Fiction – “Down There” by Aaron Polson

We’d been talking about basements. Joking really, telling silly stories about how basements were the focus of so much childhood trauma and fodder for hackneyed horror stories. Travis, Jerry, and I sat with Heather in her tiny rented house, our heads clouded with a few rounds of microbrew after parent-teacher conferences. Outside, the October wind knocked against the siding and kicked dead leaves down the street.

“The truth is, nothing scary ever came out of a basement. Except for a little mold. Or a couple rats, and that’s only if you’re a massive chickenshit,” Travis said. He was the prototypical history teacher/football coach hybrid whose body hinted a fit childhood but now carried a sizable gut. “It’s you artsy-fartsy types—all that Poe shit Aaron makes the kids read.”

“Poe practically invented the short horror story,” I said.

“So high school kids have to read that shit?”

“At least they will read it.”

Jerry leaned forward, his lean body somewhat angular and awkward. “Look, basements are creepy, one way or the other. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to get a little spooked. Many ancient civilizations respected the underworld—something I thought a fellow history teacher could appreciate. People have always had a healthy fear of what lies beneath.”

“Yeah, ‘The dead reign there alone,’” I said.

“What was that?” Heather asked.

“From ‘Thanatopsis’,” I said. “A poem by William Cullen Bryant. ‘Thanatopsis’…a way of seeing the dead.”

“You’re a morbid fucker,” Travis said. “Too many scary stories for you.”

Jerry paced to the other side of the room, pulling his lower lip between his thumb and forefinger. He stopped, and looked at the doorway to Heather’s kitchen. “When I was a kid—”

“Let me guess: you wet the bed?” Travis snickered.

“No. I was just thinking about the crawlspace under the house. Unfinished crawlspace. Like a pit of dirt. My mother always threatened to make us go down there when the tornado sirens went off. She never did, though.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Spiders. Cobwebs. She was scared of them.”

“I’d take a few spiders over a tornado,” Travis said.

Heather worked Jerry over with her dark brown eyes. “I’ve got a crawlspace under this place. I don’t go down there.”

Travis climbed out of his chair. “What are we waiting for? You up for it Jerry? Mr. Underworld?”

“I don’t go down there.” Heather’s tone dropped into the room like a stone in deep water.

A moment passed, thick and suddenly uncomfortable. We were all tired. I looked at the paintings on the walls of the tiny living room, canvases stretched over twisted, strange frames, organic shapes with large curves, paintings in three dimensions. Bright abstractions covered each canvas. They were Heather’s work she’d done while in school, and I found something feminine in her paintings, plump but shapely, just like her body. Something full of life and thoroughly out of place in any discussion of death. She was young, mid twenties at most although none of us would ask, and had lived in the same house in college. She’d taught with us for only three years, and we all assumed it was her first job. I don’t know why I looked at the paintings. I don’t know why I tried not to think about the basement. The beer swirled my thoughts in a tired jumble and stirred the quiet attraction I felt for her into something a little more sinister until Jerry interrupted.

“Okay. Fine, I’ll check it out.” He rubbed his hands together. “I’ll go,” he said in a clear, bold voice.

“I don’t go down there.” Heather shook her head.

“I’ll just take a peek. I’ll check it out.”

“Yeah, c’mon. Just a peek.” Travis grinned.

“It’s in the back, a little trapdoor just inside the rear entry.”

Travis chuckled. I threw a pillow at him.

We followed Jerry through the kitchen and bathroom and into the alcove inside the back door. Heather’s coats hung from a makeshift rack, and she brushed these aside. A rectangular line broke the hardwood floor, and, at the near end, a slot had been cut through for a handle. The wooden floor creaked throughout the house, uneven and worn in the kitchen and living room. But the area around the door in the floor was in great condition.

“I don’t go down there,” Heather said again.

“Yeah. Yeah, we know.” Travis raised his beer. “Bon voyage, Jerry.”

Jerry knelt, pulled up the door, and averted his face, eyes pinched shut, as he did so. “A little stale down there. How deep? Is there a ladder or stairs?”

Heather handed him a flashlight. “A few stairs. It can’t be deep, but I’ve never gone down.”

Travis stifled a laugh.

“Of course.” Jerry nodded. He took the light, clicked the switch, and frowned. A few good slaps with the palm of his hand, and the bulb flickered to life. He pointed the yellow beam downward. “Here goes nothing.”

I’d begun to sober and felt a nagging urge to move, to get out of the cramped hallway. Restless. Uneasy. I was tired, too. I looked at Heather, lost for a minute imagining the line of her neck as it traced toward her chest and her round breasts. These weren’t thoughts I wanted to have about a colleague, but as we stood close in the darkness waiting for Jerry’s little expedition—his ridiculous, childish trip into the dark—these were the thoughts which circled my brain. The whole event seemed suddenly so silly. So juvenile.

The flashlight winked out just then, and Jerry cried out.

“What is it?” I leaned over, squinting into the opening.

“Nothing. Nothing really. Just hit my head.”

A sound of scuffling and patting packed earth came from the crawl space. As I knelt closer to the hole, I noticed how foul the air was, sour and stale and whispering of cobwebs and dirt and mold. I had the sudden urge to vomit.

The yellow light blinked and came back, and I staggered to my feet.

I held out a hand and helped hoist him the last few steps. Jerry’s head was wet with blood when he emerged from the basement. His hands were filthy with dirt, with plenty of dark soil packed under his fingernails. I only noticed because I held his wrist, and once he was on steady ground he pulled away.

“I need to clean this cut,” he said.

“Shit, Jerry. What the hell happened?” Travis asked.

Jerry shook his head. “Dunno. Hit a pipe, I guess. I stood up pretty fast.”

He washed his wound, a tiny scratch of about an inch long, but it bled a good deal as head wounds will. The sight of blood, no matter how innocuous, killed the mood, and saying our goodbyes to Heather, I helped Jerry to my car and drove him home. Travis stumbled to his own car, humming the school fight song in a drunken warble. When I pulled in front of Jerry’s place, an older wood frame house with limestone foundation, he looked at me, and I suppose I should have seen something in his eyes. It’s no use blaming myself, I suppose, but now, knowing what happened, I feel uneasy about it. Like I should have known. Like I should have asked him to stay with me that night.

“There was a mound down there…like something’s buried,” he said.

“Down there? Heather’s basement?”

“Yes. Buried,” he said.

I glanced at his hands. A little dirt clung under his fingernails even though he washed them while tending his head wound. “Buried?”

“I dunno. I think—I think Heather’s place survived the raid.” His shoulders rose and fell. A sigh slipped out of his mouth and he nodded, waving a hand toward his house. “Kind of like this old relic I rent. My penchant for history runs deep.” He pulled at his lip for a moment. “Look…I have something I want you to have. Wait here.”

“Sure.” I drummed my thumbs against the steering wheel as he vanished into his house. The purr of the car’s engine nearly lulled me to sleep, and he had to tap the window to get my attention.

“Here,” he said, holding out a black folder, a faux leather portfolio. “It’s some stuff I want to keep safe.”

I took the folder.

“Have a good night, all right? Thanks for the ride and everything.”

“Call me tomorrow,” I said.

He waved and slammed the door.

I woke around three that night. Cotton filled my mouth, at the awful, dehydrated feeling I’d never gotten used to after a night of drinking. I shuffled through the apartment, poured a glass from the kitchen tap, and drank a full twelve ounces. Then, I looked at my fingernails. An image of Jerry’s dirty hands flitted through my brain, enough to cause a chill and keep me up surfing late night television for another thirty minutes. I settled on a segment of The Longest Day, the bit where French resistance fighters take on the Germans from a bombed-out nunnery. It’s funny to recall the details, to go through the paces in my memory. I imagined Jerry’s death happened somewhere right around three, when I woke. The coroner couldn’t pinpoint as much, of course, but placed Jerry’s final breath in the vague, no-man’s land after one and before dawn. Jerry had left one cryptic text shortly after I dropped him off.

they want to be whole

Nothing more.

But I didn’t find out until Monday. None of us did. Jerry didn’t show for school. The secretary called. The principal called. No answer from anyone. He hadn’t phoned on Saturday, the day after our drinking binge at Heather’s, but we were adults. The police had to force his door because his landlord was on vacation.

* * *

At the end of the week, Travis and I drove to Jerry’s hometown. It was a two gas station town, maybe two thousand residents, and the total included about three hundred spares from the local cemetery. I felt a chill as we drove by the cold, grey stones. The dead reign there alone. Jerry’s mother still lived out there and insisted on burying him nearby. Travis came because Jerry was in his department; Jerry’s mother asked me to be a pall bearer because I was Jerry’s closest friend on the faculty.

