air got so thin in spots that people keeled over and fainted—though of course, at the same time, they were getting knocked down by the Big Jerk and maybe their bones broke or skulls cracked.

We've often asked Pa how people acted during that time, whether they were scared or brave or crazy or stunned, or all four, but he's sort of leery of the subject, and he was again tonight. He says he was mostly too busy to notice.

You see, Pa and some scientist friends of his had figured out part of what was going to happen—they'd known we'd get captured and our air would freeze—and they'd been working like mad to fix up a place with airtight walls and doors, and insulation against the cold, and big supplies of food and fuel and water and bottled air. But the place got smashed in the last earthquakes and all Pa's friends were killed then and in the Big Jerk. So he had to start over and throw the Nest together quick without any advantages, just using any stuff he could lay his hands on.

I guess he's telling pretty much the truth when he says he didn't have any time to keep an eye on how other folks behaved, either then or in the Big Freeze that followed—followed very quick, you know, both because the dark star was pulling us away very fast and because Earth's rotation had been slowed in the tug-of-war, so that the nights were ten old nights long.

Still, I've got an idea of some of the things that happened from the frozen folk I've seen, a few of them in other rooms in our building, others clustered around the furnaces in the basements where we go for coal.

In one of the rooms, an old man sits stiff in a chair, with an arm and a leg in splints. In another, a man and a woman are huddled together in a bed with heaps of covers over them. You can just see their heads peeking out, close together. And in another a beautiful young lady is sitting with a pile of wraps huddled around her, looking hopefully toward the door, as if waiting for someone who never came back with warmth and food. They're all still and stiff as statues, of course, but just like life.

Pa showed them to me once in quick winks of his flashlight, when he still had a fair supply of batteries and could afford to waste a little light. They scared me pretty bad and made my heart pound, especially the young lady.
* * *

Now, with Pa telling his story for the umpteenth time to take our minds off another scare, I got to thinking of the frozen folk again. All of a sudden I got an idea that scared me worse than anything yet. You see, I'd just remembered the face I'd thought I'd seen in the window. I'd forgotten about that on account of trying to hide it from the others.

What, I asked myself, if the frozen folk were coming to life? What if they were like the liquid helium that got a new lease on life and started crawling toward the heat just when you thought its molecules ought to freeze solid forever? Or like the electricity that moves endlessly when it's just about as cold as that? What if the ever-growing cold, with the temperature creeping down the last few degrees to the last zero, had mysteriously wakened the frozen folk to life—not warm-blooded life, but something icy and horrible?

That was a worse idea than the one about something coming down from the dark star to get us.

Or maybe, I thought, both ideas might be true. Something coming down from the dark star and making the frozen folk move, using them to do its work. That would fit with both things I'd seen—the beautiful young lady and the moving, starlike light.

The frozen folk with minds from the dark star behind their unwinking eyes, creeping, crawling, snuffing their way, following the heat to the Nest.

I tell you, that thought gave me a very bad turn and I wanted very badly to tell the others my fears, but I remembered what Pa had said and clenched my teeth and didn't speak.

We were all sitting very still. Even the fire was burning silently. There was just the sound of Pa's voice and the clocks.

And then, from beyond the blankets, I thought I heard a tiny noise. My skin tightened all over me.

Pa was telling about the early years in the Nest and had come to the place where he philosophizes.

"So I asked myself then," he said, "what's the use of going on? What's the use of dragging it out for a few years? Why prolong a doomed existence of hard work and cold and loneliness? The human race is done. The Earth is done. Why not give up, I asked myself—and all of a sudden I got the answer."

Again I heard the noise, louder this time, a kind of uncertain, shuffling tread, coming closer. I couldn't breathe.

"Life's always been a business of working hard and fighting the cold," Pa was saying. "The earth's always been a lonely place, millions of miles from the next planet. And no matter how long the human race might have lived, the end would have come some night. Those things don't matter. What matters is that life is good. It has a lovely texture, like some rich cloth or fur, or the petals of flowers—you've seen pictures of those, but I can't describe how they feel—or the fire's glow. It makes everything else worth while. And that's as true for the last man as the first."

And still the steps kept shuffling closer. It seemed to me that the inmost blanket trembled and bulged a little. Just as if they were burned into my imagination, I kept seeing those peering, frozen eyes.

"So right then and there," Pa went on, and now I could tell that he heard the steps, too, and was talking loud so we maybe wouldn't hear them, "right then and there I told myself that I was going on as if we had all eternity ahead of us. I'd have children and teach them all I could. I'd get them to read books. I'd plan for the future, try to enlarge and seal the Nest. I'd do what I could to keep everything beautiful and growing. I'd keep alive my feeling of wonder even at the cold and the dark and the distant stars."

But then the blanket actually did move and lift. And there was a bright light somewhere behind it. Pa's voice stopped and his eyes turned to the widening slit and his hand went out until it touched and gripped the handle of the hammer beside him.
* * *

In through the blanket stepped the beautiful young lady. She stood there looking at us the strangest way, and she carried something bright and unwinking in her hand. And two other faces peered over her shoulders—men's faces, white and staring.

Well, my heart couldn't have been stopped for more than four or five beats before I realized she was wearing a suit and helmet like Pa's homemade ones, only fancier, and that the men were, too—and that the frozen folk certainly wouldn't be wearing those. Also, I noticed that the bright thing in her hand was just a kind of flashlight.

The silence kept on while I swallowed hard a couple of times, and after that there was all sorts of jabbering and commotion.

They were simply people, you see. We hadn't been the only ones to survive; we'd just thought so, for natural enough reasons. These three people had survived, and quite a few others with them. And when we found out how they'd survived, Pa let out the biggest whoop of joy.

They were from Los Alamos and they were getting their heat and power from atomic energy. Just using the uranium and plutonium intended for bombs, they had enough to go on for thousands of years. They had a regular little airtight city, with airlocks and all. They even generated electric light and grew plants and animals by it. (At this Pa let out a second whoop, waking Ma from her faint.)

But if we were flabbergasted at them, they were double--flabbergasted at us.

One of the men kept saying, "But it's impossible, I tell you. You can't maintain an air supply without hermetic sealing. It's simply impossible."

That was after he had got his helmet off and was using our air. Meanwhile, the young lady kept looking around at us as if we were saints, and telling us we'd done something amazing, and suddenly she broke down and cried.

They'd been scouting around for survivors, but they never expected to find any in a place like this. They had rocket ships at Los Alamos and plenty of chemical fuels. As for liquid oxygen, all you had to do was go out and shovel the air blanket at the top level. So after they'd got things going smoothly at Los Alamos, which had taken years, they'd decided to make some trips to likely places where there might be other survivors. No good trying long-distance radio signals, of course, since there was no atmosphere to carry them around the curve of the Earth.

Well, they'd found other colonies at Argonne and Brookhaven and way around the world at Harwell and Tanna Tuva. And now they'd been giving our city a look, not really expecting to find anything. But they had an instrument that noticed the faintest heat waves and it had told them there was something warm down here, so they'd landed to investigate. Of course we hadn't heard them land, since there was no air to carry the sound, and they'd had to investigate around quite a while before finding us. Their instruments had given them a wrong steer and they'd wasted some time in the building across the street.
* * *

By now, all five adults were talking like sixty. Pa was demonstrating to the men how he worked the fire and got rid of the ice in the chimney and all that. Ma had perked up wonderfully and was showing the young lady her cooking and sewing stuff, and even asking about how the women dressed at Los Alamos. The strangers marveled at everything and praised it to the skies. I could tell from the way they wrinkled their noses that they found the Nest a bit smelly, but they never mentioned that at all and just asked bushels of questions.

In fact, there was so much talking and excitement that Pa forgot about things, and it wasn't until they were all getting groggy that he looked and found the air had all boiled away in the pail. He got another bucket of air quick from behind the blankets. Of course that started them all laughing and jabbering again. The newcomers even got a little drunk. They weren't used to so much oxygen.

Funny thing, though—I didn't do much talking at all and Sis hung on to Ma all the time and hid her face when anybody looked at her. I felt pretty uncomfortable and disturbed myself, even about the young lady. Glimpsing her outside there, I'd had all sorts of mushy thoughts, but now I was just embarrassed and scared of her, even though she tried to be nice as anything to me.

I sort of wished they'd all quit crowding the Nest and let us be alone and get our feelings straightened out.

And when the newcomers began to talk about our all going to Los Alamos, as if that were taken for granted, I could see that something of the same feeling struck Pa and Ma, too. Pa got very silent all of a sudden and Ma kept telling the young lady, "But I wouldn't know how to act there and I haven't any clothes."

The strangers were puzzled like anything at first, but then they got the idea. As Pa kept saying, "It just doesn't seem right to let this fire go out."
* * *

Well, the strangers are gone, but they're coming back. It hasn't been decided yet just what will happen. Maybe the Nest will be kept up as what one of the strangers called a "survival school." Or maybe we will join the pioneers who are going to try to establish a new colony at the uranium mines at Great Slave Lake or in the Congo.

Of course, now that the strangers are gone, I've been thinking a lot about Los Alamos and those other tremendous colonies. I have a hankering to see them for myself.

You ask me, Pa wants to see them, too. He's been getting pretty thoughtful, watching Ma and Sis perk up.

"It's different, now that we know others are alive," he explains to me. "Your mother doesn't feel so hopeless any more. Neither do I, for that matter, not having to carry the whole responsibility for keeping the human race going, so to speak. It scares a person."

I looked around at the blanket walls and the fire and the pails of air boiling away and Ma and Sis sleeping in the warmth and the flickering light.

"It's not going to be easy to leave the Nest," I said, wanting to cry, kind of. "It's so small and there's just the four of us. I get scared at the idea of big places and a lot of strangers."

