Pretty Monsters

"This is when things go seriously wrong."

Kelly Link (1969 — ), one of the guests of honor at this year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is an influential American writer of hard-to-classify short fiction that has been described as fantasy, slipstream, or magic realism. Link has published three collections: Stranger Things Happen (2001), Magic for Beginners (2005), and Pretty Monsters (2008). Her stories have won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards.  Although not known as a writer of “weird tales” per se, most of Link’s stories tend to be grounded in an underlying darkness. We’re honored to feature her novella “Pretty Monsters,” taken from her collection of the same name, in its first appearance online as part of our 12 Days of Monsters, for one week only. Thanks to Link, her agent Renee Zuckerbrot, and Penguin editor Sharyn November for their help in making this possible. Check out Link’s Page of All Knowledge for the Pretty Monsters collection, including preferred sellers.

The 300-word stub of the story posted below is preserved for archive purposes only. - The Editors

The world was still dark. Windows were blue-black rectangles nailed up on blacker walls. Her parents’ door was shut; the interrogative snores and snorts from their bedroom were the sounds of a beast snuffling about in a cave. Clementine Cleary went down the hallway with her hands outstretched, then down the stairs, avoiding the ones that complained. She had been dreaming, and it seemed to her still part of her dream when she opened the front door and left her parents’ house. Wet confetti ends of grass, cut the day before, stuck to the soles of her bare feet. The partial thumbprint of a moon lingered in the sky even as the sun came up and she rode her bike down to Hog Beach.

Bathing suits and towels belonging to college students and families from Charlotte and Atlanta and Greenville hung limply from railings and balconies of rented beach houses. Far down the shoreline, two dogs ran up and down as the surf came in, went out. A surfer ascended the watery, silver curl of the horizon; on the pier, a fisherman in a yellow slicker cast out his line. His back was to Clementine.

She left her bike in the dunes and waded out into the ocean until her pajamas were wet to her knees. The water was warmer than the air. How to explain the thing that she was doing? She was awake or she was dreaming. It was all the same impulse: to climb out of bed in the dark; to leave her house and ride her bike down to Hog Beach; to walk, without thinking, into the water.

Even the rip current as it caught her up seemed part of her waking dream, the dream that she had never stopped dreaming.

It was as if her dream were carrying her out to sea.