Grey clouds clotted the sky during the service, but the rain held off. After the funeral, after the brief but intimate graveside service, after we put my colleague and friend in the earth, we shared bland potluck fare in the nearby church basement with Jerry’s extended family.

His mother approached me, clasped my arm, and said, “thank you, Aaron. Jerry always spoke fondly of your friendship. He has a few things at the house…I thought you might like to have. He told me once you both collected old LPs.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Please stop by, after the dinner.”

Jerry’s childhood home rested at the end of a quiet street in a quiet town, another ranch style house with half brick façade in the front, but with one distinction which marked it different. The house was recessed, with the first floor sitting two or three feet below ground level. I didn’t notice when we came to the front door, but realized as we descended a small staircase to the left. Jerry’s mother led me to his room while Travis phoned an assistant coach.

A small collection of LPs, most in near mint condition and some still in plastic cellophane, lay arranged on the bed in Jerry’s room. A series of posters lined the wall, bands and movies popular fifteen years ago, and I suspected the room hadn’t seen much redecorating since Jerry had been in high school.

“Feel free to take anything you want.” She hesitated at the door, her blue eyes misting with tears. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me. I’m…well, I’m tired.”

I pulled a few albums from the assortment, including Neil Young’s Harvest and an older, rather rare copy of Kind of Blue mastered in stereo, and was just about to return down stairs when I noticed a small bookcase. As a lover of books, I couldn’t help pursuing Jerry’s old collection, even though it was mostly what one would expect—Twain, Bradbury, Dickens, standard high school fare—but I found a black, three-ring binder which reminded me of the folder he’d given me on the night he died. I laid it on his desk, opened it, and found pages of clippings from newspaper articles, some photocopies, and a few glossy magazine cuttings. None of the material was about Jerry, or even from the local paper. Jerry had collected articles about strange archeological findings, especially burial sites, around the world, and he’d filled the margins with scribbled notes. I surmised his love for history started early, and made nothing else of it at the time.

Travis called up the stairs as I was engrossed in a piece about funerary mounds on an island south of Sumatra. I glanced at the stack of LPs I’d collected, buried the folder inside the pile, and left Jerry’s room with my contraband in hand. We said our goodbyes to his mother, but I stopped before climbing into Travis’s car.

“Mrs. Larson?”

“Yes?”

“I notice your house is sort of recessed. Do you have a basement?”

She scratched the side of her face. “Well…we have a crawl space. Just dirt and enough room to crouch down.”

“Can I see it?”

“What the hell are you doing?” Travis whispered.

“It would mean a lot. Jerry talked about it—he said I should take a look if I ever had the chance. Said it was like something out of one of the stories I teach the kids at school.”

She nodded, slowly. “I…I suppose so.”

The trip under Jerry’s childhood home lasted all of two minutes—dust and the overwhelming staleness of the air kept me from deeper investigation. At the time, I wasn’t sure what possessed me or what I was looking for, exactly.

Perhaps a mound of dirt, like Jerry described under Heather’s place. A burial mound, maybe, thinking of the folder I’d taken almost unconsciously from his bedroom. I found nothing, but didn’t stay long enough for a thorough investigation. The air was heavy down there, heavy and thick as though it was alive.

The dead reign there alone.

Riding home, I ruminated a little on Jerry’s odd collection of article clippings, and started to feel more uncomfortable about his death. Not just sad. Uneasy. Healthy thirty-year-olds just don’t die.

The uneasiness began to eat away at the edges of my consciousness, to nibble on my imagination, even at school, over the next few days. For the first time, I opened the folder he’d given me the night he died found more article clippings, similar to the folder I’d taken from his house, but the articles were more recent, some printed from the internet. At night, I found myself pouring over Jerry’s scrapbooks, searching, I suppose for an answer to a question

I didn’t know. Several long gone civilizations, a veritable who’s who of buried cities—Çatal Hüyük, Skara Brae, Copan, Chichen Itza—with references to human sacrifices, rituals in which victim’s bodies were mutilated and eviscerated, entrails offered to the gods. Jerry left notes about how each civilization disposed of their dead. The ancient residents of Çatal Hüyük left their loved ones on the roofs of their homes until the vultures pecked away the flesh, and then they buried the bones under their floors. Mass pits of suspected human sacrifices were found in China…Italy…elsewhere. This was the stuff of nightmares, dark speculations of ancient religions. From the article dates in the folder I found in his room, Jerry had been collecting them since he was nine or ten years old.