He nodded and put another piece of coal on the fire. Then he looked at the little pile and grinned suddenly and put a couple of handfuls on, just as if it was one of our birthdays or Christmas.

"You'll quickly get over that feeling, son," he said. "The trouble with the world was that it kept getting smaller and smaller, till it ended with just the Nest. Now it'll be good to have a real huge world again, the way it was in the beginning."

I guess he's right. You think the beautiful young lady will wait for me till I grow up? I'll be twenty in only ten years.
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Kurt
switchin' to glide
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The Most Dangerous Game
by Richard Connell
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
"OFF THERE to the right--somewhere--is a large island," said Whitney." It's rather a mystery--"

"What island is it?" Rainsford asked.

"The old charts call it `Ship-Trap Island,"' Whitney replied." A suggestive name, isn't it? Sailors have a curious dread of the place. I don't know why. Some superstition--"

"Can't see it," remarked Rainsford, trying to peer through the dank tropical night that was palpable as it pressed its thick warm blackness in upon the yacht.

"You've good eyes," said Whitney, with a laugh," and I've seen you pick off a moose moving in the brown fall bush at four hundred yards, but even you can't see four miles or so through a moonless Caribbean night."

"Nor four yards," admitted Rainsford. "Ugh! It's like moist black velvet."

"It will be light enough in Rio," promised Whitney. "We should make it in a few days. I hope the jaguar guns have come from Purdey's. We should have some good hunting up the Amazon. Great sport, hunting."

"The best sport in the world," agreed Rainsford.

"For the hunter," amended Whitney. "Not for the jaguar."

"Don't talk rot, Whitney," said Rainsford. "You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?"

"Perhaps the jaguar does," observed Whitney.

"Bah! They've no understanding."

"Even so, I rather think they understand one thing--fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death."

"Nonsense," laughed Rainsford. "This hot weather is making you soft, Whitney. Be a realist. The world is made up of two classes--the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. Do you think we've passed that island yet?"

"I can't tell in the dark. I hope so."

"Why? " asked Rainsford.

"The place has a reputation--a bad one."

"Cannibals?" suggested Rainsford.

"Hardly. Even cannibals wouldn't live in such a God-forsaken place. But it's gotten into sailor lore, somehow. Didn't you notice that the crew's nerves seemed a bit jumpy today?"

"They were a bit strange, now you mention it. Even Captain Nielsen--"

"Yes, even that tough-minded old Swede, who'd go up to the devil himself and ask him for a light. Those fishy blue eyes held a look I never saw there before. All I could get out of him was `This place has an evil name among seafaring men, sir.' Then he said to me, very gravely, `Don't you feel anything?'--as if the air about us was actually poisonous. Now, you mustn't laugh when I tell you this--I did feel something like a sudden chill.

"There was no breeze. The sea was as flat as a plate-glass window. We were drawing near the island then. What I felt was a--a mental chill; a sort of sudden dread."

"Pure imagination," said Rainsford.

"One superstitious sailor can taint the whole ship's company with his fear."

"Maybe. But sometimes I think sailors have an extra sense that tells them when they are in danger. Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing--with wave lengths, just as sound and light have. An evil place can, so to speak, broadcast vibrations of evil. Anyhow, I'm glad we're getting out of this zone. Well, I think I'll turn in now, Rainsford."

"I'm not sleepy," said Rainsford. "I'm going to smoke another pipe up on the afterdeck."

"Good night, then, Rainsford. See you at breakfast."

"Right. Good night, Whitney."

There was no sound in the night as Rainsford sat there but the muffled throb of the engine that drove the yacht swiftly through the darkness, and the swish and ripple of the wash of the propeller.

Rainsford, reclining in a steamer chair, indolently puffed on his favorite brier. The sensuous drowsiness of the night was on him." It's so dark," he thought, "that I could sleep without closing my eyes; the night would be my eyelids--"

An abrupt sound startled him. Off to the right he heard it, and his ears, expert in such matters, could not be mistaken. Again he heard the sound, and again. Somewhere, off in the blackness, someone had fired a gun three times.

Rainsford sprang up and moved quickly to the rail, mystified. He strained his eyes in the direction from which the reports had come, but it was like trying to see through a blanket. He leaped upon the rail and balanced himself there, to get greater elevation; his pipe, striking a rope, was knocked from his mouth. He lunged for it; a short, hoarse cry came from his lips as he realized he had reached too far and had lost his balance. The cry was pinched off short as the blood-warm waters of the Caribbean Sea dosed over his head.

He struggled up to the surface and tried to cry out, but the wash from the speeding yacht slapped him in the face and the salt water in his open mouth made him gag and strangle. Desperately he struck out with strong strokes after the receding lights of the yacht, but he stopped before he had swum fifty feet. A certain coolheadedness had come to him; it was not the first time he had been in a tight place. There was a chance that his cries could be heard by someone aboard the yacht, but that chance was slender and grew more slender as the yacht raced on. He wrestled himself out of his clothes and shouted with all his power. The lights of the yacht became faint and ever-vanishing fireflies; then they were blotted out entirely by the night.

Rainsford remembered the shots. They had come from the right, and doggedly he swam in that direction, swimming with slow, deliberate strokes, conserving his strength. For a seemingly endless time he fought the sea. He began to count his strokes; he could do possibly a hundred more and then--

Rainsford heard a sound. It came out of the darkness, a high screaming sound, the sound of an animal in an extremity of anguish and terror.

He did not recognize the animal that made the sound; he did not try to; with fresh vitality he swam toward the sound. He heard it again; then it was cut short by another noise, crisp, staccato.

"Pistol shot," muttered Rainsford, swimming on.

Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his ears--the most welcome he had ever heard--the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore. He was almost on the rocks before he saw them; on a night less calm he would have been shattered against them. With his remaining strength he dragged himself from the swirling waters. Jagged crags appeared to jut up into the opaqueness; he forced himself upward, hand over hand. Gasping, his hands raw, he reached a flat place at the top. Dense jungle came down to the very edge of the cliffs. What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then. All he knew was that he was safe from his enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him. He flung himself down at the jungle edge and tumbled headlong into the deepest sleep of his life.

When he opened his eyes he knew from the position of the sun that it was late in the afternoon. Sleep had given him new vigor; a sharp hunger was picking at him. He looked about him, almost cheerfully.

"Where there are pistol shots, there are men. Where there are men, there is food," he thought. But what kind of men, he wondered, in so forbidding a place? An unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle fringed the shore.

He saw no sign of a trail through the closely knit web of weeds and trees; it was easier to go along the shore, and Rainsford floundered along by the water. Not far from where he landed, he stopped.

Some wounded thing--by the evidence, a large animal--had thrashed about in the underbrush; the jungle weeds were crushed down and the moss was lacerated; one patch of weeds was stained crimson. A small, glittering object not far away caught Rainsford's eye and he picked it up. It was an empty cartridge.

"A twenty-two," he remarked. "That's odd. It must have been a fairly large animal too. The hunter had his nerve with him to tackle it with a light gun. It's clear that the brute put up a fight. I suppose the first three shots I heard was when the hunter flushed his quarry and wounded it. The last shot was when he trailed it here and finished it."

He examined the ground closely and found what he had hoped to find--the print of hunting boots. They pointed along the cliff in the direction he had been going. Eagerly he hurried along, now slipping on a rotten log or a loose stone, but making headway; night was beginning to settle down on the island.

Bleak darkness was blacking out the sea and jungle when Rainsford sighted the lights. He came upon them as he turned a crook in the coast line; and his first thought was that be had come upon a village, for there were many lights. But as he forged along he saw to his great astonishment that all the lights were in one enormous building--a lofty structure with pointed towers plunging upward into the gloom. His eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial chateau; it was set on a high bluff, and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.

"Mirage," thought Rainsford. But it was no mirage, he found, when he opened the tall spiked iron gate. The stone steps were real enough; the massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker was real enough; yet above it all hung an air of unreality.

He lifted the knocker, and it creaked up stiffly, as if it had never before been used. He let it fall, and it startled him with its booming loudness. He thought he heard steps within; the door remained closed. Again Rainsford lifted the heavy knocker, and let it fall. The door opened then--opened as suddenly as if it were on a spring--and Rainsford stood blinking in the river of glaring gold light that poured out. The first thing Rainsford's eyes discerned was the largest man Rainsford had ever seen--a gigantic creature, solidly made and black bearded to the waist. In his hand the man held a long-barreled revolver, and he was pointing it straight at Rainsford's heart.

Out of the snarl of beard two small eyes regarded Rainsford.

"Don't be alarmed," said Rainsford, with a smile which he hoped was disarming. "I'm no robber. I fell off a yacht. My name is Sanger Rainsford of New York City."

The menacing look in the eyes did not change. The revolver pointing as rigidly as if the giant were a statue. He gave no sign that he understood Rainsford's words, or that he had even heard them. He was dressed in uniform--a black uniform trimmed with gray astrakhan.

"I'm Sanger Rainsford of New York," Rainsford began again. "I fell off a yacht. I am hungry."

The man's only answer was to raise with his thumb the hammer of his revolver. Then Rainsford saw the man's free hand go to his forehead in a military salute, and he saw him click his heels together and stand at attention. Another man was coming down the broad marble steps, an erect, slender man in evening clothes. He advanced to Rainsford and held out his hand.

In a cultivated voice marked by a slight accent that gave it added precision and deliberateness, he said, "It is a very great pleasure and honor to welcome Mr. Sanger Rainsford, the celebrated hunter, to my home."

Automatically Rainsford shook the man's hand.

"I've read your book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet, you see," explained the man. "I am General Zaroff."

Rainsford's first impression was that the man was singularly handsome; his second was that there was an original, almost bizarre quality about the general's face. He was a tall man past middle age, for his hair was a vivid white; but his thick eyebrows and pointed military mustache were as black as the night from which Rainsford had come. His eyes, too, were black and very bright. He had high cheekbones, a sharpcut nose, a spare, dark face--the face of a man used to giving orders, the face of an aristocrat. Turning to the giant in uniform, the general made a sign. The giant put away his pistol, saluted, withdrew.

"Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow," remarked the general, "but he has the misfortune to be deaf and dumb. A simple fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."

"Is he Russian?"

"He is a Cossack," said the general, and his smile showed red lips and pointed teeth. "So am I."

"Come," he said, "we shouldn't be chatting here. We can talk later. Now you want clothes, food, rest. You shall have them. This is a most-restful spot."

Ivan had reappeared, and the general spoke to him with lips that moved but gave forth no sound.

"Follow Ivan, if you please, Mr. Rainsford," said the general. "I was about to have my dinner when you came. I'll wait for you. You'll find that my clothes will fit you, I think."

It was to a huge, beam-ceilinged bedroom with a canopied bed big enough for six men that Rainsford followed the silent giant. Ivan laid out an evening suit, and Rainsford, as he put it on, noticed that it came from a London tailor who ordinarily cut and sewed for none below the rank of duke.

The dining room to which Ivan conducted him was in many ways remarkable. There was a medieval magnificence about it; it suggested a baronial hall of feudal times with its oaken panels, its high ceiling, its vast refectory tables where twoscore men could sit down to eat. About the hall were mounted heads of many animals--lions, tigers, elephants, moose, bears; larger or more perfect specimens Rainsford had never seen. At the great table the general was sitting, alone.

"You'll have a cocktail, Mr. Rainsford," he suggested. The cocktail was surpassingly good; and, Rainsford noted, the table apointments were of the finest--the linen, the crystal, the silver, the china.

They were eating borsch, the rich, red soup with whipped cream so dear to Russian palates. Half apologetically General Zaroff said, "We do our best to preserve the amenities of civilization here. Please forgive any lapses. We are well off the beaten track, you know. Do you think the champagne has suffered from its long ocean trip?"

"Not in the least," declared Rainsford. He was finding the general a most thoughtful and affable host, a true cosmopolite. But there was one small trait of .the general's that made Rainsford uncomfortable. Whenever he looked up from his plate he found the general studying him, appraising him narrowly.

"Perhaps," said General Zaroff, "you were surprised that I recognized your name. You see, I read all books on hunting published in English, French, and Russian. I have but one passion in my life, Mr. Rainsford, and it is the hunt."

"You have some wonderful heads here," said Rainsford as he ate a particularly well-cooked filet mignon. " That Cape buffalo is the largest I ever saw."

"Oh, that fellow. Yes, he was a monster."

"Did he charge you?"

"Hurled me against a tree," said the general. "Fractured my skull. But I got the brute."

"I've always thought," said Rainsford, "that the Cape buffalo is the most dangerous of all big game."

For a moment the general did not reply; he was smiling his curious red-lipped smile. Then he said slowly, "No. You are wrong, sir. The Cape buffalo is not the most dangerous big game." He sipped his wine. "Here in my preserve on this island," he said in the same slow tone, "I hunt more dangerous game."

Rainsford expressed his surprise. "Is there big game on this island?"

The general nodded. "The biggest."

"Really?"

"Oh, it isn't here naturally, of course. I have to stock the island."

"What have you imported, general?" Rainsford asked. "Tigers?"

The general smiled. "No," he said. "Hunting tigers ceased to interest me some years ago. I exhausted their possibilities, you see. No thrill left in tigers, no real danger. I live for danger, Mr. Rainsford."

The general took from his pocket a gold cigarette case and offered his guest a long black cigarette with a silver tip; it was perfumed and gave off a smell like incense.

"We will have some capital hunting, you and I," said the general. "I shall be most glad to have your society."

"But what game--" began Rainsford.

"I'll tell you," said the general. "You will be amused, I know. I think I may say, in all modesty, that I have done a rare thing. I have invented a new sensation. May I pour you another glass of port?"

"Thank you, general."

The general filled both glasses, and said, "God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said. He was a very rich man with a quarter of a million acres in the Crimea, and he was an ardent sportsman. When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me; he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--and for a time commanded a division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed."

The general puffed at his cigarette.

"After the debacle in Russia I left the country, for it was imprudent for an officer of the Czar to stay there. Many noble Russians lost everything. I, luckily, had invested heavily in American securities, so I shall never have to open a tearoom in Monte Carlo or drive a taxi in Paris. Naturally, I continued to hunt--grizzliest in your Rockies, crocodiles in the Ganges, rhinoceroses in East Africa. It was in Africa that the Cape buffalo hit me and laid me up for six months. As soon as I recovered I started for the Amazon to hunt jaguars, for I had heard they were unusually cunning. They weren't." The Cossack sighed. "They were no match at all for a hunter with his wits about him, and a high-powered rifle. I was bitterly disappointed. I was lying in my tent with a splitting headache one night when a terrible thought pushed its way into my mind. Hunting was beginning to bore me! And hunting, remember, had been my life. I have heard that in America businessmen often go to pieces when they give up the business that has been their life."

"Yes, that's so," said Rainsford.

The general smiled. "I had no wish to go to pieces," he said. "I must do something. Now, mine is an analytical mind, Mr. Rainsford. Doubtless that is why I enjoy the problems of the chase."

"No doubt, General Zaroff."

"So," continued the general, "I asked myself why the hunt no longer fascinated me. You are much younger than I am, Mr. Rainsford, and have not hunted as much, but you perhaps can guess the answer."

"What was it?"

"Simply this: hunting had ceased to be what you call `a sporting proposition.' It had become too easy. I always got my quarry. Always. There is no greater bore than perfection."

The general lit a fresh cigarette.

"No animal had a chance with me any more. That is no boast; it is a mathematical certainty. The animal had nothing but his legs and his instinct. Instinct is no match for reason. When I thought of this it was a tragic moment for me, I can tell you."

Rainsford leaned across the table, absorbed in what his host was saying.

"It came to me as an inspiration what I must do," the general went on.

"And that was?"

The general smiled the quiet smile of one who has faced an obstacle and surmounted it with success. "I had to invent a new animal to hunt," he said.

"A new animal? You're joking." "Not at all," said the general. "I never joke about hunting. I needed a new animal. I found one. So I bought this island built this house, and here I do my hunting. The island is perfect for my purposes--there are jungles with a maze of traits in them, hills, swamps--"

"But the animal, General Zaroff?"

"Oh," said the general, "it supplies me with the most exciting hunting in the world. No other hunting compares with it for an instant. Every day I hunt, and I never grow bored now, for I have a quarry with which I can match my wits."

Rainsford's bewilderment showed in his face.

"I wanted the ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said, `What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?' And the answer was, of course, `It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason."'

"But no animal can reason," objected Rainsford.

"My dear fellow," said the general, "there is one that can."

"But you can't mean--" gasped Rainsford.

"And why not?"

"I can't believe you are serious, General Zaroff. This is a grisly joke."

"Why should I not be serious? I am speaking of hunting."

"Hunting? Great Guns, General Zaroff, what you speak of is murder."

The general laughed with entire good nature. He regarded Rainsford quizzically. "I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life. Surely your experiences in the war--"

"Did not make me condone cold-blooded murder," finished Rainsford stiffly.

Laughter shook the general. "How extraordinarily droll you are!" he said. "One does not expect nowadays to find a young man of the educated class, even in America, with such a naive, and, if I may say so, mid-Victorian point of view. It's like finding a snuffbox in a limousine. Ah, well, doubtless you had Puritan ancestors. So many Americans appear to have had. I'll wager you'll forget your notions when you go hunting with me. You've a genuine new thrill in store for you, Mr. Rainsford."

"Thank you, I'm a hunter, not a murderer."

"Dear me," said the general, quite unruffled, "again that unpleasant word. But I think I can show you that your scruples are quite ill founded."

"Yes?"

"Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lassars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."

"But they are men," said Rainsford hotly.

"Precisely," said the general. "That is why I use them. It gives me pleasure. They can reason, after a fashion. So they are dangerous."

"But where do you get them?"

The general's left eyelid fluttered down in a wink. "This island is called Ship Trap," he answered. "Sometimes an angry god of the high seas sends them to me. Sometimes, when Providence is not so kind, I help Providence a bit. Come to the window with me."

Rainsford went to the window and looked out toward the sea.

"Watch! Out there!" exclaimed the general, pointing into the night. Rainsford's eyes saw only blackness, and then, as the general pressed a button, far out to sea Rainsford saw the flash of lights.

The general chuckled. "They indicate a channel," he said, "where there's none; giant rocks with razor edges crouch like a sea monster with wide-open jaws. They can crush a ship as easily as I crush this nut." He dropped a walnut on the hardwood floor and brought his heel grinding down on it. "Oh, yes," he said, casually, as if in answer to a question, "I have electricity. We try to be civilized here."

"Civilized? And you shoot down men?"

A trace of anger was in the general's black eyes, but it was there for but a second; and he said, in his most pleasant manner, "Dear me, what a righteous young man you are! I assure you I do not do the thing you suggest. That would be barbarous. I treat these visitors with every consideration. They get plenty of good food and exercise. They get into splendid physical condition. You shall see for yourself tomorrow."

"What do you mean?"

"We'll visit my training school," smiled the general. "It's in the cellar. I have about a dozen pupils down there now. They're from the Spanish bark San Lucar that had the bad luck to go on the rocks out there. A very inferior lot, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to the deck than to the jungle." He raised his hand, and Ivan, who served as waiter, brought thick Turkish coffee. Rainsford, with an effort, held his tongue in check.

"It's a game, you see," pursued the general blandly. "I suggest to one of them that we go hunting. I give him a supply of food and an excellent hunting knife. I give him three hours' start. I am to follow, armed only with a pistol of the smallest caliber and range. If my quarry eludes me for three whole days, he wins the game. If I find him "--the general smiled--" he loses."

