“The Man Who Did Nothing” by Karen Traviss
(Originally published in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection.)
Hursley Rise, May 2
There was a boy – five, maybe six – sitting on half a discarded mattress by the kerb as Jeff drove down the road. At first he thought the child was trying to open a bottle of pop, but the closer he got, the better he could see that the boy was making a petrol bomb.
Jeff slowed to a crawl and then stopped. He didn’t dare switch the engine off, not here. A daffodil nodded in the grass at the side of the road and the whine of a power-drill competed intermittently with music throbbing from an open window. The normality didn’t reassure him; he opened the car window about six inches.
The child was trying to thread some rags into the neck of a beer bottle, pausing every so often to hold the bottle up to the light, sigh, and resume his task of working the rag into the neck of the bottle with his index finger.
For a moment Jeff thought about getting out and taking the thing from him. Then an older boy in the latest Manchester United tracksuit walked up to the kid and crouched over him, like a protective elder brother, and took the bottle gently from him. He examined the wick, pushed it further into the bottle and handed it back to the kid.
That was how you did it. Then both boys looked up at Jeff, as if moving as one.
“Antichrist! Fuckin’ antichrist!” they shouted. And the bottle – unlit, mercifully – arced and crashed onto the road just short of the driver’s door. Both boys ran back up the road, not looking back.
Karen Traviss is the author of a dozen New York Times bestsellers, and her critically acclaimed Wess’har books have been finalists five times for the Campbell and Philip K. Dick awards. Her latest novels, Going Grey and Black Run, are military thrillers set in the present day. Her comics work with Batman, Gears of War, and G.I. Joe has earned her a broad range of fans, and she also writes games. A former defense correspondent, newspaper reporter, and TV journalist, she lives in Wiltshire, England. You can find information on her works at karentraviss.com.
About the Narrator:
Ron Jon is a writer, narrator, and singer. He has written and published children’s books, scripts and screenplays for animation and live action, and musical lyrics and libretti. He is a student of strange phenomena/parapsychology, horror, and children’s literature. Ron Jon writes short weird fiction under the name ‘the spectre collector’. See his disturbing videos and hear more of his work on ‘the spectre collector’ blog. Download his disturbing albums on ‘the spectre collector’ Bandcamp site. His latest recordings are ‘the car in the woods’ and ‘the stationmaster’s cottage’.