Authors: Stephen Graham Jones
for my brother Tommy
and for William Colton Hughes
Lazy Fascist Press
An Imprint of Eraserhead Press
205 NE Bryant Street
Portland, Oregon 97211
Copyright © 2013 by Stephen Graham Jones
Cover design copyright © 2013 by Matthew Revert
Cover design by Matthew Revert
Edited by Cameron Pierce
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
Printed in the USA.
Table of Contents
LET’S SEE WHAT HAPPENS: AN INTRODUCTION BY JEREMY ROBERT JOHNSON
Welcome to Open Swim Hour at the ZOMBIE SHARKS WITH METAL TEETH Recreation Center. We hope you enjoy Stephen Graham Jones’ newest interactive exhibit of oddities (aquamarine and otherwise).
Go ahead—dip a toe in the water and watch the ripples spread. Or get your courage up and dive right in, heedless of what might be waiting for you below the surface. Others have done it. They signed the waiver too. So go for it.
Or you can finish this quick orientation. Let me have a second of your time to tell you what you’re about to get into, and what kind of mind would create the book that inspired a place like this. Maybe your odds of survival crawl upwards.
Or maybe the longer we wait and chat, the hungrier these things get. You never know.
You’ll stick around?
Fantastic. Here’s what I know about the book and its author:
ZOMBIE SHARKS WITH METAL TEETH is like zero other books by Stephen Graham Jones. Which also means that it is—in its startling idiosyncrasy—like every book in his catalog. Which is to further say that Stephen Graham Jones has made the noble, ever-insane choice to be a Writer, genres-be-damned (or lovingly embraced, or mutilated, or all of the above).
This is a hard row to hoe, being a Writer. It lacks the comfort of being a genre-specific ham-n-egger, grinding out comfort food with AC/DC dependability. There’s no built-in marketing platform for the Writer, no easy answers for bookshop owners when they’re wondering where the hell to shelve your new meta-fictional crime memoir. And you’ve got to create an audience by sheer will, prolificacy, and the strength of your voice. You have to hope there are readers out there brave enough to follow you down whatever strange roads may call.
Jones is nowhere near the first to attempt such a mad endeavor—genre-and-format-jumping folks like Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, and Joe R. Lansdale have built amazing careers and followings by combining a sterling work ethic with fearless talent. They were brave enough to do what they wanted, and they were great enough to make it look like a sure-footed ascent, even in the deeply strange territories of BELLEFLEUR or THE TERROR or BUBBA HO-TEP. And it must be these precedents that gave Jones the courage to unleash ZOMBIE SHARKS WITH METAL TEETH, his weirdest, wildest book to date.
Much like the mad-but-brilliant scientists in this collection’s titular story, Jones has created the tales here with experimental glee, yielding an astonishing assortment of mutated manuscripts.
The investigational “Let’s see what happens” mentality at play in this collection means that the story about gigantic soul-storing moon-shrimp will also be told by a dime store P.I. It means that elderly love and parenting are monster-mashed to deeper meaning. It means Kafka goes corporate inspector, basset hounds get sexy, and the aliens are popping up everywhere. It means you’ll get your Raymond Carver via dog food therapy and the Please-Let-It-Just-Fucking-Die world of zombie fiction gets repurposed twice in beautifully heart-rending ways. And yeah, there are hamsters.
I’ll just say it—Jones went off the deep end this time. But it’s thrilling to watch an artist dive into their mind’s Marianas Trench and return with exploding oceanic oddities—Coltrane going from devilish smooth to full-stellar squonk, Aphex Twin going from ambient pharmacist to robot brain-masher. And here: Intrepid Writer Stephen Graham Jones going from the assured, human horror of earlier collection THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY to the outstanding aberrations of ZOMBIE SHARKS WITH METAL TEETH.
The How or Why of our decision to actualize ZOMBIE SHARKS WITH METAL TEETH as a Rec Center eludes me. Perhaps we were infected by Jones’ mad momentum. Our own moment of “Let’s See What Happens.”
But here we are, Dearest/Bravest Reader, and you are now present for Stephen Graham Jones’s most awesomely outré exhibit of previously unimagined aquatic life forms. Sure, the sharks are deadlier than ever and the crustaceans have gone Brobdingnagian, but trust me, the water’s…
Honestly, the water’s really fucked up too. That rainbow oil-slick on the surface can’t be good for you. No guarantees—you might come out of there short a limb, or a dearly held tenet of reality. Jones was supposed to be your lifeguard, but he’s already left here to walk some new dark road, and now you’re alone with the weird, wet things.
Really, it was your fault for trusting a Writer—the best of them are devious shapeshifters, and Jones has more skins and voices than we know.
C’est la vie. Head on in. Mind the undertow.
Good Luck and Happy Swimming!
