QSFer Andrea Speed has a new speculative fiction anthology book out:
A collection of tales filled with monsters, be they human or beast, ranging in setting from dystopia to pitch black noir and even general silliness. From the ludicrous to the frighteningly plausible; from deep space to after the end of the world. There are clumsy werewolves and bloody revenge, monster sleep overs and a dieting fad sure to kill your appetite. Whether looking into the past or the future, you’re sure to find that stuff gets really weird.
Mad Monster Sleep Over
It was the Swamp Monster that found Doctor Herring’s body in the kitchen. Or at least his torso. It was assumed he’d need it to survive.
There were several problems, all of which were tricky indeed. Gathering the suspects, for example. It was a class reunion weekend, if you accepted the meaning of class could be stretched to accommodate a reunion of monsters created both deliberately and accidentally by the old Academy of Psychical Research. Portsmouth. Of course the building had burned down in the great escape of ’75, but there was a spooky mansion down the road that more than fit their needs. Yes, it had seen better decades, and one of the back bedrooms had an unintentional skylight, but it was super cheap on Airbnb, and monsters didn’t exactly bring in the big bucks.
The advent of CGI had been especially unkind to the monster community. At one time, you could slither into Hollywood and get a one picture deal with the first company that spotted you, but nowadays, computer designing was cheaper and easier to handle. Oh sure, no one was going to miss a PA or two, but eat more than that and the studios would get pissed.
Some had turned to being barely glimpsed “Bigfoots” or other mythical beasts in the many ridiculous reality shows that cluttered the airwaves, but it was considered gauche and a shit job all the way around. Lurking in sewers and preying on stupid, horny teens was okay, but appearing as a fleeting shadow in Bigfoot Hunters or Ghost Interrupters was a level of embarrassment that even the Catfish Creek Monster—a walking humanoid fish that occasionally kidnapped bikini babes, but mostly just sucked mud at the bottom of rivers—found beneath him. Along with lack of camera time and dignity, they didn’t pay well either, and they got really huffy if you ate a soundman.
But Diggory was determined to see that the killer of poor Doctor Herring—a.k.a. Mad Doctor Crab Hands—got some justice. Monsters didn’t eat other monsters, even if they were one in name only. Technically, did a guy with deformed hands and eyestalks on the top of his head count as a genuine monster? He was more of an abomination, if you wanted to get technical. Still, he had been one of the Academy’s unfortunate experiments and deserved that bit of recognition at least.
On the plus side, the reunion was kind of small this year. There were only four water/wetland based creatures around—Swamp Monster, Catfish Creek Monster, Mad Doctor Crab Hands, Sharkazoid—because global warming was shrinking their habitats and making everything unpleasant. The rest of the class was made up of the various land and air based ones that had avoided capture or prosecution, including himself, although if you wanted to get technical, Diggory was a below the land based monster. Not that it was all sunshine and roses for his kind. In fact, with all the fracking, there had never been a worse time to be a Mole Man. He had to keep moving to higher elevations just to avoid getting pressurized water shot up his ass.
That night, he was able to wrangle everyone into the living room with the promise of Jell-O shots. As soon as they had their opening round ones of lime Jell-O and tequila—what Leopard Woman called a “rita,” as in abbreviated margarita—Diggory laid out the facts that were known. 1) Someone dismembered Doctor Herring the night before and left his torso behind. 2) Monster didn’t kill monster.
Diggory knew the most brutal of their lot—Leopard Woman; Mammon, The Twenty Foot Spider; Razor Face: Meat Man, The Man Eating Man Made of Meat; Sharkazoid—couldn’t have killed Herring simply because there wasn’t a lot of blood at the scene and the torso looked surgically detached, not rent off the rest of the body by force. Also, they were sloppy eaters. No way would they have been able—or even willing—to clean the scene afterward. Ant Queen was also out because she would have, to use a human phrase, used all the parts of the buffalo. Or Crab Man, as the case happened to be.
Motive was trickier. Because, to be honest, no one liked Herring very much. He stank, and sometimes he couldn’t control his eye stalks, especially during the best parts of a TV show. And when he ate, it was like someone threw a bunch of coleslaw into a high speed fan. There were still pieces of dried linguine on the scorched tiles from the Academy, crystallized long before the place burned down.
“Couldn’t he have killed himself?” Khotep, the Cursed Mummy said as Ant Queen’s minions passed out the strawberry Jell-O shots. “I mean, if I was him, I would’ve.”
Man Dog stared at him from across the room, where he was seated on a dog bed. Never mind that he was mostly human—he preferred living like a dog most of the time. He found humans and other creatures generally mean. Although, ironically, no one had ever sicced dogs on him. “How would he remove his chest from the rest of him?”
“Especially with those stupid hands of his,” Lizardo the Comet Beast said. “They weren’t even proper claws. They were like fucking safety scissors. He couldn’t cut through shit with them.”
“We’re getting off track,” Diggory said. “One of us killed him.”
“Oh sure, blame the monsters,” Meat Man said. “Why couldn’t some monster hater have broken in here and killed him as a message to all of us?”
They all looked at him, trying to figure out if he was making a joke or not. It was hard to read Meat Man’s expressions because his face was basically a pork chop. In fact, no one was sure how he managed to see, but he seemed to have excellent vision. “Umm, if there was a human within fifty feet of this place, we’d all know it,” Man Dog said.
There were nods and attempted nods all around the room. Most of them ate people, so they usually knew where their food was. “No human would break in here, kill Crab Hands, and leave either,” Khotep said. “That’s idiotic.”
“Thanks for the input, toilet paper man,” Meat Man snapped.
“Can we stop with the stupid bickering?” Diggory asked. “Who killed Doctor Herring?”