The Children of Old Leech Deluxe pre-order spotted in the wild. Courtesy of Anya Martin.
As you might have heard, we’ve got a new anthology landing July 15, The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron. Over the next few weeks, we thought we’d share a brief excerpt to preview each story. These will be dropping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and start today with “The Harrow,” by Gemma Files…
The earth is old and full of holes, Lydie Massenet’s mother used to say, at least once a day, back when she was still Lydie Pell. Its crust is thin, and underneath there’s nothing but darkness. A rind, that’s all we live on; just thin ice, waiting for it to thaw and crack. No need to dig, really—if they want to find you, they will. Never trust anything that comes out of a hole.
And: Okay, Mom, Lydie would say, the way her father had taught her to. That’s good. That’s fine. Then just smile and nod, all the time staring off at nothing much, something invisible—contemplating Mars, he called it—until her mother finally stopped talking.
You have to know this, Lydie, if nothing else, her mother told her. Darkness shifts, darkness conceals; it’s impossible to know what’s hiding inside it, no matter how hard you try. But if history teaches anything, it’s that what we don’t understand, we fear… and what we fear, eventually, we come to worship, if only to keep it in its rightful place. To make sure it doesn’t come after us.
Yes, Mom. Okay. Sure.
’Til, one day: Stop saying that, goddamnit! her mother yelled, and slapped Lydie across the face, so hard her glasses cracked in half. That was the day her father brought Doctor Russ home, the day before her mother went somewhere else—first for a rest, and then, after everything they did to her while she was there had utterly failed to make her well enough to come home again, to stay.
What’s wrong with her, Daddy? Lydie asked her father, at last, to which he only shook his head and sniffed, trying to pretend he hadn’t been crying.
Honey, I wish to God I knew, was all he said, in return. And hugged her a little too long, a little too tight.