The figures’ bodies were rigid, as if sitting at a bus stop without an intention to board a bus were normal, as if sitting anywhere in their condition made sense, when by the look of them they needed to be in a hospital or at least in bed, recovering from whatever had happened—
WHERE THE FUCK IS MY GODDAMNED BRIEFCASE!
The man in the suit sat like a regular person on a regular day even though the top of his face, from nose to forehead, was completely obscured by white bandages. Two discolored dots, vaguely yellow, marked the depressions of the eye sockets. The woman in the frilly shirt had bandages on the sides of her head, where her ears should have been.
— “Complicity,” LEAPING AT THORNS
Amir lay on top of the bed wearing nothing but polka-dotted boxer shorts. His handsome build and burnt-gold complexion sprawled listlessly, and until his eyes met hers, she braced herself for an obnoxious line. Then, as his dark, harried expression recognized her own, her brain registered details of his body it had not at first allowed: wasted musculature, subtle trembling, and in neat columns on his limbs and torso, parallel scars like unlinked railroad ties stretched across exposed flesh. They had even found their way to his cheeks and forehead, something she’d been dreading since finding that the lines had spread from her own arms and legs to her stomach.
When the lines get to your face, that’s when you stop coming to work. That’s right before you disappear.
— “Tapestry,” LEAPING AT THORNS
Now came the trick, the coup, the defining stroke—the wriggling of fingers, the wrestling of bone. Quick and precise hands had to plumb the spot-lit depth of the cave carved with care in the bare cavity of Frankie’s chest. They had to slip through slick suppurating incisions and follow the diagrammed path. They had to grasp—gently clasp!—the movement-thick muscle and pull. Screaming, shouting, gurgling, sick, Frankie had to douse his agony, delve directly or die. Pierced, penetrated, rough-hewn bone knocked at his knuckles as, true and unyielding, his hands brought forth the heart, beating, bleeding, and beaten, and impaled it—verily!—on the sharp point of a dirty and dauntless, deft and defiant stick.
— “Heart on a Stick,” LEAPING AT THORNS
The platyhelminth does not reproduce by budding. Herman had read about it online. It reproduces both sexually and asexually. Each proglottid had male and female sex organs and could be filled with hundreds of embryos. The worm might reproduce by fission, breaking off one proglottid, which could then grow into its own worm. Some believed that if you ground up a flatworm and sprinkled it, like parmesan cheese, on a living host, the embryos might enter the body and become new life. Worms could reproduce with other worms, but they didn’t have to. Which sort of procreation the worm preferred was a matter of speculation.
The worm slithered out of Herman’s wrist and blended into his plate of pasta.
— “Worm Would,” LEAPING AT THORNS