Peter J. Atwood fiction

A few years after leaving a career in publishing, I decided to start writing. When I look back, my earliest editing project—self-publishing a small collection in university—was also a writing experience. Things, it seems, have a way of coming full circle. If you'd like to read any of these stories, just drop me a line.

Fiction › Excerpts

All In

From the center of the room, I heard the riffle of cards. I shook my head. Baldy looked at me with surprise.

“It’s empty,” I said, handing him the tub. A white vapor stream from the dry-ice inside escaped through a crack in the lid and slid down the side like an evaporating snake.

Baldy set the tub under the desk with the other containers, then flipped to the last page of my stapled paperwork. “Everyone here is lung cancer,” he commented.

Published in June 2008 in Weird Tales and podcast on The Drabblecast. Nominated for an Aurora Award.

Artifact

It was featureless, smooth, black, but giving no reflection. He touched it. Starbursts danced across his eyes. What had first appeared as fireworks had resolved into geometries. He lay his palm against the black surface and closed his eyes. Circles, triangles, and rectangles—retinal negatives—ordered themselves, searching according to some logic. A pattern of circles and dots hit on a childish outline of a face: a loop enclosing two bright specks and an oval mouth. The mouth flattened and turned up its corners in a smile.

Published in the July 2010 issue of Apex Magazine and anthologized in Descended from Darkness: Vol II from Apex Book Company.

Dead Regret

“Yeah,” Tony said. “He’s a foreigner, we think.”

“He’s a stuck up prig, is what he is,” Gus said. “Didn’t want to shake my hand.”

“You should have slugged him,” Jo said. She propped her elbows on the counter, leaning in.

“I almost did, Jo. I almost did.”

Broadcast in May 2014 on the Crime City Central podcast (Episode 94). Have a listen.

Open Mic

He sat on the stool, and we all glanced away. I waved for Lee to come clear my lunch and bring my beer. The man said something. Then he raised his glasses to find the switch on the mic. It thudded alert, and he leaned his lips against it and repeated himself in a deep George Carlin voice. “Have you ever wanted to kill your wife?” he said.

The Angel Job

Julian hurried beside him on the way to the street corner. He grabbed Gus’s arm. “It’s the language of angels!”

“Geez, Julian!” He switched his coffee to the other hand. “I don’t know what you mean. ‘The language of angels.’ That doesn’t help me.”

“It’s Edward Kelly. I did some research. He worked for the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague. This is four hundred years ago. He was an alchemist. He could talk to angels.”

The Mayan Eclipse

Lightning flooded the room. A figure stood by the tub. An overexposed negative, it was gone before it was there. It was the priest from the bowl. He wore a triangular skirt and bands on his biceps. His hands were raised above a mask crowned with feathers. In the tub behind lay Jacinto. Thunder cracked. In the figure’s up-stretched hands, lightning glinted from a sharp triangular blade.

The Nora Iterations

Her hair was black, her face and make-up air-brushed, a concession he assumed to ease the rendering demands on his lenses. The park was wet with the leftovers of a spring shower, and even though she was immune to the lingering threat of rain, she had dressed appropriately in a past-era car coat, her owner’s logo discretely pinned to the lapel.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“You don’t mean my apparent age, do you?”

“No,” he said. Her apparent age was a prim early thirties. “When did ... when were you created?”

My Wife Is Not a Spy

My wife is not a spy. She does have top secret clearance and, at times, I have first learned about an incident at work on our walk to the grocery store, out of range of the bugs it was best to assume were in the apartment.

A guest blog entry for Jeff Vandermeer at Ecstatic Days.