An excerpt from
After They’ve Gone
From Strangelet 2.4
He would come for me like it was a date he could demand at any time. He’d shine his lights through my window and barge right in while I was dreaming and stand right there in the middle of my dream, asking, “Can you fill out just one more questionnaire, please?”
Which was exactly what he said when I was awake.
“I’m tired of questionnaires,” I answered.
“Oh, but this one is very good. I worked on it myself. I used some of your suggestions.”
“My suggestions?” I looked at it. “I never made any suggestions. I hate these things.”
I started to read it. “Of course I have hair on my body. Of course I can’t see in the dark. I don’t believe in violence—is that really something anyone ‘believes’ in?”
“You’d be surprised,” he said politely. “Violence is sometimes essential in a society, whether they admit it or not.”
“What about your society?” I asked. “Do they admit it?”
He smiled. “You’re the subject,” he said. “I’m merely the observer.”
“That doesn’t seem like a fair exchange. I want to know things too.”
“What’s the most important thing for you to know?” he prompted me. “How I live? How I feel? How I think? How I mate?”
“I want to know where you go when you die,” I said finally. That wasn’t the most important thing, he was just irritating me.
“I want to know that, too,” he replied…
Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 90 magazines and anthologies, from Alaska Quarterly Review to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has also published four novels and two story collections; her last collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 list. Her next collection, Other Places, which follows women facing strange circumstances on this world and others, will be published by Aqueduct Press later this year.