“For a building built by an eccentric architect who supposedly belonged to a modern Pythagorean mystery cult, this hotel looks disappointingly normal,” thought Scarlett. She yawned, set down her bag, and pressed the elevator button. The drive down from Cleveland had taken three hours, thanks to a wreck on the highway, and she was already tired from staying up the night before doing research. She’d heard about Hotel Tetra from one of the readers of her blog, Things That Go Bump in the Night.
Jim stomped on the brakes, but the car kept moving. He jerked the wheel to the right, just as Cheryl screamed, and the car flew off the side of the rain-slicked road, crashing through the guard rail with a deafening screech of metal on metal before careening down the embankment. The descent simultaneously took forever and an instant. They crashed through brush, bushes, branches; over rocks and dirt and gravel before slamming into the bottom of the ravine.
“Oh, no,” Maggie thought as she watched the wasp crawl out of her ear, “Not again.” She’d been in the middle of brushing her teeth when she caught the movement out of the corner of her eye, and she stopped and stared at her reflection in the mirror as the creature emerged. “No, no, no,” she thought as the wasp unfurled its wings. She didn’t want to startle it, so she held very still – her toothbrush in one hand and toothpaste in the other.
Robert nearly flipped over the handlebars of his bike when he saw the sign. Nestled between a poorly pruned shrub and a table full of household junk for sale, the cardboard, hand-lettered sign read, “Free Rent.” As a bike messenger who liked to spend most of his money getting high, a rent-free apartment was akin to manna from heaven. “I don’t know, it sounds fishy,” Jessica said with a toss of her auburn hair.
Running into the woman that paid to have you killed for your life insurance is enough to startle anyone. She strolled by, as the setting summer sun warmed the nape of my neck, wearing the cornflower dress that I bought her last summer and the black pumps that were two sizes too big – the ones that her heels popped out of with each step. I caught her distinctive gait out of the corner of my eye while I sopped up a plate of olive oil and sea salt with the remnants of a warm baguette.
John couldn’t think of a single good reason for a severed head to be in his bathtub. Not one. There was no blood to speak of – just a cleanly severed head lying in the center of the tub, staring up at the ceiling. He struggled with how to react. He thought about vomiting, but the lack of blood failed to create a visceral impact – and he’d never been particularly squeamish to begin with.
Esmeralda Santiago’s only friend was a girl named Luna who lived on the moon. Luna and Esmeralda had been classmates since kindergarten and had spent every day after school running through the woods behind Esmeralda’s house – skinning their knees on fallen, moss-covered trees, forging alliances with the fairies who lived amongst the ferns, and establishing an uneasy truce with the kingdom of squirrels who inhabited the tall oaks and maples.
In the days of the Southern Song Dynasty, in the land of Hangzhou, two snake spirits took on the form of humans. One named herself Bai Suzhen, the white snake, and the other named herself Chingching, the green snake. While out wandering one day, Bai and Chingching met a simple medicinal herb merchant named Xu Xian, and Bai fell in love with him at first sight. Bai and Xu quickly married and opened a medicine shop, which allowed them to live a comfortable life together.
Shoji checked his watch; he didn’t want to be late for his first shakedown. As he hurried down the crowded streets of Tokyo III, passing businessmen in suits and housewives in smart skirts, people gave him a wide berth. The pompadour haircut; black, leather pants; black shirt; and black, leather gloves made him look like a gangster – which, of course, he was trying to be. After passing the Spaceport, where the whine of antigravity engines filled the air, Shoji cut through Yamamoto Square.
Ryan’s day began like most days: early. He woke at four AM, which gave him a half an hour to talk to his subordinates in Texas before his daily conference call with the company’s officers. As a Junior VP of Sales for one of the largest oil companies in the world, his mornings were filled with conference calls. He slipped his earpiece on, rolled out of bed, and padded to the bathroom.