I called an old college buddy, Chris Steiner, a few days after the funeral. He wrote for the Journal-World on the police beat, a thankless job which kept him running at all hours, often late into the night. But he knew some contacts at the hospital where the police took Jerry’s body. He had friends in the morgue.

“Look, I’ll see what I can do. No promises,” Steiner said after I explained the reason for my call.

* * *

Maybe I nabbed an hour or two of sleep a night that week, most of it with the lights glaring because of a healthy dose of childish fear of the dark. Reading Jerry’s macabre research hadn’t helped my overactive imagination. My work suffered. Students found all the right buttons and pushed without mercy. I handed out more detentions in five days than I had in the five years prior. Heather came down to my room on Friday after school.

“You look like hell,” she said. “From the rumors around here—and you know how much I like to believe the kids—you’ve been a bit of a hard ass, too.”

I could have told her about the articles. About Jerry’s last message to me: they want to be whole. I could have told her about the theme of human sacrifice and bodily mutilation, ancient Egyptians removing organs from their dead before mummification, all of the grisly detail in Jerry’s notebooks. Jerry had been scared of something as a kid.

Whatever it was scared him again as an adult. He scribbled little notes in the margin. They want to be whole, he’d scribbled again and again along with one other word: underground. Underground as in basements—even if the basement is a tired, over-wrought trope. Poe buried more than one character in a basement wall, some while they still breathed. But that was fiction. Fiction. Jerry’s last message: they want to be whole. He didn’t just die. He’d been killed, murdered, but I couldn’t prove it.

“I haven’t been sleeping well,” I said.

“No shit. You want a drink? We could go to my place, forget about this for a while.”

Any other time, yes. Yes, Heather, I want to meet at your place and have a drink. But the thoughts of two weeks ago, the notion of being alone with Heather, alone with motive and opportunity to more than imagine the two of us, together, had been buried under a mountain of black stone and Jerry Larson’s body.

She frowned before I spoke. “Jerry, right?”

“Of course. He was afraid, Heather. I think he knew he was going to die.”

“It was unexpected. A tragedy.”

“He knew. He sent me a message,” I said.

“What’d it say, ‘I’m gonna die’? That’s nuts.”

I frowned. they want to be whole

“Look, I’m sorry about Larson. He was a helluva guy.” She touched my arm. “When you get your head on straight, the drink offer is still good.”

I glanced at the floor. The students had long since cleared the halls. “I think something came out of his basement.”

She pulled away, crossing her arms. “Look, don’t play at this horror bullshit anymore. It isn’t funny.”

“He had all these articles, back in his bedroom, where he grew up. He gave me another notebook the night he died.
Two scrapbooks of articles…some mentioned ancient civilizations. Burial rituals. Human sacrifice. Jerry left some notes. Some of the—”

“What? Aaron, that’s National Enquirer crap.”

“No…he found something in your basement. Said your place had been there since before the raid. He had a few articles about Quantrill’s Raid. Right here in Lawrence during the Civil War. One article spoke of a woman who was killed, the only woman to die in the massacre. Her body. What was left of it was buried in the basement of a house on your street—”

“Forget it.” She started to walk away. “Get some sleep. Get over this, okay?”

Certain things, like the unease which had begun to fester in my stomach, to grow and nearly develop a life of its own, were not simply “gotten over.”

* * *

Yellow police tape still covered Jerry’s door, which, of course would be locked solid anyway. It wasn’t the first floor which concerned me, though. I parked across the street and hurried along the side of the house. Because school let out at three, I was at Jerry’s by a quarter to four, before most of his neighbors would be home from work. The basement windows on the east side of the house were locked solid, so I checked the rear. Tall trees shaded the backyard, providing a nice amount of cool cover. Both rear windows were shut tight and the same for the opposite side of the house. I’d begun to sweat despite the shade. My hands shook.

Go home, I thought. Get rid of the scrapbooks. Forget about it, like Heather said. The choppy logic which began to draw a line from Jerry’s obsession with the dead, the unhappy dead, toward Heather’s basement brought me to his house. The uneasiness won. I had to see Jerry’s place for myself. See if what he scribbled in his scrapbook was true.