So one day you’re there on the couch doing nothing pretty much, just petting your dog Sheila and shaking you head at J.J. on the television, and then during a commercial for soap you follow your arm down to see what your hand’s up to, and there are your fingers, rolling one of your basset hound’s thick leathery nipples back and forth.
Do you stop all at once or slow down, let your hand just move back to her side like nothing’s happened here? Nothing at all.
And her name isn’t really Sheila either, of course. Nobody would name a dog built like her anything but Cleo, or Tilda.
She’s been gone now for six weeks and five days.
Don’t say her name out loud, quietly.
Okay, don’t say it again.
Just move your hand away from the dog slowly, all one petting motion.
Any moment now.
Just a little longer though, maybe.
Draw the curtains if you have to.
THE AGE OF HASTY RETREATS
These were the days when, if you wanted to survive, you wore a leather or canvas belt, with loops spaced evenly all around it, loops made from shoestrings. You could find the shoestrings everywhere. Every husk of a person lying in the streets, all of them who hadn’t been caught in the shower or doing yoga, they had some kind of footwear on them.
And of course you target the men, because they have laces more often. You don’t so much want the workboot kind of lace, though; they’re unforgiving, can get you killed. No, what you need are the kind that will break away with a flick of your wrist. And, if you’re not sure, then it never hurts to go ahead and cut that loop maybe halfway through, just to be sure. If it snaps too early, while you’re scrambling over a burnt car, diving through a window, then so be it. Like I said, there are shoes everywhere.
As for the belt itself, though, you need something wide. A general rule of thumb is that, if it fits through the loops of your pants, then it’s not sturdy enough. And, anyway, that belt’s going to be carrying maybe thirty pounds of lifesaving for you, and asking it to do that while
pulling your pants down, tripping you up, that’s maybe too much, think?
The kind of belt you want, that works best, it’s the kind that’s made
to go through the loops. Police officers’ are the best bet, though, to avoid the inevitable creaking, you’ll either have to keep them oiled or just ditch all the superhero utility pouches you’re already falling in love with. But, mace, pepper spray—you really think the undead care about their eyes? Not that a pistol isn’t a good idea, in spite of the attention it’ll draw, but, if you’ve got a pistol, then carry that pistol at all times. It’s no good in the holster. And of course always save one round for yourself.
But, since the majority of the police force went down in the first day or two, protecting and serving, you might want to check behind the seats or in the toolboxes of the pickup trucks parked around construction sites. Toolbelts. They’re supple, always already broken in. Just cut or chew the pouches off, adjust the buckle so the belt rides on your hips like a real gunslinger, and you’re ready. Or, as soon as you poke holes (coat hangers work) for the loops of shoe strings, then all that’s left is to raid the pantries, crack open the cat food. It works for all the little animals except squirrels, but who would want a squirrel?
No, domestics are the best, by far. With a single can of cat food, you can often draw in a full load, completely recharge your belt. The zombies can’t catch them, the dogs, the cats, so they’re everywhere, hiding, starving. Just wanting some companionship. Which you can of course provide.
And, sure, let them eat if you want. It’ll make them trust you, maybe even enough that you can pick them up.
As for size, under ten pounds is best, six is about ideal. Next is the hard part: working those small bodies into the loops you’ve fashioned onto your belt. And never by the neck. What use would it be to carry around a cat or lapdog you’ve strangled? That’d be sick, and anyway, zombies don’t like dead flesh. Looping them under the armpits is best. Granted, it leaves their hind legs free to pedal a furrow into your leg or buttocks, but there are ways around that. You can tie their feet together, of course, or just break them, whatever you’re comfortable with. However, if there’s blood from that break, then you’ve spoiled the cat, the puppy (and iguanas are useless, might as well be dead as far as zombies are concerned). Start over, do it right this time. Your life depends on it. And, yes, hopefully you won’t need to use these ‘grenades’ you’re making, but of course, in a more ideal world, the dead wouldn’t be walking either, right? Right.
So, with a full, squirming belt, then just go about living in your usual manner, and, whenever it happens—and it will—that you’re making your mad dash away from whatever horde you’ve stumbled onto, and they’re gaining like they always do, then all you have to do is, without breaking stride, pull on the cat or puppy by whatever your dominant hand is, and splash it down onto the ground. The idea is that you want some of that blood in the air. And, if you’ve broken this pet’s legs, then of course the lead zombie (there’s always a runner) will be on it in a flash, its maw buried in the gore, and if you’ve tied them together, then it’s pretty much the same result.
And, yes, some survivors have rigged complicated loops that both break away
untie the pet’s legs at the same time, thus giving the zombies a
, though gratefully injured distraction, but these knots, all that string—do you really want to trust your escape to whether or not you went under or over before you pulled tight?