Vile Affections eBook

Vile Affections eBook

eBook Edition
Illustration By Vincent Locke
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Cover illustration by Ray Troll.

Interior illustrations by Vince Locke.

About Vile Affections:

In Vile Affections, Caitlín R. Kiernan's seventeenth short fiction collection, the boundaries of desire, fascination, passion, and dread collide. That which is beautiful may easily be profane. Those who love us may devour us alive. A shadow may shine like a supernova. The eye of the beholder is God. In these twenty-two stories, Kiernan's trademark range is on display, taking us from submerged and monster-haunted dreamscapes to quiet bedroom conversation between lovers, from unexpected and uncanny roadkill to an object lesson on the perils of picking up hitchhikers on rainy Appalachian nights. Moving deftly between such disparate genres as cyberpunk, fairy tales, and Southern Gothic, this is Kiernan at their eerie best.

From Publishers Weekly:

“Kiernan (Comes a Pale Rider) ties together these 22 shorts with an aesthetic of intimacy, strangeness, eroticism, and lingering mysteries… Kiernan’s beautiful descriptions easily pull readers into each microcosm… Kiernan’s skill at weaving eerie, magical moments shines.”


From Ginger Nuts of Horror:

“Caitlín R. Kiernan is one of the finest writers of Weird fiction across the history of the genre, and each of their new short story collections is a cause to celebrate… Vile Affections is not just another excellent and essential collection of Kiernan’s Weird fiction, it also offers a privileged snapshot into one of the great creative minds of our age.”



Vile Affections Table of Contents:

  • Virginia Story
  • The Line Between the Devil’s Teeth (Murder Ballad No. 10)
  • Day After Tomorrow, the Flood
  • A Chance of Frogs on Wednesday
  • Iodine and Iron
  • Cherry Street Tango, Sweatbox Waltz
  • Untitled 41
  • Theoretically Forbidden Morphologies (1988)
  • King Laugh (Four Scenes)
  • The Lady and the Tiger Redux
  • Which Describes a Looking-Glass and the Broken Fragments
  • Metamorphosis C
  • The Last Thing You Should Do
  • The Tameness of Wolves
  • Untitled 44
  • The Surgeon’s Photo
  • Wisteria
  • Mercy Brown
  • The Great Bloody and Bruised Veil of the World
  • Untitled Psychiatrist No. 4
  • As Water is In Water
  • The Green Abyss



Vile Affections


The Line Between the Devil’s Teeth
(Murder Ballad No. 10)


I feel a pin prick at the nape of my neck, but hardly anything more than a pin prick. I may have winced, but now I honestly can’t recall. It’s an hour before dawn or an hour after midnight; it genuinely does not matter which, and I’m standing at the dormer window in the attic looking south out across the dunes towards the winter sea, and I only may have winced at a pain that was hardly more than a pin prick. There must be stars in that sky. There must be stars beyond counting up there, just as there were last night and every night before, back to the first night I slept in this house and back to the very beginning of time. But I can’t see them. There are no clouds, and there must surely, certainly be stars, but the fact remains that I cannot see them. There’s only the moon, three nights past full on this freezing December evening. The waning moon is a jealous, bloated thing, drooping in the heavens as if it has gorged itself on star flesh and starlight and soon will fall from the sky and lay bobbing in the ocean, a victim of its own unbridled appetites. I shut my eyes and try to remember if I winced. The air in here smells like cobwebs and mildew and regret, and my breath fogs, which is the strangest sort of comfort to me. Beneath the cold white gleam of the moon, the dunes shimmer like parabolic mounds of granulated sugar heaped against the sourness of the sea and a sky filled with voids where devoured stars used to be. The dunes reach almost all the way to the house.



A Chance of Frogs on Wednesday 

Today the sky above the city is in no way different than it was yesterday, or a week ago, or last month, but when I glance up at the clouds hanging too low above the rooftops it seems somehow more threatful than usual and more pregnant with violence. It seems a greyer sort of grey, a broodier grey, as if it knows what I’m carrying in the rolled up brown paper bag clutched in my right hand. As if the sky is a thing that can care about what men do and why they do it. I don’t like to think that it is any such thing, but I pride myself on never placing too much stock in what I do not actually know for a fact. And I don’t know for a fact that the sky – or some brooding intelligence behind the sky – is not watching jealously, angrily, resentfully, as I make my way along deserted, trash-strewn St. Elder Street. Thinking these thoughts, I grip the bag a little more tightly, and I hold it closer to my chest. I try not to think on it too hard. And I try not to think about where I’m going, and I try not to think about…but it’s like my father used to say: Try not to think about a white bear, and the first thing you know you’re gonna be staring one in the face. He read that somewhere, he said. My father was a man who could read. My father was a man who had once traveled beyond the city, before the sky was always grey. It occurs to me that I should also try not to think about my father. But he is like a white bear, in that respect, and so is the paper bag, and the jar inside the paper bag, and the thing inside the jar.



Iodine and Iron 

I am old now, or near enough, and thinking back upon very young things. I have all about me the false security of daylight, and from daylight I recall darkness. I recall the house where we lived as children, where we grew up and remained when our parents had finally gone, the great, rambling house in the woods, the house between the mountains. The house that lay always in shadow, where the summer never seemed to reach, but which seemed always caught up in bitter, wet Southern winters, no matter the season.



Cherry Street Tango, Sweatbox Waltz 

The hotel room is hot as blue blazes, and it smells hot, and it also smells simultaneously of dust and mildew, both dry and damp. The room is, in fact, almost unbearably hot, and I sit on this sofa, alone in my private darkness and I sweat and listen to the radio. Usually, there’s only music, jazz from a hundred years ago, discord and jangle and a thousand arrhythmic anti-harmonies on piano and clarinet and baritone saxophone that seem composed to mock my disorientation. But then I am a paranoid woman. It comes with the job, the paranoia. That is, either you bring it with you to the job or you pick it up soon afterwards – or you don’t live very long. And sometimes you don’t live very long anyway.



The Surgeon’s Photo 
(Murder Ballad No. 12) 

At twilight, the lake is so black it may as well be a vast spill of India ink as however many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of gallons of mere water it might actually be. Looking out across the lake, flat and calm, flat as glass, just as it is black as ink, I think how it looks like a hungry, caged thing. Caught here in the narrow hollow between one sandstone ridge and the next, hemmed in by the tall trees, the lake is fed every minute of every day and every night by all the little trickling streams flowing down from high places and by subterranean springs and by rain whenever there is rain. The lake is always feeding, always drinking, and it still manages to look so awfully hungry and thirsty. I suspect I’m mixing metaphors right and left. I also suspect it hardly matters. I climb into the flat-bottom aluminum boat, untie the frayed nylon rope from the railroad spike that’s serving as a cleat, and then use one of the oars to push away from the short, crooked pier. Near as I can tell, I’m alone out here this July evening.



The Great Bloody and Bruised Veil of the World 

Driving too fast, even if the roads are dry and even if the sky is clear and blue. Even if the sky is without even one single merciful cloud, razor blue, blistering blue, and the late spring Alabama sun good as summer shining down. Driving too fast, because I’m not sober, and I can at least pretend it’s possible to run from myself, even if I’m right here next to me all the time. Hardly an hour now since the phone call. “Didn’t you know? Jesus, I thought you knew. I thought…I thought…I thought…” And so now I am not sober and racing over the steep, winding mountain roads, roads too steep, curves too sharp, sharp as the blue of the sky. It crosses my mind that maybe I have not been this careless since high school, and certainly I have not been this careless since college. Oh, I was careless, once upon a time, before I had my hands slapped sufficiently and frequently enough by consequence to learn better. I was reckless, and now I am a reckless driver, running from herself along this two-lane black band laced between the tall green trees…

Vincent Locke
Caitlin R. Kiernan
384 pages
eBook Edition