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Black Pockets: And Other Dark Thoughts [NOOK Book]


In this masterful collection of horror stories, George Zebrowski divides these nineteen tales into Personal, Political, and Metaphysical terrors -- stories to scare you individually, stories to frighten you as a social animal, and stories that should terrify the entire human race.

In “I Walked with Fidel,” a young man encounters a once politically powerful zombie; “Jumper” focuses on a young woman with a dark and troubled past; while in “The ...
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Black Pockets: And Other Dark Thoughts

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In this masterful collection of horror stories, George Zebrowski divides these nineteen tales into Personal, Political, and Metaphysical terrors -- stories to scare you individually, stories to frighten you as a social animal, and stories that should terrify the entire human race.

In “I Walked with Fidel,” a young man encounters a once politically powerful zombie; “Jumper” focuses on a young woman with a dark and troubled past; while in “The Coming of Christ the Joker,” the light-hearted banter of a celebrity TV talk show becomes something far more serious. “A Piano Full of Dead Spiders” is an eerie story of genius, its demands, and its delusions; in “Passing Nights,” the truth behind a recurring nightmare is revealed; “The Soft Terrible Music” depicts a man who must hide his past even from himself. And in the title story, the novella “Black Pockets,” Zebrowski asks: What happens to a man when his desire for revenge becomes all-consuming?

With an introduction by Howard Waldrop and an afterword by the author, George Zebrowski reveals himself in BLACK POCKETS AND OTHER DARK THOUGHTS as a writer who can play upon our more disturbing emotions even as he impels us to deeper thoughts. 
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
While genre icon George Zebrowski may be best known for his science fiction works "of Stapledonian magnitude" (as described by Howard Waldrop in the collection's foreword) -- Macrolife, Brute Orbits, Cave of Stars, et al. -- he is also an accomplished horror writer. Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts is not only Zebrowski's first-ever compilation of horror stories, it's one of the most thematically diverse and profoundly thought-provoking collections of speculative fiction to come along in years.

The book is divided into three sections -- Personal, Political, and Metaphysical -- which include stories about individual terrors, societal horrors, and (according to Waldrop) "stories that should scare the whole goddamn human race." Noteworthy selections include "I Walked with Fidel," a story about a deposed and terminally ill Castro continuing life as a glassy-eyed zombie; and "The Coming of Christ the Joker," which chronicles the Second Coming of Jesus as he suddenly materializes on The Larry King Show and discusses the "bureaucratization of ethics" with King and fellow guest Gore Vidal. A troubled executive with a bizarre sleeping disorder confronts her deepest fears in "Jumper," and "A Piano Full of Dead Spiders" explores the increasingly disturbed mind of a renowned pianist as he searches for his lost creative spark.

As if the 19 stories included in Black Pockets and Other Dark Thoughts weren't enough, the spectacular cover art by legendary artist Bob Eggleton makes this limited-run short story collection an absolutely essential addition to the libraries of horror and science fiction fans alike. Paul Goat Allen
Publishers Weekly
Veteran SF author Zebrowski (Macrolife) probes the nether reaches of horror in this outstanding story collection. Spanning three decades and divided into "Personal Terrors," "Political Horrors" and "Metaphysical Fears," these 19 disturbing tales treat "the greatest horrors that dwell inside us," or what Zebrowski calls "our jailed innards." From "The Wish in the Fear," a story of heartbreak and alienation, through "The Soft Terrible Music," a searing portrait of the fate of dissidents, to the soul-shaking "Interpose," a wholly new look at Jesus Christ, Zebrowski treats the psychological enigma of the look-alike Other-or perhaps what he calls "the fault in us" responsible for mankind's crimes. Clearly displayed also is Zebrowski's deep sympathy for the underdog, whether the starving Polish zoo animals in his ferocious allegory "General Jarulzelski at the Zoo" or the helpless female trapped by her reproductive system in "First Love, First Fear." The title story sums up humanity's Faustian fascination with power, forcing those fearful glimpses into what we all would rather not see: ourselves. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480494824
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 682
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

George Zebrowski’s more than forty books include novels, short fiction collections, anthologies, and a book of essays.

Science fiction writer Greg Bear calls him “one of those rare speculators who bases his dreams on science as well as inspiration,” and the late Terry Carr, one of the most influential science fiction editors of recent decades, described him as “an authority in the SF field.” Zebrowski has published about a hundred works of short fiction and more than a hundred and forty articles and essays, and has written about science for Omni Magazine. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, Science Fiction Age, Nature, the Bertrand Russell Society News, and many other publications.

His best known novel is MACROLIFE (Harper & Row, 1979), which Arthur C. Clarke described as “a worthy successor to Olaf Stapledon’s STAR MAKER. It’s been years since I was so impressed. One of the few books I intend to read again.” Library Journal chose MACROLIFE as one of the one hundred best science fiction novels, and The Easton Press included it in its “Masterpieces of Science Fiction” series. Zebrowski’s stories and novels have been translated into a half-dozen languages; his short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. STRANGER SUNS (Bantam, 1991) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
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Read an Excerpt

Black Pockets:

And Other Dark Thoughts

By George Zebrowski


Copyright © 2009 George Zebrowski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-9482-4




She looked directly at him as she spoke, and it seemed clear that he was dealing with an unusually controlled personality. She wore an impeccably tailored tweed business suit, white blouse, blue tie, and black shoes. Her brown hair was professionally permed; her make-up was light, with almost no lipstick. He gazed at her without comment, hoping to catch a moment of weakness in her facade, but there was nothing.

"Well, Doctor, what do you think?"

He smiled. "Oh, I doubt very much that you're traveling in any way. You're already there, where you wake up, but you've dreamed that you started somewhere else. Naturally, it seems surprising to find yourself where you actually are."

"That is not the case, Doctor," she replied determinedly.

"Miss Melita, you're simply mistaking where you go to bed, nothing more."

She grimaced, as if she'd caught him at something. "You avoid calling me by my first name, or Ms. Melita. I once went to an idiot in your profession who insisted that I use his first name. Do I intimidate you, Doctor?"

"Not at all. I'm not hung up on the authority of formal address. Some of my colleagues like it. Others simply want the patient to feel informal and relaxed."

"Yes, they call patients by first names but introduce themselves as Dr. so-and-so."

"I'll go by your preferences."

She stared at him without blinking, and he knew that it would be Miss Melita and Dr. Cheney. An old-fashioned female who might need rescuing from herself. The immaturity of the thought startled him, and he realized that she was having a strong, unconscious effect on him.

He looked at her file on his desk. "I see that your physical checks out well, and you have no reported history of sleep disturbances."

"Doctor, I have no memory of going to the places where I wake up. I waken there and have to come home. Yesterday I woke up in my ex-lover's house. It was empty and for sale. I'm certain I was home when I fell asleep."

"These kinds of things can be very convincing," he said. "Were you wearing pajamas?"

"Of course not. I go to bed wearing clothes, just in case. I've jumped more than a dozen times in the past few months."

"What do you think it is?" he asked in his best neutral tone.

"I don't know. Movement from one place to another without covering the distance between," she replied glibly.

"A kind of quantum leap?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's a term from physics," he said. Patients sometimes like to give, or hear rational-sounding explanations. Imaginative plausibility could be a sign of delusion.

"Who cares," she said. "It happens. I know it does. The first few times were pretty embarrassing." Her tone was insistent, but she kept her composure.

"What do you think it means?"

"I sometimes feel as if I'm searching for the right place to be," she said, "but it keeps eluding me. I wake up in the wrong places."

"Is there a right place?" he asked.

"I don't know. I can't think where it might be, but I feel strongly that it exists."

"Doesn't that give you a clue?" he asked, setting in motion his usual probing rigmarole.

"What could it tell me?"

"You may be hiding it from yourself," he said.

"I've thought of that. It may be a place I only know about, but have never visited."

"And you may not really want to go there, while at another level you do. Anyone can be of two minds, Miss Melita. I can see, whatever is going on, that this search is important to you. My job will be to keep you from deluding yourself."

"You're confident I'll take you on," she said.