"Suppose he refuses to be hunted?"

"Oh," said the general, "I give him his option, of course. He need not play that game if he doesn't wish to. If he does not wish to hunt, I turn him over to Ivan. Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar, and he has his own ideas of sport. Invariably, Mr. Rainsford, invariably they choose the hunt."

"And if they win?"

The smile on the general's face widened. "To date I have not lost," he said. Then he added, hastily: "I don't wish you to think me a braggart, Mr. Rainsford. Many of them afford only the most elementary sort of problem. Occasionally I strike a tartar. One almost did win. I eventually had to use the dogs."

"The dogs?"

"This way, please. I'll show you."

The general steered Rainsford to a window. The lights from the windows sent a flickering illumination that made grotesque patterns on the courtyard below, and Rainsford could see moving about there a dozen or so huge black shapes; as they turned toward him, their eyes glittered greenly.

"A rather good lot, I think," observed the general. "They are let out at seven every night. If anyone should try to get into my house--or out of it--something extremely regrettable would occur to him." He hummed a snatch of song from the Folies Bergere.

"And now," said the general, "I want to show you my new collection of heads. Will you come with me to the library?"

"I hope," said Rainsford, "that you will excuse me tonight, General Zaroff. I'm really not feeling well."

"Ah, indeed?" the general inquired solicitously. "Well, I suppose that's only natural, after your long swim. You need a good, restful night's sleep. Tomorrow you'll feel like a new man, I'll wager. Then we'll hunt, eh? I've one rather promising prospect--" Rainsford was hurrying from the room.

"Sorry you can't go with me tonight," called the general. "I expect rather fair sport--a big, strong, black. He looks resourceful--Well, good night, Mr. Rainsford; I hope you have a good night's rest."

The bed was good, and the pajamas of the softest silk, and he was tired in every fiber of his being, but nevertheless Rainsford could not quiet his brain with the opiate of sleep. He lay, eyes wide open. Once he thought he heard stealthy steps in the corridor outside his room. He sought to throw open the door; it would not open. He went to the window and looked out. His room was high up in one of the towers. The lights of the chateau were out now, and it was dark and silent; but there was a fragment of sallow moon, and by its wan light he could see, dimly, the courtyard. There, weaving in and out in the pattern of shadow, were black, noiseless forms; the hounds heard him at the window and looked up, expectantly, with their green eyes. Rainsford went back to the bed and lay down. By many methods he tried to put himself to sleep. He had achieved a doze when, just as morning began to come, he heard, far off in the jungle, the faint report of a pistol.

General Zaroff did not appear until luncheon. He was dressed faultlessly in the tweeds of a country squire. He was solicitous about the state of Rainsford's health.

"As for me," sighed the general, "I do not feel so well. I am worried, Mr. Rainsford. Last night I detected traces of my old complaint."

To Rainsford's questioning glance the general said, "Ennui. Boredom."

Then, taking a second helping of crêpes Suzette, the general explained: "The hunting was not good last night. The fellow lost his head. He made a straight trail that offered no problems at all. That's the trouble with these sailors; they have dull brains to begin with, and they do not know how to get about in the woods. They do excessively stupid and obvious things. It's most annoying. Will you have another glass of Chablis, Mr. Rainsford?"

"General," said Rainsford firmly, "I wish to leave this island at once."

The general raised his thickets of eyebrows; he seemed hurt. "But, my dear fellow," the general protested, "you've only just come. You've had no hunting--"

"I wish to go today," said Rainsford. He saw the dead black eyes of the general on him, studying him. General Zaroff's face suddenly brightened.

He filled Rainsford's glass with venerable Chablis from a dusty bottle.

"Tonight," said the general, "we will hunt--you and I."

Rainsford shook his head. "No, general," he said. "I will not hunt."

The general shrugged his shoulders and delicately ate a hothouse grape. "As you wish, my friend," he said. "The choice rests entirely with you. But may I not venture to suggest that you will find my idea of sport more diverting than Ivan's?"

He nodded toward the corner to where the giant stood, scowling, his thick arms crossed on his hogshead of chest.

"You don't mean--" cried Rainsford.

"My dear fellow," said the general, "have I not told you I always mean what I say about hunting? This is really an inspiration. I drink to a foeman worthy of my steel--at last." The general raised his glass, but Rainsford sat staring at him.

"You'll find this game worth playing," the general said enthusiastically." Your brain against mine. Your woodcraft against mine. Your strength and stamina against mine. Outdoor chess! And the stake is not without value, eh?"

"And if I win--" began Rainsford huskily.

"I'll cheerfully acknowledge myself defeat if I do not find you by midnight of the third day," said General Zaroff. "My sloop will place you on the mainland near a town." The general read what Rainsford was thinking.

"Oh, you can trust me," said the Cossack. "I will give you my word as a gentleman and a sportsman. Of course you, in turn, must agree to say nothing of your visit here."

"I'll agree to nothing of the kind," said Rainsford.

"Oh," said the general, "in that case--But why discuss that now? Three days hence we can discuss it over a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, unless--"

The general sipped his wine.

Then a businesslike air animated him. "Ivan," he said to Rainsford, "will supply you with hunting clothes, food, a knife. I suggest you wear moccasins; they leave a poorer trail. I suggest, too, that you avoid the big swamp in the southeast corner of the island. We call it Death Swamp. There's quicksand there. One foolish fellow tried it. The deplorable part of it was that Lazarus followed him. You can imagine my feelings, Mr. Rainsford. I loved Lazarus; he was the finest hound in my pack. Well, I must beg you to excuse me now. I always' take a siesta after lunch. You'll hardly have time for a nap, I fear. You'll want to start, no doubt. I shall not follow till dusk. Hunting at night is so much more exciting than by day, don't you think? Au revoir, Mr. Rainsford, au revoir." General Zaroff, with a deep, courtly bow, strolled from the room.

From another door came Ivan. Under one arm he carried khaki hunting clothes, a haversack of food, a leather sheath containing a long-bladed hunting knife; his right hand rested on a cocked revolver thrust in the crimson sash about his waist.

Rainsford had fought his way through the bush for two hours. "I must keep my nerve. I must keep my nerve," he said through tight teeth.

He had not been entirely clearheaded when the chateau gates snapped shut behind him. His whole idea at first was to put distance between himself and General Zaroff; and, to this end, he had plunged along, spurred on by the sharp rowers of something very like panic. Now he had got a grip on himself, had stopped, and was taking stock of himself and the situation. He saw that straight flight was futile; inevitably it would bring him face to face with the sea. He was in a picture with a frame of water, and his operations, clearly, must take place within that frame.

"I'll give him a trail to follow," muttered Rainsford, and he struck off from the rude path he had been following into the trackless wilderness. He executed a series of intricate loops; he doubled on his trail again and again, recalling all the lore of the fox hunt, and all the dodges of the fox. Night found him leg-weary, with hands and face lashed by the branches, on a thickly wooded ridge. He knew it would be insane to blunder on through the dark, even if he had the strength. His need for rest was imperative and he thought, "I have played the fox, now I must play the cat of the fable." A big tree with a thick trunk and outspread branches was near by, and, taking care to leave not the slightest mark, he climbed up into the crotch, and, stretching out on one of the broad limbs, after a fashion, rested. Rest brought him new confidence and almost a feeling of security. Even so zealous a hunter as General Zaroff could not trace him there, he told himself; only the devil himself could follow that complicated trail through the jungle after dark. But perhaps the general was a devil--

An apprehensive night crawled slowly by like a wounded snake and sleep did not visit Rainsford, although the silence of a dead world was on the jungle. Toward morning when a dingy gray was varnishing the sky, the cry of some startled bird focused Rainsford's attention in that direction. Something was coming through the bush, coming slowly, carefully, coming by the same winding way Rainsford had come. He flattened himself down on the limb and, through a screen of leaves almost as thick as tapestry, he watched. . . . That which was approaching was a man.

It was General Zaroff. He made his way along with his eyes fixed in utmost concentration on the ground before him. He paused, almost beneath the tree, dropped to his knees and studied the ground. Rainsford's impulse was to hurl himself down like a panther, but he saw that the general's right hand held something metallic--a small automatic pistol.

The hunter shook his head several times, as if he were puzzled. Then he straightened up and took from his case one of his black cigarettes; its pungent incenselike smoke floated up to Rainsford's nostrils.

Rainsford held his breath. The general's eyes had left the ground and were traveling inch by inch up the tree. Rainsford froze there, every muscle tensed for a spring. But the sharp eyes of the hunter stopped before they reached the limb where Rainsford lay; a smile spread over his brown face. Very deliberately he blew a smoke ring into the air; then he turned his back on the tree and walked carelessly away, back along the trail he had come. The swish of the underbrush against his hunting boots grew fainter and fainter.

The pent-up air burst hotly from Rainsford's lungs. His first thought made him feel sick and numb. The general could follow a trail through the woods at night; he could follow an extremely difficult trail; he must have uncanny powers; only by the merest chance had the Cossack failed to see his quarry.

Rainsford's second thought was even more terrible. It sent a shudder of cold horror through his whole being. Why had the general smiled? Why had he turned back?

Rainsford did not want to believe what his reason told him was true, but the truth was as evident as the sun that had by now pushed through the morning mists. The general was playing with him! The general was saving him for another day's sport! The Cossack was the cat; he was the mouse. Then it was that Rainsford knew the full meaning of terror.

"I will not lose my nerve. I will not."

He slid down from the tree, and struck off again into the woods. His face was set and he forced the machinery of his mind to function. Three hundred yards from his hiding place he stopped where a huge dead tree leaned precariously on a smaller, living one. Throwing off his sack of food, Rainsford took his knife from its sheath and began to work with all his energy.

