Люциус Шепард: Eternity and Other Stories

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Люциус Шепард Eternity and Other Stories
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    Eternity and Other Stories
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  • Издательство:
    Thunder's Mouth Press
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / prose_magic / на английском языке
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    New York
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Eternity and Other Stories: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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SEVEN GLOBE-SPANNING TALES THAT DEFY REALITY “Lucius Shepard’s stories a jungles — densely alive, sometimes mysterious, often gorgeous, and always dangerous.” — Katerine Dunn, author of Geek Love

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Lucius Shepard


To Deborah



There are legends in the pit. Phantoms and apparitions. The men who work at Ground Zero joke about them, but their laughter is nervous and wired. Bobby doesn’t believe the stories, yet he’s prepared to believe something weird might happen. The place feels so empty. Like even the ghosts are gone. All that sudden vacancy, who knows what might have entered in? Two nights ago on the graveyard shift, some guy claimed he saw a faceless figure wearing a black spiky headdress standing near the pit wall. The job breaks everybody down. Marriages are falling apart. People keep losing it one way or another. Fights, freak-outs, fits of weeping. It’s the smell of burning metal that seeps up from the earth, the ceremonial stillness of the workers after they uncover a body, the whispers that come when there is no wind. It’s the things you find. The week before, scraping at the rubble with a hoe, like an archaeologist investigating a buried temple, Bobby spotted a woman’s shoe sticking up out of the ground. A perfect shoe, so pretty and sleek and lustrous. Covered in blue silk. Then he reached for it and realized that it wasn’t stuck—it was only half a shoe, with delicate scorching along the ripped edge. Now sometimes when he closes his eyes he sees the shoe. He’s glad he isn’t married. He doesn’t think he has much to bring to a relationship.

That evening Bobby’s taking his dinner break, perched on a girder at the edge of the pit along with Mazurek and Pineo, when they switch on the lights. They all hate how the pit looks in the lights. It’s an outtake from The X-Files—the excavation of an alien ship under hot white lamps smoking from the cold; the shard left from the framework of the north tower glittering silver and strange, like the wreckage of a cosmic machine. The three men remain silent for a bit, then Mazurek goes back to bitching about Jason Giambi signing with the Yankees. “You catch the interview he did with Werner Wolf? He’s a moron! First time the crowd gets on him, it’s gonna be like when you yell at a dog. The guy’s gonna fucking crumble.” Pineo disagrees, and Mazurek asks Bobby what he thinks.

“Bobby don’t give a shit about baseball,” says Pineo. “My boy’s a Jets fan.”

Mazurek, a thick-necked, fiftyish man whose face appears to be fashioned of interlocking squares of pale muscle, says, “The Jets… fuck!”

“They’re playoff bound,” says Bobby cheerfully.

Mazurek crumples the wax paper his sandwich was folded in. “They gonna drop dead in the first round like always.”

“It’s more interesting than being a Yankee fan,” says Bobby. “The Yankees are too corporate to be interesting.”

“‘Too corporate to be interesting’?” Mazurek stares. “You really are a geek, y’know that?”

“That’s me. The geek.”

“Whyn’t you go the fuck back to school, boy? Fuck you doing here, anyway?”

“Take it easy, Carl! Chill!” Pineo—nervous, thin, lively, curly black hair spilling from beneath his hard hat—puts a hand on Mazurek’s arm, and Mazurek knocks it aside. Anger tightens his leathery skin; the creases in his neck show white. “What’s it with you? You taking notes for your fucking thesis?” he asks Bobby. “Playing tourist?”

Bobby looks down at the apple in his hand—it seems too shiny to be edible. “Just cleaning up is all. You know.”

Mazurek’s eyes dart to the side, then he lowers his head and gives it a savage shake. “Okay,” he says in a subdued voice. “Yeah… fuck. Okay.”

• • •

Midnight, after the shift ends, they walk over to the Blue Lady. Bobby doesn’t altogether understand why the three of them continue to hang out there. Maybe because they once went to the bar after work and it felt pretty good, so they return every night in hopes of having it feel that good again. You can’t head straight home; you have to decompress. Mazurek’s wife gives him constant shit about the practice—she calls the bar and screams over the phone. Pineo just split with his girlfriend. The guy with whom Bobby shares an apartment grins when he sees him, but the grin is anxious—like he’s afraid Bobby is bringing back some contagion from the pit. Which maybe he is. The first time he went to Ground Zero, he came home with a cough and a touch of fever, and he recalls thinking that the place was responsible. Now, though, either he’s immune or else he’s sick all the time and doesn’t notice.

Two hookers at a table by the door check them out as they enter, then go back to reading the Post. Roman the barman, gray-haired and thick-waisted, orders his face into respectful lines, says, “Hey, guys!” and sets them up with beers and shots. When they started coming in he treated them with almost religious deference, until Mazurek yelled at him, saying he didn’t want to hear that hero crap while he was trying to unwind—he got enough of it from the fuckass jocks and movie stars who visit Ground Zero to have their pictures taken. Though angry, he was far more articulate than usual in his demand for normal treatment, and this caused Bobby to speculate that if Mazurek were transported thousands of miles from the pit and not just a few blocks, his IQ would increase exponentially.

The slim brunette in the business suit is down at the end of the bar again, sitting beneath the blue neon silhouette of a dancing woman. She’s been coming in every night for about a week. Late twenties. Hair styled short, an expensive kind of punky look. Fashion model hair. Eyebrows thick and slanted, like accents grâve. Sharp-featured, on the brittle side of pretty, or maybe she’s not that pretty, maybe she is so well-dressed, her makeup done so skillfully, that the effect is of a businesslike prettiness, of prettiness reined in by the magic of brush and multiple applicators, and beneath this artwork she is, in actuality, rather plain. Nice body, though. Trim and well tended. She wears the same expression of stony neutrality that Bobby sees every morning on the faces of the women who charge up from under the earth, disgorged from the D train, prepared to resist Manhattan for another day. Guys will approach her, assuming she’s a hooker doing a kind of Hitler office bitch thing in order to attract men searching for a woman they can use and abuse as a surrogate for one who makes their life hell every day from nine to five, and she will say something to them and they will immediately walk away. Bobby and Pineo always try to guess what she says. That night, after a couple of shots, Bobby goes over and sits beside her. She smells expensive. Her perfume like the essence of some exotic flower or fruit he’s only seen in magazine pictures.

“I’ve just been to a funeral,” she says wearily, staring into her drink. “So, please… Okay?”

“That what you tell everybody?” he asks. “All the guys who hit on you?”

A fretful line cuts her brow. “Please!”

“No, really. I’ll go. All I want to know… that what you always say?”

She makes no response.

“It is,” he says. “Isn’t it?”

“It’s not entirely a lie.” Her eyes are spooky, the dark rims of the pale irises extraordinarily well-defined. “It’s intended as a lie, but it’s true in a way.”

“But that’s what you say, right? To everybody?”

“This is why you came over? You’re not hitting on me?”

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