Extract below from ‘Salustrade’ – Published in ‘Year’s Best Horror Stories’ (Daw Books 1994); republished in ‘Weirdmonger: The Nemonicon: The Synchronised Shards of Random Truth & Fiction’ (Prime Books 2003). This extract is quoted below in reference to my real-time review of Glen Hirshberg’s ‘Esmerelda’ HERE.
<<Mr. Weggs entered Miss Lakeminster’s room and, before him, in the half-light of Starship City’s dusk, lay the cadaverous shape of the stricken lady. Just the rim of the uppermost skin reflected the twilight’s weakly golden glow as it struggled through the grimy panes of the tiny lotto-hatch in the wall. She was quite naked. Mr. Weggs, knowing how prim she had been during his acquaintance with her, shook his head in disbelief.
The sockets, where his eyes must have rested, pulsed darker than the shadow of his skull. The huddle of books in his aching arms was just another shapeless stranger of black and he wondered which of these books would hold the final suffocating victory over her breath. He strode toward the recumbent figure and carefully placed the books in a makeshift pyramid over her mouth, nose and eyes. She had loved that astronaut Williams and, now, her boss, meticulously patting the damp books into place over her features, involuntarily admired her unutterable loyalty to the deceased spaceman: he sprinkled over the pyramid of books some black blooms which had been crimson in daylight hours but now night-stained with death juice. They fell haphazardly over and through the damp pages. But she stirred slightly at this rustle of petals and her face gradually rose, spilling the books to the floor like lumpy porridge. She realized with some unexpected force that the remains of her astronaut had not been found. The explosion of the rocket far up in the wide sky had surely shattered him beyond corporeal existence. Perhaps a shred of flesh or splinter of bone fell to earth. Perhaps he had fluttered down like a slow scattering of broken petals. Perhaps he was alive, beckoning to her with a split finger.
Mr. Weggs prudently withdrew from the room as a tear swelled at the tip of her nose. The books around her were nothing but memories, too — mere pages of live thoughts that were all but dead. How could the bone of one finger split into a “V”? For a book to live, though, must it not in fact become such a “V”? As she finally died, the tear fell from her nose to the open book that had fallen in front of her and the page read: “Elizabeth Lakeminster was the secretary in a bookshop. May she rest in peace.”>>
NB: An earlier blog post of mine about ‘SALUSTRADE’: HERE