The job was finished at last, and he threw himself down behind a fallen log a hundred feet away. He did not have to wait long. The cat was coming again to play with the mouse.

Following the trail with the sureness of a bloodhound came General Zaroff. Nothing escaped those searching black eyes, no crushed blade of grass, no bent twig, no mark, no matter how faint, in the moss. So intent was the Cossack on his stalking that he was upon the thing Rainsford had made before he saw it. His foot touched the protruding bough that was the trigger. Even as he touched it, the general sensed his danger and leaped back with the agility of an ape. But he was not quite quick enough; the dead tree, delicately adjusted to rest on the cut living one, crashed down and struck the general a glancing blow on the shoulder as it fell; but for his alertness, he must have been smashed beneath it. He staggered, but he did not fall; nor did he drop his revolver. He stood there, rubbing his injured shoulder, and Rainsford, with fear again gripping his heart, heard the general's mocking laugh ring through the jungle.

"Rainsford," called the general, "if you are within sound of my voice, as I suppose you are, let me congratulate you. Not many men know how to make a Malay mancatcher. Luckily for me I, too, have hunted in Malacca. You are proving interesting, Mr. Rainsford. I am going now to have my wound dressed; it's only a slight one. But I shall be back. I shall be back."

When the general, nursing his bruised shoulder, had gone, Rainsford took up his flight again. It was flight now, a desperate, hopeless flight, that carried him on for some hours. Dusk came, then darkness, and still he pressed on. The ground grew softer under his moccasins; the vegetation grew ranker, denser; insects bit him savagely.

Then, as he stepped forward, his foot sank into the ooze. He tried to wrench it back, but the muck sucked viciously at his foot as if it were a giant leech. With a violent effort, he tore his feet loose. He knew where he was now. Death Swamp and its quicksand.

His hands were tight closed as if his nerve were something tangible that someone in the darkness was trying to tear from his grip. The softness of the earth had given him an idea. He stepped back from the quicksand a dozen feet or so and, like some huge prehistoric beaver, he began to dig.

Rainsford had dug himself in in France when a second's delay meant death. That had been a placid pastime compared to his digging now. The pit grew deeper; when it was above his shoulders, he climbed out and from some hard saplings cut stakes and sharpened them to a fine point. These stakes he planted in the bottom of the pit with the points sticking up. With flying fingers he wove a rough carpet of weeds and branches and with it he covered the mouth of the pit. Then, wet with sweat and aching with tiredness, he crouched behind the stump of a lightning-charred tree.

He knew his pursuer was coming; he heard the padding sound of feet on the soft earth, and the night breeze brought him the perfume of the general's cigarette. It seemed to Rainsford that the general was coming with unusual swiftness; he was not feeling his way along, foot by foot. Rainsford, crouching there, could not see the general, nor could he see the pit. He lived a year in a minute. Then he felt an impulse to cry aloud with joy, for he heard the sharp crackle of the breaking branches as the cover of the pit gave way; he heard the sharp scream of pain as the pointed stakes found their mark. He leaped up from his place of concealment. Then he cowered back. Three feet from the pit a man was standing, with an electric torch in his hand.

"You've done well, Rainsford," the voice of the general called. "Your Burmese tiger pit has claimed one of my best dogs. Again you score. I think, Mr. Rainsford, Ill see what you can do against my whole pack. I'm going home for a rest now. Thank you for a most amusing evening."

At daybreak Rainsford, lying near the swamp, was awakened by a sound that made him know that he had new things to learn about fear. It was a distant sound, faint and wavering, but he knew it. It was the baying of a pack of hounds.

Rainsford knew he could do one of two things. He could stay where he was and wait. That was suicide. He could flee. That was postponing the inevitable. For a moment he stood there, thinking. An idea that held a wild chance came to him, and, tightening his belt, he headed away from the swamp.

The baying of the hounds drew nearer, then still nearer, nearer, ever nearer. On a ridge Rainsford climbed a tree. Down a watercourse, not a quarter of a mile away, he could see the bush moving. Straining his eyes, he saw the lean figure of General Zaroff; just ahead of him Rainsford made out another figure whose wide shoulders surged through the tall jungle weeds; it was the giant Ivan, and he seemed pulled forward by some unseen force; Rainsford knew that Ivan must be holding the pack in leash.

They would be on him any minute now. His mind worked frantically. He thought of a native trick he had learned in Uganda. He slid down the tree. He caught hold of a springy young sapling and to it he fastened his hunting knife, with the blade pointing down the trail; with a bit of wild grapevine he tied back the sapling. Then he ran for his life. The hounds raised their voices as they hit the fresh scent. Rainsford knew now how an animal at bay feels.

He had to stop to get his breath. The baying of the hounds stopped abruptly, and Rainsford's heart stopped too. They must have reached the knife.

He shinned excitedly up a tree and looked back. His pursuers had stopped. But the hope that was in Rainsford's brain when he climbed died, for he saw in the shallow valley that General Zaroff was still on his feet. But Ivan was not. The knife, driven by the recoil of the springing tree, had not wholly failed.

Rainsford had hardly tumbled to the ground when the pack took up the cry again.

"Nerve, nerve, nerve!" he panted, as he dashed along. A blue gap showed between the trees dead ahead. Ever nearer drew the hounds. Rainsford forced himself on toward that gap. He reached it. It was the shore of the sea. Across a cove he could see the gloomy gray stone of the chateau. Twenty feet below him the sea rumbled and hissed. Rainsford hesitated. He heard the hounds. Then he leaped far out into the sea. . . .

When the general and his pack reached the place by the sea, the Cossack stopped. For some minutes he stood regarding the blue-green expanse of water. He shrugged his shoulders. Then be sat down, took a drink of brandy from a silver flask, lit a cigarette, and hummed a bit from Madame Butterfly.

General Zaroff had an exceedingly good dinner in his great paneled dining hall that evening. With it he had a bottle of Pol Roger and half a bottle of Chambertin. Two slight annoyances kept him from perfect enjoyment. One was the thought that it would be difficult to replace Ivan; the other was that his quarry had escaped him; of course, the American hadn't played the game--so thought the general as he tasted his after-dinner liqueur. In his library he read, to soothe himself, from the works of Marcus Aurelius. At ten he went up to his bedroom. He was deliciously tired, he said to himself, as he locked himself in. There was a little moonlight, so, before turning on his light, he went to the window and looked down at the courtyard. He could see the great hounds, and he called, "Better luck another time," to them. Then he switched on the light.

A man, who had been hiding in the curtains of the bed, was standing there.

"Rainsford!" screamed the general. "How in God's name did you get here?"

"Swam," said Rainsford. "I found it quicker than walking through the jungle."

The general sucked in his breath and smiled. "I congratulate you," he said. "You have won the game."

Rainsford did not smile. "I am still a beast at bay," he said, in a low, hoarse voice. "Get ready, General Zaroff."

The general made one of his deepest bows. "I see," he said. "Splendid! One of us is to furnish a repast for the hounds. The other will sleep in this very excellent bed. On guard, Rainsford." . . .

He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.
monsterod wrote:Any pack running wild on some tranny pussy is the one I'm running with.

*howl*
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for more classic lit, James Joyce's "Araby" is brief and good:
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
Araby
by James Joyce
North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes, under one of which I found the late tenant's rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister.

When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness. When we returned to the street, light from the kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning the corner, we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed. Or if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, we watched her from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: 'O love! O love!' many times.

At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid bazaar; she said she would love to go.

'And why can't you?' I asked.

While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

'It's well for you,' she said.

'If I go,' I said, 'I will bring you something.'

What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised, and hoped it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few questions in class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.

On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:

'Yes, boy, I know.'

As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at the window. I felt the house in bad humour and walked slowly towards the school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave me.

When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and, when its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high, cold, empty, gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.

When I came downstairs again I found Mrs Mercer sitting at the fire. She was an old, garrulous woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did not come. Mrs Mercer stood up to go: she was sorry she couldn't wait any longer, but it was after eight o'clock and she did not like to be out late, as the night air was bad for her. When she had gone I began to walk up and down the room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:

'I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord.'

At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the hall door. I heard him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.

'The people are in bed and after their first sleep now,' he said.

I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:

'Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late enough as it is.'

My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the old saying: 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' He asked me where I was going and, when I told him a second time, he asked me did I know The Arab's Farewell to his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recite the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.

I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train moved out of the station slowly. It crept onward among ruinous houses and over the twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back, saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.

I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girded at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.

Remembering with difficulty why I had come, I went over to one of the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.

'O, I never said such a thing!'

'O, but you did!'

'O, but I didn't!'

'Didn't she say that?'

'Yes. I heard her.'

'O, there's a... fib!'

Observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:

'No, thank you.'

The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.

I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark.

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
for newer, 'underground' shit, I think Scott McClanahan is pretty cool. this isn't his best story but it's free, you fucking moochers:
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
THE COUPLE

I didn’t have any money for dinner really. I mean I’d never even been on a date before—or at least a date, date. See when I was in school it was all about hooking up at parties and hanging out together with a whole group of friends and maybe finding each other later that night. But this was like a real date. Or at least it felt like a real date when I called her up that morning and asked her if she wanted to go up to Pipestem State Park and look out over the mountains. I told her I didn’t have any money for dinner, but she didn’t seem to mind, or at least she thought I was joking. So that afternoon I picked her up and drove out to Pipestem. And once we got there, we walked hand in hand, up to the observation tower, and she started telling me about how she used to have a lazy eye when she was a kid. I guess it was so bad she even had to wear an eye patch in order to correct it, and all the kids at school started calling her, “the pirate.”

So she laughed.

And then we both laughed at how ridiculous the whole world was.

