Dreams of Shreds and Tatters - Amanda Downum

First published 2015 by Solaris

an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd,

Riverside House, Osney Mead,

Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK



© 2015 Amanda Downum

Cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love

The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the , Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners.

To Howard, for the spark, and to Steven, for the heavy lifting.

And to everyone at Elysium, for keeping me dancing when I needed it most.

Every angel is terrible.

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies

If every angel’s terrible then why do you welcome them?

CocoRosie, “Terrible Angels”

In a perfect world, there are no bad dreams

We fall asleep believing in the same things

For it’s not perfect where we are

No wishes come true from falling stars

God Module, “Image”



HALLOWEEN NIGHT,AND shrieks and howls drifted off Granville Street. Parties staggered in and out of clubs and down the sidewalks, a dizzying confusion of music and laughter and shouting, sequins and feathers, masks and paint. People dressed in shiny new skins, searching for opportunities to shed them. Groping hands and sticky candy kisses, tricks and treats in darkened corners.

Farther south, across the bridge, the chaos thinned and the night stilled. In the dark loft above the Morgenstern Gallery, Blake Enderly leaned against the window, staring through the ghost of his reflection to the street below. Black and orange flyers scattered like fallen leaves across the damp sidewalk, trampled into soggy pulp as a gaggle of late arrivals hurried north to join the press. A pair of pixies in glittering wings and too-short skirts huddled together beneath one umbrella, shouting at their companions to hurry. Their friends—a trio of pirates and a blood-splattered bride—only laughed. A figure in a black cloak and mask trailed behind.

Blake laughed too, a soft chuckle that fogged the rain-streaked glass. A sigh spread the mist further; he envied them the dark and cold and excitement. There were no costumes here tonight, no sweat-fog or throbbing speakers. Only soft music and conversation spilling through the connecting door from the next studio, muted laughter and the unsteady glow of candlelight.

Below, the pixies cursed and left the others behind, the clatter of their heels fading into the night. Their friends followed, until only the man in the mask remained, caught in the glow of a street lamp. He lingered there, looking up.

The tipsy warmth in Blake’s stomach faded, replaced by a prickling chill. He raised a hand to wipe the glass and froze half way, unwilling to move, to draw attention to himself.

Just a man in a mask. But he wasn’t sure it was a man. The mask was a featureless black oval that swallowed light. Everything about the figure was the same matte black, liquid and unbroken. The face had no eyes, but Blake couldn’t shake the certainty that it watched him all the same.

Shuddering, he stepped back. His heel caught an easel frame, and the sudden clatter sent a queasy thrill of adrenaline through him. He grabbed the frame to steady it, saving a canvas from toppling over. When he glanced back at the window, the street was empty.

“Hey.” A shadow filled the doorway, accompanied by a purposeful boot-scuff and the rap of knuckles on the frame.

“Hey,” Blake said. He nearly laughed at himself as his panic faded, but the electric tingle in his fingers lingered. He took a deep breath, letting the layered scents of paint and chalk and chemicals calm him.

“Are you hiding in here?” Alain asked, stepping out of the fall of light into the cool shadows of the studio. His voice was dry and raspy, too deep for his narrow chest. A whiskey-and-cigarettes voice from a dentist’s son who’d never smoked. He did a good Tom Waits karaoke. “You’re not brooding, are you?” A joke, but his eyebrows quirked in a more serious question. Are you all right?

“I’m fine. I just needed a minute.”

Alain moved closer, brushing his shoulder against Blake’s. He held a glass in one hand, and the sharp, bitter fumes cut through the dusty air. “Disappointed?”

About the party, he meant, about the quiet night. Blake had told him stories about Halloweens in Connecticut, the old white house strung with purple and orange lights, bats and ghosts and guardian jack-o-lanterns. The costumes and parties and graveyard