I broke one of the basement windows. I kicked out the glass with my shoes and broke each tiny fragment free of the frame so I could safely slide through the opening. The shards fell to the floor below with soft tinkles. Grabbing the flashlight from the truck of my car, I slunk back to the open window. The time hovered just before four. Still enough time to slip in and look around without being noticed, I imagined. I dropped in, landing on the broken glass with a crunch.

The basement floor was concrete but old and cracked in several places, showing wide gaps of two to three inches and dark soil beneath. The slab couldn’t have been more than three or four inches thick. A set of simple, wooden steps led to the first floor. Jerry’s place. Boxes and a few pieces of dust-covered furniture littered the area. In a corner, I found something which froze my blood.

A section of the floor had been removed and now rested against the far wall. A pick ax, sledgehammer, and spade leaned next to it. I pointed the yellow beam of my flashlight at the gap. Dirt, I thought at first. Nothing but dirt. I walked closer. I felt, for a moment, as though I might choke on my heart.

The hole was deep enough to lose my flashlight beam across the surface. A tiny pile of dirt sat next to the hole, but not nearly enough to fill it.

I knelt and looked down, pointing the light. Shadows flitted inside. I thought I saw something move. The light reflected off something in the hole, something pale and yellow. A sound skittered through the basement behind me, a basement which, at that time of year, was growing very dark by four in the afternoon. The sun would set by five. I pushed off the ground and scrambled to my feet. Surely the sound was just a rat or even fat mouse, but in the dark, in the house where one of my friends and colleagues died, it proved enough to fire bolts of fear through my chest. I held my breath. The room fell silent again. I looked at the hole. When my eyes lifted, I found it on the ground near the shovel, half in shadow so I hadn’t noticed it before. A fragment, really, but a bit of bone, a rather long phalange if my memory of human anatomy held.

As I said, it was dark. Getting darker by the moment. But tiny splotches of brown—a reddish-brown of dried blood—marred the tip of the bone. I staggered toward the window and climbed out of the opening with the aid of a wooden kitchen chair as a stool.

Panting in the front seat of my car, I noticed a new text message on my phone from Steiner:
meet me at pats about your friend 7 pm

I looked at my hands, both covered with dirt, and back toward Jerry’s place.

Steiner had picked a bar not far from downtown. The sign out front advertised Pat’s in flickering red neon, and a quarter inch of grease painted almost every surface in the interior. It was a quiet place, though. The kind of bar in which two or three regulars are married to their stools and they all possess an unfriendly eye for strangers. After a few moments of awkward “catching up”, Steiner, still as scrawny and short as I remember from undergrad, cut right to the reason for our reunion.

“Your buddy, this Larson guy, he was thoroughly messed up.” He lit a cigarette, took a long puff, and settled his black eyes on mine. “Real bad.”

“I don’t understand?”

He leaned forward, hands on the table and said, “The final coroner’s report sort of fudged on cause of death. I think they put down aneurism or something. Totally bogus. I’ve got a buddy who works records—he feeds me all sorts of juicy tidbits.”

“Straight out of Chandler,” I said. “So what about cause of death?”

“Who the fuck is Chandler?”

“Raymond Chandler. An author. Detective noir. What about Jerry Larson?”

Steiner sucked in another puff and nodded. “Yeah. My buddy says his internal organs were scrambled. Cut up pretty good.”

He could have kicked me in the stomach. My mouth flapped open for a moment, and then the words came. “There would have been a wound. Something on the body.”

“Nope.. When the coroner cut him open, bam.” He slapped the back of one hand into the palm of the other. “Guts everywhere. But that’s not the kicker. He was missing a few parts.”

“What?”

“No heart. No liver. Only one kidney. They didn’t find a trace in the mess that was left.”

Jerry’s last text ran through my memory: they want to be whole

Guts everywhere. Missing parts. I thought of the scrapbook—the articles about human sacrifice, bodily mutilation. Evisceration. The hole in his basement was deep. One human finger mocked me with its trace of Jerry’s blood.

“You all right?”

My head wagged back and forth. I felt dizzy as I stood. “I’ve got to go.”

“Look, Aaron—”

I tossed some cash on the table and left, Steiner still calling my name as Pat’s door slammed behind me.