And so we kept right on laughing and started climbing the steps of the observation tower, counting them on the way up—1,2,3,4,5,6,10,20,30,40. Then after about 80 we finally got up to the top and caught our breath. It was beautiful up there. And so we laughed some more and I told her what a lucky girl she was being on such an expensive date and if she played her cards right I had a whole pocketful of coupons for the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. If we scraped together our nickels and dimes then maybe we could go. She laughed again and I noticed she had a cracked front tooth, which looked so cute when she ginned. And so we stood there looking out over the mountains.

I held her hand and we didn’t laugh anymore.

I pointed at the mountains and told her how they were formed.

I told her how the mountains weren’t created by the last ice age really, but were created by water run off from the last ice age. And so she stood and smiled. And then she told me how boring that story was. So I kissed her and tasted the taste of chewing gum on her chewing gum tasting lips.

And then it was quiet.


But then we noticed this other couple walking up to the observation tower from below. It was a guy and a girl. They counted their steps on the way up too–1,2,3,4,5,6,10,20,30,40.

And it was this old guy who looked like he was about 40 and he had a trach scar. He was with this pretty girl who couldn’t have been anymore than 20. They were the type of couple that makes you think, what the hell is that girl doing with that guy?

But here they were holding hands and they had a pizza and a two liter bottle of pop and a picnic basket full of picnic stuff.

FOOD!

So they giggled all out of breath when they got to the top of the tower just like we had.

Then they noticed us and nodded their heads “hello.”

“Hello.”

We grinned and nodded our heads “hello” back.

“Hello.”

Then we went right back to talking, as they sat up all of their picnic stuff on the other side like they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They had paper plates, and paper cups, and diet pop, and pizza.

We just stood on the other side listening to them.

Kim said, “That pizza smells good. I’m getting hungry.”

But I didn’t say anything about it, wondering if she really thought I was just joking about us not going to dinner. I wasn’t joking though. I really wasn’t.

And then all of a sudden I saw something.

What was that?

I saw something moving in the woods beneath us. And then I saw this woman walking out of the woods towards the observation tower. She was wearing Mom clothes and she had a Mom haircut.

She was screaming something, coming closer to us, but I couldn’t make it out.

WHAT?

She screamed again and this time it sounded shotgun loud.

She shouted, “Steven. Steven. You cheating motherfucker. Get your ass down here right now.”

And so Steven the cheating motherfucker, just sat overtop of his pizza all Indian legged and not knowing what to do.

He dropped his head like he was praying about it.

My stomach dropped.

Kim looked nervous.

IT WAS STEVEN’S WIFE.

And the wife had two little boys with her too, dragging them behind her like old dirty sheets.

The little boys were crying, saying, “Mommy, Mommy.”

The pretty girl Steven was with looked like she didn’t know what to do. It was like she didn’t even know he was married.

Who knows?

Finally Steven got up and walked down the steps of the observation tower 80,70,60,50,40,10,9,8,7,6, saying with an aw shucks voice on the way, “Ah honey. We haven’t done nothing. We were just talking and eating some pizza.”

But his wife stood at the bottom of the stairs holding onto the little fists of the two little confused kids.

She screamed, “HOW dare you—you stupid asshole.” And then she whispered all pathetic, “You told me it was over. You told me it was finished.”

And so Kim stood there scared and said, “Scott. I think we should leave. This is none of our business. We need to get out of here.”

But I just giggled, “Ah no. It’s alright.”

And then we watched Steven’s pretty friend walk all the way down to the bottom of the steps. She was nervous and scared too.

His wife started screaming at her, “You little bitch whore. You want to introduce yourself to your fucking boyfriends’ wife and kids.”

Then Steven said, “Honey she’s not a whore. She’s just a friend.”

And then there was something else moving in the trees.

It was an old guy who I took to be Steven’s father in law, and a muscular and bearded, guy who I took to be Steven’s brother in law.

It was Steven’s in-laws alright.

Slowly they walked over to where the wife was screaming and kicking and kicking and crying. And then Steven held out his hand to the father in law and the brother in law too, but instead of shaking his hand—they jumped on him. The brother in law got a hold of Steven’s arms and then he threw Steven on the ground. Then he was on top of Steven punching him in the face and the father in law just stood by watching.

The father in law was smoking a cigarette and after a while he started kicking Steven in the side.

He kicked soft.

Then he puffed his cigarette. Puff.

Then he kicked again.

Then he puffed his cigarette. Puff.

Then he kicked again.

I guess Steven had been warned about this type of behavior before.

“Scott. I think we should get out of here,” Kim said. “What if they have a gun?”

I just giggled and said, “Ah no. Settle down. You watch too much TV. They’re just gonna kick his ass a little bit.”

So the wife started chasing the young girl towards the woods so she could beat the shit out of her, shouting “You little bitch. You little bitch. I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”

The two little kids sat in the grass watching it all.

And then I saw it.

PIZZA.

So I pointed over to the pizza and it was just sitting there all alone and delicious.

I giggled and rubbed my belly like I was hungry.

And Kim just looked at me…

“Oh No,” She said. “Oh No. We can’t.”

But I held her hand and walked over to where the pizza was.

She kept saying, “No. No.”

And so I picked up the two liter and poured some pop out in the paper cups.

And then I handed it to her saying in my best British accent, “Me lady.”

“Scott what are we doing?” She said.

I handed her a piece of pizza and I took a piece of pizza too.

I said, “O don’t worry. We’re just gonna watch the show.”

And so we watched the wife dressed in her mom haircut and dressed in her mom clothes chasing the girl into the woods before the girl finally fell. The wife smacked her in the side of the head. Then she started ripping out a clump of the girl’s hair, until a big clump came out.

Ah hell.

It was a hair extension.

And then the wife smacked the girl a couple more times before walking back and screaming at Steven who was now held in a head lock, “Steven I swear to god. I’m getting a divorce and you’ll never see these kids. You’ll never see these babies again. You’ll never see these babies.”

And so Kim and I all sat eating the pizza and it felt so wrong to watch it all. We watched one of the little boys on his knees digging in the dirt with an old stick. Mommy was crying, and Daddy Steven was crying and bleeding, and Mommy’s Daddy and Mommy’s Brother were crying and punching. But the little boys were on their knees acting like this wasn’t happening. They looked like the whole world was invisible almost. They acted like they were invisible too.

And so we looked at each other.

We watched the brother in law whack Steven with one more kidney punch before finally getting off. Steven was coughing up blood now.

And then the brother in law got up and started walking away with his father who was still smoking on his cigarette. Puff. Puff.

The wife was gone too, but we could hear her cries from far away. It sounded like an animal dying.

After five minutes Steven finally sat up on all fours and started spitting out more blood.

His face was all swollen up like a rotten watermelon.

He kept putting his fingers to his lips like he was trying to see if he was still bleeding.

Fingers.

Blood.

Fingers.

Blood.

Yep, he was still bleeding alright.

And so Kim and I sat and ate their pizza and we drank their pop and we watched it all because this wasn’t our life being destroyed. We looked at the invisible little boys and they looked at us, and now we all wanted to be invisible too.
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[/list a bunch of shit mode]
'Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers' by Lawrence Watt-Evans
'Bartleby, the Scrivener' by Melville
'Grey Matter', 'Graveyard Shift', 'The Jaunt', & 'Survivor Type' by Stephen King
'The Strange High House in the Mist', 'Pickman's Model', & 'The Temple' by Lovecraft
'The Emissary', 'Jack-in-the-Box', 'Uncle Einar' & 'Homecoming' by Ray Bradbury
'The Nine Billion Names of God', 'Rescue Party' by Arthur C. Clarke
[/list a bunch of shit mode]
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Spooky Apparition wrote: for newer, 'underground' shit, I think Scott McClanahan is pretty cool. this isn't his best story but it's free, you fucking moochers:
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
THE COUPLE

I didn’t have any money for dinner really. I mean I’d never even been on a date before—or at least a date, date. See when I was in school it was all about hooking up at parties and hanging out together with a whole group of friends and maybe finding each other later that night. But this was like a real date. Or at least it felt like a real date when I called her up that morning and asked her if she wanted to go up to Pipestem State Park and look out over the mountains. I told her I didn’t have any money for dinner, but she didn’t seem to mind, or at least she thought I was joking. So that afternoon I picked her up and drove out to Pipestem. And once we got there, we walked hand in hand, up to the observation tower, and she started telling me about how she used to have a lazy eye when she was a kid. I guess it was so bad she even had to wear an eye patch in order to correct it, and all the kids at school started calling her, “the pirate.”

So she laughed.

And then we both laughed at how ridiculous the whole world was.

And so we kept right on laughing and started climbing the steps of the observation tower, counting them on the way up—1,2,3,4,5,6,10,20,30,40. Then after about 80 we finally got up to the top and caught our breath. It was beautiful up there. And so we laughed some more and I told her what a lucky girl she was being on such an expensive date and if she played her cards right I had a whole pocketful of coupons for the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. If we scraped together our nickels and dimes then maybe we could go. She laughed again and I noticed she had a cracked front tooth, which looked so cute when she ginned. And so we stood there looking out over the mountains.

I held her hand and we didn’t laugh anymore.

I pointed at the mountains and told her how they were formed.

I told her how the mountains weren’t created by the last ice age really, but were created by water run off from the last ice age. And so she stood and smiled. And then she told me how boring that story was. So I kissed her and tasted the taste of chewing gum on her chewing gum tasting lips.

And then it was quiet.


But then we noticed this other couple walking up to the observation tower from below. It was a guy and a girl. They counted their steps on the way up too–1,2,3,4,5,6,10,20,30,40.

And it was this old guy who looked like he was about 40 and he had a trach scar. He was with this pretty girl who couldn’t have been anymore than 20. They were the type of couple that makes you think, what the hell is that girl doing with that guy?

But here they were holding hands and they had a pizza and a two liter bottle of pop and a picnic basket full of picnic stuff.

FOOD!

So they giggled all out of breath when they got to the top of the tower just like we had.