"Shall we set up a schedule? I charge by the hour, five hours paid in advance."

She looked at him with skepticism. "I know you're expensive, Doctor. I'd like to set a deferred-payment plan."

He smiled at the first hint of insecurity in her voice. "Ah, but payments are part of the treatment, Miss Melita. They sow an attitude of responsibility in your unconscious, making it a partner in your recovery. You'll get better sooner."

There was a blush in her pale cheeks, suggesting that she was responding to his authority, even accepting that she might have a problem.

She stood up, as if to leave. "What a crock, Doctor. I simply don't want them to know at work that I'm seeing you, so I can't use my medical coverage. I can start paying next month, when I can draw on my savings. Anyway, you don't believe me."

She was beautiful, he noticed, slim yet womanly, standing on low heels in a dancer's graceful pose, her back slightly arched, toes out a little.

"Are you successful, Doctor?" she demanded.

"I'd like to think I am," he replied calmly.

"How long do you sleep?"

"Oh, I'd say about eight hours."

"Really successful people sleep less than five or six," she said.

She begrudges herself sleep, he noted, drives herself and others hard. Her lapses of memory were not surprising.

"I'd say your business has leveled off," she continued, "and may even be on the way down. You're heavy into investments as a hedge against a practice that won't grow. You're doing well at them, but they have to be fed. You could go either way in the next few years."

He leaned back and smiled, trying not to think of what tax reform had done to his portfolio, determined not to show her she'd hit home.

"We're off the point, Miss Melita."

She sat down and crossed her legs. "Yes, of course. My only interest is in your competence."

Competitive chatter was a habit with her, he realized.

"I can prove to you that I jump," she said, with a tremor in her voice.

"You're welcome to try," he said, "but only if I'm to be your doctor, and I'm not sure I want to take you on."

She swallowed, and he watched the muscles working in her pale throat. "Doctor, I apologize for my remarks about your business and character." She leaned forward slightly. "I don't know why this is happening to me, Doctor, but you could easily check my story. I have videotapes of me disappearing from my bed."

"Look," he said firmly, "it's just not possible for you to move yourself while you're asleep, unless you get up and convey yourself there. I know you believe you've disappeared from one location and appeared in another, but, take my word for it, it's not a true experience, not at all, never. Videotapes can be faked."

"Okay, come home with me, lock me in my bedroom, and wait. When I call you from somewhere else the next morning you'll know it's true."

He knew then that he should not take her case. Simple neurotics made the best patients; they asked for help with life's problems and only thought they were sick. They could be made to feel helped. If this woman could imagine that she teleported from her bedroom every night, it would be nothing for her to imagine worse things. To go to her home at night would be asking for a sexual-harassment suit.

"I'll pay you six months in advance," she said, "next month."

"Can you afford it?" he asked, wondering if in fact she wanted him to come on to her.

"No, I told you it'll be my savings, but I must prove that what happens to me is real. Then I'll need you to find out why it happens. Okay, I can't be completely sure it happens unless someone like you documents it."

He sighed, unable to decide.

"This could make your name, Doctor. You'll witness a disorder that exhibits itself in a unique way. You'll write about it, go on talk shows, bring in more patients. Hell, you might not need patients after that."

He shook his head and smiled. "I shouldn't take your money. What do you do, Miss Melita? Your entry on my form is vague."

"I'm an executive at a telecommunications company."

"Here in New York?"

"Yes. I've taken a leave of absence for six weeks."

"Are you lesbian?" he asked.

"That's not your business unless you take my case."

He leaned forward. "Do you really want help, Miss Melita?"

She sat back in her chair, uncrossed her legs, and folded her hands in her lap. "Yes, I'm lesbian, but I've had male lovers. It never works out, even though I'm attracted to some men and try hard. Not because they find out, but for other reasons. I can't be orgasmic with men. They're too threatening."

"Were you raised by both parents?"

"No, by my father. My mother died when I was small, just after we arrived in this country. My brother ran away when I was ten, and I've not seen him since."

"Is your father living?"

"Yes," she said softly.

