PodCastle 152: The Hortlak

by Kelly Link.
Read by Eric Luke (of the Extruding America podcast).
Originally appeared in Ellen Datlow’s ghost story anthology The Dark.
Read the text here

Recently Batu had evolved past the need for more than two or three hours’ sleep, which was good in some ways and bad in others. Eric had a suspicion he might figure out how to talk to Charley if Batu were tucked away, back in the storage closet, dreaming his own sweet dreams, and not scheming schemes, doing all the flirting on Eric’s behalf, so that Eric never had to say a thing.

Eric had even rehearsed the start of a conversation. Charley would say, “Where’s Batu?” and Eric would say, “Asleep.” Or even, “Sleeping in the closet.”

Charley’s story: she worked night shifts at the animal shelter. Every night, when Charley got to work, she checked the list to see which dogs were on the schedule. She took the dogs—any that weren’t too ill, or too mean—out for one last drive around town. Then she drove them back and she put them to sleep. She did this with an injection. She sat on the floor and petted them until they weren’t breathing anymore.

When she was telling Batu this, Batu sitting far too close to her, Eric not close enough, Eric had this thought, which was what it would be like to lie down and put his head on Charley’s leg. But the longest conversation that he’d ever managed with Charley was with Charley on one side of the counter, him on the other, when he’d explained that they weren’t taking money anymore, at least not unless people wanted to give them money.

Rated R.

Editors’ Note: When this story was originally posted, somehow iTunes (and possibly other podcatchers) grabbed the wrong audio file. If the file you have is under 60 minutes, try re-downloading it. The correct file should be 70 minutes.