Then they noticed us and nodded their heads “hello.”

“Hello.”

We grinned and nodded our heads “hello” back.

“Hello.”

Then we went right back to talking, as they sat up all of their picnic stuff on the other side like they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They had paper plates, and paper cups, and diet pop, and pizza.

We just stood on the other side listening to them.

Kim said, “That pizza smells good. I’m getting hungry.”

But I didn’t say anything about it, wondering if she really thought I was just joking about us not going to dinner. I wasn’t joking though. I really wasn’t.

And then all of a sudden I saw something.

What was that?

I saw something moving in the woods beneath us. And then I saw this woman walking out of the woods towards the observation tower. She was wearing Mom clothes and she had a Mom haircut.

She was screaming something, coming closer to us, but I couldn’t make it out.

WHAT?

She screamed again and this time it sounded shotgun loud.

She shouted, “Steven. Steven. You cheating motherfucker. Get your ass down here right now.”

And so Steven the cheating motherfucker, just sat overtop of his pizza all Indian legged and not knowing what to do.

He dropped his head like he was praying about it.

My stomach dropped.

Kim looked nervous.

IT WAS STEVEN’S WIFE.

And the wife had two little boys with her too, dragging them behind her like old dirty sheets.

The little boys were crying, saying, “Mommy, Mommy.”

The pretty girl Steven was with looked like she didn’t know what to do. It was like she didn’t even know he was married.

Who knows?

Finally Steven got up and walked down the steps of the observation tower 80,70,60,50,40,10,9,8,7,6, saying with an aw shucks voice on the way, “Ah honey. We haven’t done nothing. We were just talking and eating some pizza.”

But his wife stood at the bottom of the stairs holding onto the little fists of the two little confused kids.

She screamed, “HOW dare you—you stupid asshole.” And then she whispered all pathetic, “You told me it was over. You told me it was finished.”

And so Kim stood there scared and said, “Scott. I think we should leave. This is none of our business. We need to get out of here.”

But I just giggled, “Ah no. It’s alright.”

And then we watched Steven’s pretty friend walk all the way down to the bottom of the steps. She was nervous and scared too.

His wife started screaming at her, “You little bitch whore. You want to introduce yourself to your fucking boyfriends’ wife and kids.”

Then Steven said, “Honey she’s not a whore. She’s just a friend.”

And then there was something else moving in the trees.

It was an old guy who I took to be Steven’s father in law, and a muscular and bearded, guy who I took to be Steven’s brother in law.

It was Steven’s in-laws alright.

Slowly they walked over to where the wife was screaming and kicking and kicking and crying. And then Steven held out his hand to the father in law and the brother in law too, but instead of shaking his hand—they jumped on him. The brother in law got a hold of Steven’s arms and then he threw Steven on the ground. Then he was on top of Steven punching him in the face and the father in law just stood by watching.

The father in law was smoking a cigarette and after a while he started kicking Steven in the side.

He kicked soft.

Then he puffed his cigarette. Puff.

Then he kicked again.

Then he puffed his cigarette. Puff.

Then he kicked again.

I guess Steven had been warned about this type of behavior before.

“Scott. I think we should get out of here,” Kim said. “What if they have a gun?”

I just giggled and said, “Ah no. Settle down. You watch too much TV. They’re just gonna kick his ass a little bit.”

So the wife started chasing the young girl towards the woods so she could beat the shit out of her, shouting “You little bitch. You little bitch. I’m gonna beat the shit out of you.”

The two little kids sat in the grass watching it all.

And then I saw it.

PIZZA.

So I pointed over to the pizza and it was just sitting there all alone and delicious.

I giggled and rubbed my belly like I was hungry.

And Kim just looked at me…

“Oh No,” She said. “Oh No. We can’t.”

But I held her hand and walked over to where the pizza was.

She kept saying, “No. No.”

And so I picked up the two liter and poured some pop out in the paper cups.

And then I handed it to her saying in my best British accent, “Me lady.”

“Scott what are we doing?” She said.

I handed her a piece of pizza and I took a piece of pizza too.

I said, “O don’t worry. We’re just gonna watch the show.”

And so we watched the wife dressed in her mom haircut and dressed in her mom clothes chasing the girl into the woods before the girl finally fell. The wife smacked her in the side of the head. Then she started ripping out a clump of the girl’s hair, until a big clump came out.

Ah hell.

It was a hair extension.

And then the wife smacked the girl a couple more times before walking back and screaming at Steven who was now held in a head lock, “Steven I swear to god. I’m getting a divorce and you’ll never see these kids. You’ll never see these babies again. You’ll never see these babies.”

And so Kim and I all sat eating the pizza and it felt so wrong to watch it all. We watched one of the little boys on his knees digging in the dirt with an old stick. Mommy was crying, and Daddy Steven was crying and bleeding, and Mommy’s Daddy and Mommy’s Brother were crying and punching. But the little boys were on their knees acting like this wasn’t happening. They looked like the whole world was invisible almost. They acted like they were invisible too.

And so we looked at each other.

We watched the brother in law whack Steven with one more kidney punch before finally getting off. Steven was coughing up blood now.

And then the brother in law got up and started walking away with his father who was still smoking on his cigarette. Puff. Puff.

The wife was gone too, but we could hear her cries from far away. It sounded like an animal dying.

After five minutes Steven finally sat up on all fours and started spitting out more blood.

His face was all swollen up like a rotten watermelon.

He kept putting his fingers to his lips like he was trying to see if he was still bleeding.

Fingers.

Blood.

Fingers.

Blood.

Yep, he was still bleeding alright.

And so Kim and I sat and ate their pizza and we drank their pop and we watched it all because this wasn’t our life being destroyed. We looked at the invisible little boys and they looked at us, and now we all wanted to be invisible too.
I liked this. I haven't read the others yet but I'll get to it in a few hours when I get back from work.
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San Manuel Bueno Martir - Miguel de Unamuno
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Friendly Goatus wrote: I liked this. I haven't read the others yet but I'll get to it in a few hours when I get back from work.
yeah man, a lot of his stuff is pretty good. his style is usually unpretentious and straightforward while still having a lot of depth. its not quite minimalism, but it's close.

i'm trying to get more into more current, younger writers after only reading classic stuff for a long time. if anybody has any suggestions for new writers i'd definitely check them out.
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Bored666
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Outside of the usual Poe, Lovecraft, Borges, Ballard, blah blah my favorite short story of all time is "Dogfight" by William Gibson.

I guess this is the whole thing, if you're poor or don't live near a library:

http://lib.ru/GIBSON/r_dogfight.txt

I've probably read this thing 20 times.
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First Love by Samuel Beckett
anything by George Saunders
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Friendly Goatus wrote:Post 'em.

Mine is Fritz Leiber's "A Pail of Air."
I was really digging that Goatus 2140 story. Still waiting to find out if Mel is a tranny with a bionic well... you know... :oops: :bean: :bean: :bean:
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Pisscubes wrote:"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut
Came here to SPECIFICALLY post that one. "There Will Come Soft Rains" is another good one.
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First thing that comes to mind is "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" by Harlan Ellison.
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Books Of Blood by Clive Barker always spring to mind - it's been a while but The Last Will And Testament of Jacqueline Ess still sticks with me as a good one
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ungodlywarlock
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It's not really a favorite, because I only just recently got around to reading it...but I thought this one was fantastic. Really quick read, too:

The Last Question - Isaac Asimov
http://www.thrivenotes.com/the-last-question/
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ungodlywarlock wrote:It's not really a favorite, because I only just recently got around to reading it...but I thought this one was fantastic. Really quick read, too:

The Last Question - Isaac Asimov
http://www.thrivenotes.com/the-last-question/
fuck yes that one rules supreme

his early Foundation books are essentially short stories too
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Typical - Padgett Powell
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Mari_Mar wrote: I was really digging that Goatus 2140 story. Still waiting to find out if Mel is a tranny with a bionic well... you know... :oops: :bean: :bean: :bean:
I liked it at first but I got bored with it and ran out of cool shit to throw in there. I probably should have finished it and polished it up before posting.
Hyperbole wrote:First thing that comes to mind is "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" by Harlan Ellison.
Hell yes. I love this one too.
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DanBehavingBadly
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Pretty pedestrian: S. King, C. Barker, Vonnegut. I'd have to think about which actual stories are my faves, but as a whole I can't go wrong. Also, The Lottery...still badass.
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assault and mirage
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probably something by borges. this one springs to mind:
SPOILERSPOILER_SHOW
The Zahir

Jorge Luis Borges



My friend Borges once described a Zahir, which in Buenos Aires in 1939 was a coin, a ten-centavo piece, with the letters `N' and `T' and the numeral `2' scratched crudely in the obverse. Whomsoever saw this coin was consumed by it, in a manner of speaking, and could think of nothing else, until at last their personality ceased to exist, and they were reduced to a babbling corpse with nothing to talk about but the coin, the coin, always the coin. To have one's mind devoured by coins, that is a terrible fate, although one which is common enough in these mercenary times. But to have one's mind devoured by the thought of a coin, that is strange and far more terrible. With such stories as these Borges kept me awake at night, to keep him company when he could not sleep.
I had arrived in Uruguay on a tramp steamer from Cuba and had tried to work my way down the country to the Argentina, where I would stay with Borges. But my money was nearly exhausted when I reached the Fray Bentos and I used the last of it to send a message to Borges, begging him to come help me. But he was detained by the press of his librarianship, and could not take enough time off at such short notice to come and get me. And so it happened that I lived for two weeks in a small town in Argentina with an insane cripple named Ireneo Funes.

