Story: “The Crawling Sky” by Joe R. Lansdale
Wood Tick wasn’t so much a town as it was a wide rip in the forest. The Reverend Jebidiah Mercer rode in on an ebony horse on a coolish autumn day beneath an overcast sky of humped up, slow-blowing, gun-metal-gray clouds; they seemed to crawl. It was his experience nothing good ever took place under a crawling sky. It was an omen, and he didn’t like omens, because, so far in his experience, none of them were good.
Before him, he saw a sad excuse for a town: a narrow clay road and a few buildings, not so much built up as tossed up, six altogether, three of them leaning south from northern winds that had pushed them. One of them had had a fireplace of stone, but it had toppled, and no one had bothered to rebuild it. The stones lay scattered about like discarded cartridges. Grass, yellowed by time, had grown up through the stones, and even a small tree had sprouted between them. Where the fall of the fireplace had left a gap was a stretch of fabric, probably a slice of tent; it had been nailed up tight and it had turned dark from years of weather.
In the middle of the town there was a wagon with wooden bars set into it and a flat heavy roof. No horses. Its axle rested on the ground, giving the wagon a tilt. Inside, leaning, the Reverend could see a man clutching at the bars, cursing as a half dozen young boys who looked likely to grow up to be ugly men were throwing rocks at him. An old man was sitting on the precarious porch of one of the leaning buildings, whittling on a stick. A few other folks moved about, crossing the street with the enthusiasm of the ill, giving no mind to the boys or the man in the barred wagon.
Joe R. Lansdale is the author of more than forty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in more than two dozen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited more than a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. His novella Bubba Ho-Tep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, and the film adaptation of his novel Cold in July was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. A television series based on his Hap and Leonard novels will debut in 2016 on SundanceTV.
He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman; and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero. He is Writer In Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University, and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, the Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.
Learn more about him at joerlansdale.com.
About the Narrator:
Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film Explorers, which is currently in development as a remake, the comic books Ghost and Wonder Woman, and wrote and directed the Not Quite Human films for Disney TV. His current project Interference, a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook… that kills, is now available on Audible.com.