ON SALE NOW
My horror short story "Elsie's Whiskers" is in the April edition of HYPNOS magazine. Here's the first two pages:
Elsie awoke when the moon was dark, as always. The crawlspace where she slept, near the top of a Manhattan skyscraper, was silent and shadowy. She stretched, detecting a slight odor. Droppings from a mouse that had passed through during her slumber. Judging from the faint scent, the visit was two weeks past.
She thought of the mouse's whiskers, twitching and seeking in the darkness, and allowed her own senses to reach out. The building was almost empty after hours, and she only detected the energy of security guards and cleaning crews. The skyscraper's steel and concrete were dead materials, and didn't conduct the forces well. That was why she'd picked it, and why her hiding place was so high up. Disconnecting was the only way she could sleep between hunts.
Her stomach trembled at the thought of food, and she slid toward the hatch.
The subway clattered as it rocked through the black tunnel. Articulated joints in Elsie's shoulders, hips, and ribcage flattened her body against the car's roof. Rough claws extended from beneath her fingernails to grip the ridged metal. A human riding that way would have been scraped off eventually, but for Elsie it was perfect. Her mental antennae—which she called her whiskers—became blocked by the energy of the other passengers if she rode inside the cars.
She needed her whiskers clear at the start of a hunt, using the deepest subway routes to get within range of her prey. Surrounded by the living rock that was the sprawling city's foundation, her senses flexed and searched. Some months she rode different train roofs for hours before picking up a vibration, but the quiver came early this time. Distant, but fresh.
The car wheezed to a stop at the next station, the tunnel opening into light and sound and movement. It was still early, so no one noticed when she slid down and joined the crowd. To them she was just another mid-teens girl in dark clothing, with pale skin under short black hair.
Thoughts and emotions crowded in, all the languages translating instantly. So much of it was a cavalcade of needless worry and pointless urgency. The humans had whiskers too, but most of them had blunted their senses long ago. Silenced by a constant bombardment of meaningless input, their whiskers had atrophied to the state of a useless, unnoticed appendage.
A quiver alerted Elsie, but it wasn't the adrenaline-surge alarm that said something was staring at her or launching an attack. This sensation was mild, and she recognized it while heading for the stairs.
Sitting on a bench beside his mother, one of the children the humans called "special" followed her with wide eyes. Mouth open, he bounced lightly in his seat. Their whiskers touched, a bloom of warmth no one else noticed, and Elsie gave him a bright smile. He was clapping and laughing when she started up the steps.
Elsie knew every mile of the tunnels that cut through the rock under the city. Conduits for the subways, the sewage, the water, and all the connectors for maintaining the subterranean lifelines. Her whiskers flowed through the stone, noting changes both human and not. The jagged fissures, longer and deeper than any excavation. The chambers and cracks that had been filled or widened by cold and water. The fresh, focused channels carved by her prey.
The April edition of HYPNOS Magazine is available here: