News From The Weird #6

I have a very exciting announcement to make!

Now, as some of you know, I'm the Science Fiction Commissioning Editor for Vulpine Press, a publisher based in the UK. For the past six months, I have been working with a brilliant Pittsburgh author named Daniel Reiner on his debut novel "The Shadow Beyond," and I am now pleased to announce... 

(drumroll please)

The Shadow Beyond is now available for preorder!

This is a huge milestone for both Dan and myself, and we are pumped to be able to bring such an exciting new work into the world. So, if you're interested in supporting a great local author, or just learning more about the book, click the link below for more info!

Click me! I have the e-book and the paperback! Preorder me! Please!

I hope you enjoy!

And now, on to the Weird!

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What is a family? Is it the blood in your veins? The diseases you share? Certain genetic markers that make you likely to enjoy foods? Or is it proximity? The nights spent hearing each other cry through the walls? The number of times you’ve breathed each other’s carbon dioxide? Or is it neither of these—is it something else entirely? These are not new questions. But unbeknownst to him, waking up on the day of his one-year anniversary, Daniel Ramirez was about to receive some fairly novel answers.
Growing up, Daniel had always felt he had a place at the center of his home, just beneath the love of his parents, sandwiched between the protective stare of his older sister, and the admiration of his younger. It wasn’t until he turned nineteen and met the woman who would become the love of his young life that he was forced to consider the unfortunate reality that this was not the case for everyone. He had always considered himself a practical man, not prone to fits or outbursts, but as with anyone of his age, there existed within him a streak of idealism, pocked here and there with spots of romance. When he grew up, he was going to find a way to take care of his family, no matter what it took. Just as they had always taken care of him.
He met her in a tattoo parlor, of all places. He had gotten his first piercing just a few weeks prior—a little gold hoop through his left earlobe—and it had been causing him some minor discomfort. It was possibly infected. But when he stepped through the front door, the little bell above ringing throughout the shop, what he found was not an effective balm for what ailed him. What he found, instead, was a woman. She was lying on the table, her ribbed, sleeveless shirt pulled up to her ribs, while a large man in a denim jacket scrawled bloody script just above her pelvic bone. Daniel did his best not to look, but his best had never been particularly effective. She was incredible to look at: straight black hair that cascaded off the side of the table like a curtain, tunnels through her earlobes the size of her eyes, long arms printed like a recycled canvas. The mechanical whirr of the needle was enough to nearly turn his stomach, but she just lay there like she was sunbathing on vacation. She may as well have been reading a romance novel.
When the trance was finally broken, it was not by some receptionist there to help him, as he hoped. It was instead from the lips he’d been staring at, riddled, as they were, with metal.
“Can I help you?”
“I said can I help you? Or did you just come to stare?”
“I, uh…I think I have an infection.”
It turned out he didn’t. But perhaps it was fate that he had been raised overly concerned, because just two days later, he was sitting at the table across from her while a waiter poured their waters. She, of course, had asked him, as was her straightforward nature. One of the many things he found attractive in her. And had he bothered to ask, he would have learned it was his wide-eyed innocence, his generally sheltered way of speaking that she found most captivating about him. She had never met someone like him before—an adult on the outside, but inside, still yet a child. Sure, she had a few years on him, but only a few. She ordered two drinks at that dinner, sneaking one across the table to him. She’d ordered herself a third. And by the time they had made it back to the front door of her walk-up apartment, it was clear that their connection was more than just a simple fascination.
They kept up the tradition of that Friday night dinner long into their first year of dating, though the restaurant of that first evening was much too expensive for a repeat visit. They mostly stuck to cheaper places: barbecue, burgers, Chinese food. And in that time, what he came to love the most about her wasn’t just the way she was—independent and abrasive, unwilling to compromise—but how she had come to be that way. He never met her family, but that was for a reason. She had ceased to speak with either of her parents a number of years ago. Raised an only child, the brunt of their expectations, and their disappointment, had fallen on her. She would rarely take the story much further than that. The only time she did was the only time he ever saw her cry.
It was one year from that first evening. Their anniversary. In celebration, he had sprung for the good stuff: a reservation at that same, fancy place where they had first discovered their affinity for one another. Only this time, it was he who ordered two drinks, sliding one across the table to her. This made her laugh. But when it came time to exchange their gifts, her face turned somber. It wasn’t that she hadn’t liked the necklace he bought her. She’d loved it, in fact. But when she produced her own small box and placed it on the table in front of him, he saw that first, shining tear fall from her eye.
“You know how hard I try to separate myself from them…from their terrible…”
“Hon, what is it?”
He lifted the box, and shook it lightly beside his ear. Whatever it was hit the walls with a light thud.
“I just don’t want any part of them anymore. And I don’t want them to have any part of me.”
Slowly, he lifted the lid of the box, individually wrapped, like out of a movie. But what he saw inside was nothing short of horror.
What is a family? Is it the blood in your veins? Is it the relative distance from your pillow to theirs? Daniel Ramirez had never had much cause to ponder these questions, but staring down at the knobby bit of flesh resting in the bottom of that box, the pink nub she’d carved from the pit of her stomach, he began, himself, to wonder. What is a family? He wasn’t sure if it was blood, or proximity, or anything else, but it seemed then, that at least to the love of his young life, it had something to do with where the cord had been cut.
“You’re my family now.”

Read the full story here