Whatever killed Jerry Larson was real, real enough to scramble a man’s guts inside his shell. Real enough to take the parts it wanted, the parts which would make it whole. When you’re given information like that, when you learn they killed someone, murdered a man in his own home and stole his heart, the choppy logic, the impossible, macabre logic of the ghoul and specter becomes painfully real. Jerry’s basement. Heather’s basement. There was a connection. Jerry knew, and it killed him. Did they kill him because he knew? Did they kill him because he found something in the basement of Heather’s place? Did something from the fragment in his basement simply kill him to become whole? I couldn’t shake Heather’s face from my thoughts. I couldn’t shake the double image of the hollow pit in Jerry’s basement from my thoughts. He’d said there was something in Heather’s place, too. Something buried.

they want to be whole

They’d found Jerry. They would have me, too. I knew they would, before long.

Five minutes from Pat’s, I pounded on Heather’s front door, flashlight in hand. Her porch light was on, but the house lay in almost complete darkness—a light was on in the back and the TV flickered in the living room. I went to a window, squinted inside, and shined the flashlight. I saw no movement except for the shifting and sliding of shadows.

I panicked. I’m not proud or brave or particularly heroic. At that point, I could have still been very, very wrong.
When I blinked, I saw Jerry’s face when I dropped him off at his place, his eyes wide and scared. He tried to tell me, then. He sent me a message before they found him. Before they killed him. They found him in Heather’s crawl space. He found them in the basement under his rented house here in the city. Under his childhood home.

They found him.

They were coming. Like I said, I panicked. I tried Heather’s door again. I lowered my shoulder and lunged. The wood groaned. I lunged a second time, and the wood cracked. I brushed sweat from my face. I used my foot on the third assault, kicking at deadbolt with the bottom of my shoe. It took two more poundings, but the jamb split and I tumbled inside.

A humid, dirty smell clung to everything. A basement smell. The air was hot. I flipped on the switch next to the door.

“Heather?”

No answer. She wasn’t in the living room, or either bedroom. The tiny light I’d seen from the front window came from in the back, from the little hallway behind her bathroom. From the hallway with the trapdoor to her crawl space. The TV was on, mumbling in the background. I chewed on my tongue. I saw images from newspaper clippings, odd hieroglyphs, hand-drawn layouts of ancient cities, buried monuments. Jerry’s hand-scrawled words, they’re down there if we dig deep enough, written in the margin of a magazine article. I clicked off the television as I walked through the room.

they want to be whole

A broken glass lay on the floor of Heather’s kitchen along with a sticky pool of orange juice. A few spatters of blood—dark and thick—marred the cabinets and bathroom door. I found more blood on the floor, soaked into black dots across the carpet. I followed the dots. I traced them to the closet, to the door in the floor. The house listened, too quiet. Waiting. I held my breath for the sound of something, anything. Whatever sound they might make. A tiny piece of cloth protruded from under the trap door in the back room, and the edge of the torn and jagged cloth was stained with blood.

A moment passed. Another, silent, heavy moment in which the house listened for my next breath. What did I do? What could I do? Go down there, under her house, where she never went? I imagined they had her, dead perhaps, mutilated like Jerry. Or something else? The police had found Jerry’s body on his bed. Heather was gone. How much of her would they take to be whole? In a cold moment surrounded by the sour air of my colleague’s house, they broke me. I broke. I’m not proud or brave or even the slightest fraction heroic. I left with Jerry’s scrapbooks, a duffel bag full of clothes, and emptied what I could from the bank ATM.

I’m uneasy now, especially in strange beds. Motels away from major highways. Spots on the map which seem isolated from the locations indicated in Jerry’s research. Sleep doesn’t come easy. Waking hours don’t come easy. Where on earth, can a man hide from the dead? Where can any of us hide when the unhappy legions stir from their moldering tombs?


.

About the Author

Aaron Polson currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit. His stories have featured magic goldfish, monstrous beetles, and a book of lullabies for baby vampires. His work has seen print in Shock Totem, Blood Lite II, and Monstrous with several new stories forthcoming in Shimmer, Space and Time, and other publications. The Saints are Dead, a collection of weird fiction, magical realism, and the kitchen sink, is due from Aqueous Press in 2011. You can visit Aaron on the web at www.aaronpolson.net.