I kept his cottage tidy and cooked for him and assisted him in all things, in return for sleeping in his corner and eating some of what I cooked. The woman who normally took care of him, Maria Fuente, was eager for a vacation, even a brief one. Funes was an irritating roommate. He spoke little, and when he did it did not make any sense. He would spend hours staring at a single object: his hand, a crack in the plaster, the tobacco in the end of his cigarette. I learned, as the days passed with no word from my friends, that he had become crippled in a riding accident some time before and that he was dying of tuberculosis, a frequent affliction of the bedridden.

Eventually I realized the cause of Funes' peculiar abstraction. His accident had left him physically helpless, but endowed with a memory perfect in its accuracy and perfect in its detail. He could remember everything he had ever seen, or heard, or thought. He remembered in detail not only every experience he had ever had, but all the times that he had remembered each experience, and the memories were as distinct and different to him as the beads of a rosary. The leaves of a tree were not leaves to him; he could remember each leaf in detail and compare it in his mind with each other, or with a leaf on another tree, a leaf of the same tree on another day, with a spray of water from the river that wetted him as a child. I heard him mention those leaves once. He said that a certain leaf was curled like the curve of Pedro Althazar's horse's rump on the twenty-third day of March, only more graceful. ``At the moment it shook off that fly,'' he added, seeing my perplexity. ``Which fly?'' I asked. ``It was the eleventh one I saw,'' he elucidated, ``but perhaps you saw some that I did not, since I did not rise from my bed to look out the window.''

After a week of living with Funes, I feared that a malady of the mind had begun to overtake me also, and at first I ascribed it to the stress of having to live with this superhuman cripple. It was a simple thing, and yet it disturbed me, for I could find no explanation for it, and it seemed so small, so arbitrary, as to be completely removed from all rhyme or reason. The nature of the malady was this: On one wall of the cottage was a shelf on which I stored the containers of spices and seasonings with which I flavored Funes' food, and one of these jars of seasoning was a pepper-mill. Even after all these years I remember it: it was about six inches tall, cylindrical, made of a dark brown-stained wood with six longitudinal burnt scars. The handle was too small and was made of dull steel. At the time I was completely unable to remember it.

Meal after meal I cooked and would want to add mustard, and immediately my mind would fix on the mustard-pot and I would know where the mustard-pot was. I would look for the cilantro, and reach out my hand without even thinking, and there it would be. But when I wanted the pepper-mill, I could not remember whether we even had one. I would feel sure that we did, that we must, although I could not remember for certain, and would be unable to call its image or its location to my mind. Finally I would search the cabinet and the shelves, and come across the pepper-mill by chance. I would look at it stupidly, feeling sure that this was indeed a pepper-mill (for it looked just like a pepper-mill) but being unable to recollect it. Finally I would use the pepper and put the mill back on the shelf, resolving to remember it the next time.

After this had happened three times, I was distraught. I knew that the last three times I had wanted the pepper I had been unable to remember the pepper-mill and had had to search for it. And even though I remembered doing this, I could not be sure that we really had one and try as I might I simply could not remember what it looked like or where it was. I had nightmares that somehow Funes was devouring my mnemonic capability to feed his own. I went to speak to Maria Fuente, but she only said that he was the spawn of the devil, and that was no help.

Finally one day I burnt Funes' dinner by tarrying too long in searching for the pepper-mill. This brought sharp words from Funes, who, as you may imagine, had no patience with the memory lapses of others. I did not want to tell him of my fears and my persistently failing memory; I had a half-formed idea that Funes was deliberately causing my weird forgetfulness, and I was afraid of what I might find out. I would have told him that it was the first time I had forgotten the pepper-mill, only I could not remember what it was I had been looking for. But for some reason, he demanded to know what it was, and I bleakly wandered around the cottage, opened the cabinet and searched the shelves, until I found the pepper-mill, and then I remembered. ``Ah,'' said I, ``it was the pepper-mill.''

At this, he almost sat up. ``Pepper-mill?'' he said. ``What pepper-mill?''

``The brown wooden one,'' said I. ``So long,'' holding my hands about six inches apart, ``and about this big around.''

``I have never seen this pepper-mill,'' he said. ``Is it Maria's? Did she bring it while I was asleep?''

I said that as far as I knew it had been in the cottage longer than I had.

``Let me see it,'' he commanded, and I brought the pepper-mill. Funes examined it closely, even minutely. ``I have never seen it before. Indeed, I did not even know I possessed such a thing. Speak to me no more of it,'' and he sank back onto the bed, quiet.

He seemed profoundly disturbed for the rest of the evening, and he did not speak again before I went to sleep. But I was awakened in the middle of the night. Funes was standing over me, in itself a cause for alarm, as he never arose from his bed except in the direst of emergencies. ``Dominus,'' he said, shaking me and almost losing his unsteady footing, ``Dominus! That... thing you showed me this evening. What was it? I have forgotten it.'' I could not remember, but I was able to get him to go back to bed while I hunted it up. He was trembling, and there was a wild light in his eyes. Finally I found the pepper-mill. ``Here,'' I said at last, tossing it to him. ``Here it is.''

He caught it, and as he examined it, he grew more and more perplexed and even wilder than before. ``I thought that I would know it when I saw it again,'' he cried. ``But I am sure I have never seen this before in my life!''

``So you said this afternoon,'' I reminded him.

``I know I said it this afternoon!'' he screamed. ``I remember saying it this afternoon. But of the pepper-mill I have no recollection whatsoever. Where was it?''

``It was on the little shelf,'' I said.

He made me hold him up as he came to examine the shelf. ``Where?'' he asked. ``Here?'' I assented. He leaned against me and studied the shelf, and then, satisfied at last, hobbled painfully back to bed. But He did not sleep. Of that I am sure. He lay awake, smoking and biting his nails, until morning.

When I awoke he looked haggard and there was cigarette ash on the floor beside his cot. He never spilt his cigarette ash; he found the details of the random patterns of the ash on the floor distracting and irritating, and they disturbed and excited him so that he could not rest. He was mumbling to himself. ``Salt shaker,'' he said. ``Garlic press. Large head of garlic. Fourteen dead flies. Small head of garlic. Jug of oil.'' He saw that I was awake. ``There were seven hundred and fourteen distinct entities on that shelf last night,'' he said instantly. ``Counting small chili peppers, spilled grains of rice, fragments of garlic and onion skin, and flecks of soil. I can remember all but one of them. What is the missing object?'' I could not remember. I went to the shelf and enumerated the large objects aloud. When I came to that abominable pepper-mill we were both surprised. ``A pepper-mill,'' mused Funes, gazing at it. ``I thought perhaps it might have been a pepper-mill, but I then thought it might have been many things.'' And he turned over and went to sleep with the pepper-mill under his pillow. I went out walking on the pampas, leaving a lunch by Funes' bed..

That evening when I returned Funes was in a state again. He could not remember the whatever-it-was, and this time we could not find it. Half an our of searching finally turned it up under his pillow, and again Funes and I examined it interestedly, wondering how we could forget such a commonplace object. I was careful to put the pepper-mill back on the shelf, in view of Funes' bed, to prevent this sort of farce from happening again. I had a limited success with this effort, since Funes forgot the pepper-mill whenever he averted his eyes from it. I eventually suspended it from the ceiling over his bed, so that it would be obvious to him as much of the time as possible, although this availed him nothing when he had his eyes shut, or when he slept on his belly.

Later I went to Maria Fuentes to ask for a less troublesome pepper-mill. She forwned, and said ``I was so sure that there was one there already,'', but could not recollect it, and so lent me another. As I left, I heard her wonder to herself about how she could have cooked so long for Funes without having a pepper-mill. This stopped me from worrying so much about my own sanity, since I realized that nobody, not even Funes, could remember the accursed pepper-mill, and as long as Funes was quiet I was able to forget about it (forget about the mysterious forgetting, I mean---forgetting the pepper-mill itself was easy) and pass the time calmly.

Funes occasionally awoke in the middle of the night, and, being unable to see the pepper-mill hanging suspended in front of his face in the dark, would rustle and talk to himself and finally strike a light, before he caught sight of the pepper-mill and was able to get back to sleep. Thus I did not sleep too well at night, but my days were idle and peaceful and so I got enough rest. I eventually received a letter from Borges saying that he would come for me in a few days, and I passed those days pleasantly. I took in fresh air and wrestled with the young men of the village. The days were carefree and happy, and I dreaded returning to the cottage to cook for Funes, who would stare at the pepper-mill, looking quite deranged, and mutter to himself in different languages, describing it over and over again, for hours on end, and then suddenly shut his eyes and try to remember it. He never succeeded.

Borges arrived a few days later to take me away, and I left that madhouse gratefully and went with him to Buenos Aires. I have ever since been struck by the irony of the situation in Fray Bentos. Funes alone would have been immune to the Zahir, for the quantity and detail of his memory alone would have been beyond the coin's power to compass. But an Anti-Zahir, a thing which nobody could remember at all, no matter how often they saw it, was, for a man with an otherwise perfect memory, the thing that most stuck in his mind.
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Maybe more of a novella than a short story at 90 to 100 pages, but Enemy Mine by Barry B Longyear.
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Mendicant wrote:
ungodlywarlock wrote:It's not really a favorite, because I only just recently got around to reading it...but I thought this one was fantastic. Really quick read, too:

The Last Question - Isaac Asimov
http://www.thrivenotes.com/the-last-question/
fuck yes that one rules supreme

his early Foundation books are essentially short stories too
Fucking classic. EPICNESS defined.

I've also always loved Benet's The Devil And Daniel Webster, the most American short story ever conceived.
http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etex ... /devil.htm
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The Nose by Nikolai Gogol
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Pisscubes buddy made this and it rules. Thanks for sending me this, Geoff.
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the first thing that comes to mind is "Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson

read it here:

http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

read it at an early age. really defined a lot of my feelings on art ownership.
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Idget Child
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I see a few favorites listed already. I would also include:

"The Hunger Artist" by Franz Kafka
"The Artist of the Beautiful" and "Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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