The Surgeon’s Tale
by Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer
Down by the docks, you can smell the tide going out–surging from rotted fish, filth, and the briny sargassum that turns the pilings a mixture of purple and green. I don’t mind the smell; it reminds me of my youth. From the bungalow on the bay’s edge, I emerge most days to go beach-combing in the sands beneath the rotted piers. Soft crab skeletons and ghostly sausage wrappers mostly, but a coin or two as well.
Sometimes I see an old man when I’m hunting, a gangly fellow whose clothes hang loose. As though his limbs were sticks of chalk, wired together with ulnar ligaments of seaweed, pillowing bursae formed from the sacs of decaying anemones that clutter on the underside of the pier’s planking.
I worry that the sticks will snap if he steps too far too fast, and he will become past repair, past preservation, right in front of me. I draw diagrams in the sand flats to show him how he can safeguard himself with casings over his fragile limbs, the glyphs he should draw on his cuffs to strengthen his wrists. A thousand things I’ve learned here and at sea. But I don’t talk to him–he will have to figure it out from my scrawls when he comes upon them. If the sea doesn’t touch them first.
He seems haunted, like a mirror or a window that shows some landscape it’s never known. I’m as old as he is. I wonder if I look like him. If he too has trouble sleeping at night. And why he chose this patch of sand to pace and wander.
I will not talk to him. That would be like talking to myself: the surest path to madness.
About the Authors
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning writer with books published in over 20 countries. He has collaborated on short films with rock groups like The Church, has had his fiction adapted for promotional purposes by Playstation Europe (by filmmaker Joel Veitch), and writes for the Amazon book blog, io9, New York Times Book Review and The Washington Post, among others.
Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her 2018 works include Hearts of Tabat (novel, WordFire Press), Moving From Idea to Finished Draft (nonfiction, Plunkett Press) and the updated 3rd edition ofCreating an Online Presence for Writers (nonfiction, Plunkett Press). For more about her, as well as links to her fiction and her popular online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, see her website kittywumpus.net
About the Narrator
Graeme Dunlop is a Software Solution Architect. Despite his somewhat mixed accent, he was born in Australia. He loves the spoken word and believes it has the ability to lift the printed word above and beyond cold words on a page. He and Barry J. Northern founded Cast of Wonders in 2011 and can be found narrating or hosting the occasional episode, or working on projects behind the scenes. He is a former co-editor and co-host of PodCastle and has read stories for all of Escape Artists podcasts.
Graeme lives in Melbourne, Australia with his wife Amanda, and crazy boy dog, Jake.