PodCastle 140: Terrible Ones


Terrible Ones

by Tim Pratt

Someone coughed, and Zara opened her eyes and lifted her head. “Holy shit,” she said.

The Greek Chorus was back—when had they gotten on the train? They must have come from another car, creeping quietly, sliding open the adjoining doors without a squeak. Or, more likely, Zara had fallen asleep, and just hadn’t noticed them. They stood in the middle of the aisle, holding onto the grabrail above their heads, though there were any number of empty seats. They all stared at her, silently, swaying a little with the movement of the train.

Zara thought about getting up and going to another car, but what if they followed her? “This had better be a coincidence,” she said. “We just happen to be going in the same direction, right? You aren’t following me, are you?”

The Chorus did not answer, just looked at her. “So, what are you, mimes? You were plenty talkative before. Or are you just frat boys?”

Still no response.

Zara snapped open her purse (black vinyl, decorated with little silvery skulls) and rummaged until she found a mostly used-up tube of lip balm. She held it between her thumb and forefinger, took aim, and threw it at one of the Chorus member’s faces.

The tube bounced off his nose, and he squawked like a bird and flinched away.

“Just fuck off,” Zara said.

“We’ve heard things,” the Chorus said, hesitantly, half of them mumbling, none of them quite in synch. “But only from strangers. Those who carry messages have no power.”

“So you’ve got a message for me, then?” Zara said. “What is this, guerilla marketing? Viral advertising? How much do you get paid?”

“Torrents of blood will fall from the sky. Justice brings new pain; on a fresh whetstone, Fate sharpens her sword. Each charge is countered by another, and who can fairly judge between them? Yet whoever acts must be punished. Such is the law.”

“The only law you should be concerned with is the one against pissing me off,” Zara said. “If you don’t get away from me, I’m going to kick your asses, concurrently or sequentially, whichever you prefer.”

The Chorus member in front, the one she’d hit with her lip balm, said, “Go on. My heart trembles with fear.”

About the Author

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt is the author of over twenty novels, including Heirs of Grace and forthcoming space opera The Wrong Stars. His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places. He’s a Hugo Award winner, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He lives in Berkeley CA and works as a senior editor at Locus, a trade magazine devoted to science fiction and fantasy publishing. For more than two years he’s been publishing a new story every month for supporters at patreon.com/timpratt. That’s where “Six Jobs” first appeared.

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About the Narrator

M.K. Hobson

M.K. Hobson recently decided to follow a time-honored authorial tradition and become a bitter recluse. She swore off all social media and left her website to go to seed. At the moment, she exists only as a voice on short fiction podcasts such as Podcastle and Cast of Wonders. She leavens the tedium of her vastly expanded free time with misanthropy, paranoia, and weight lifting.

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