"Okay, I'll take you on," he said. Her story had made him curious. How could a person of her obvious intelligence and good sense, who gave no sign of illness, tell such a flaky tale? "Make an appointment," he added, "for the day after you've had this experience of yours again."

"You don't want to check my story?" she asked.

"Not by sitting up all night at your place," he said, imagining the softness of her skin under her blouse.

"It's the only sure way to find out."

"Miss Melita, I'd have to ask a colleague to come with me, or hire a nurse of unquestioned integrity to serve as a witness. Maybe I'd need them both to prove that my presence was purely professional."

She bit her lower lip. "Oh, I see. But you already know I wouldn't be interested in you, Doctor."

"Do call and make an appointment, Miss Melita."

As she got up and left, he realized that there would be no more to it. She'd see him a few times and then stop coming. He felt a bit lost and disappointed for the rest of the day.

When she arrived for her first appointment on the following Monday, dressed in jogging clothes, his insides leaped with naive joy at the sight of her. Gone was the executive bitch facade. The big kid who showed up in her place was much more appealing and clearly in need of his help.

"Oh, the clothes," she said, noticing his stare. "I slept in them, so I could get home."

He looked down at his desk to hide his sudden rush of attraction for her. Her change from cool executive to willowy athlete both excited and annoyed him; he had never become this vulnerable with a patient.

"There's been a change," she said, dropping into the chair.

"What kind of change?" he asked uneasily.

"I was dreaming about dying before I woke up in a park somewhere in Brooklyn."

"A park?" he asked stupidly, watching her lips and the movement of her neck muscles. Her sweaty youthfulness was overpowering.

"I think it was a park. It was still dark when I left, so I wasn't paying much attention. Doctor, I think I'm going to die." She looked directly at him. The dismay in her eyes was crushing, but in a perverse way it only made her more beautiful.

"Nonsense," he managed to say reassuringly, but the word only seemed to reproach his own impulses. "You're just escaping from overwork. That's what these jumping dreams mean. How are things at your job? You have taken your leave, haven't you?"

"I can't take off just yet," she said pitiably. "Maybe next week."

"When was the first time you had this jumping dream?" he asked, making a mental note to check a few facts in her file.

She swallowed hard. "They're not dreams," she said softly, staring at the carpet.

"Please go on."

"First time was when I was a girl. My father came to my room and began touching me. I was terrified. Later that night I woke up and found myself in a neighbor's house."

She did not look at him, and he knew that she was still her father's prisoner. The need to escape him had set a pattern of wish fulfillment. Any kind of pressure, even that of the workplace, still triggered the abused child's dreams of escape. Slowly, he would make her understand.

"I can help you," he said. "In time you won't have these dreams, and you'll know that's all they were. It may seem hard for you to accept that now, but you'll learn it for yourself."

A look of anger came into her face as she looked up at him. She bit her lower lip, as if confronting something within herself. "I hated him for touching me, and I hated him even more later, when I understood."

"Did you ever say anything to him?"

She shook her head, unable to speak for a moment. "He died before I could. I don't know why I lied to you about his still being alive. I'm sorry."

"That's okay, you've repaired it."

She smiled desolately. "He got away from me, didn't he?"

"You're getting better," he said during their fifth session. "No dreams for weeks now."

She shrugged. "It's happened before. Doctor, you must come to my place and wake me before I jump again, tonight." There was no doubt in her voice. It worried him that she still refused to accept the fact that she was only dreaming of jumping.

"You don't expect me to sit at your bedside, do you?"

"I'll pay you extra, but it must be tonight."

"I can't get a nurse on such short notice."

"Then give me a release to sign, anything. I can't be alone tonight. I can feel it coming on." She took a deep breath, and her right hand shook slightly.

"Perhaps you're right," he heard himself saying. "If I can wake you up, then you'll be sure it's just a dream."

"If you can do so in time."

"What time should I arrive?" he asked.

"No later than eleven."

They sat quietly for a few moments. She stared past him, out the window. He tried to ignore his feelings for her, think of her only as a patient, but he couldn't shake her attraction. He wanted to hold her, kiss her gently, free her from her past. Warnings crowded into him, but he ignored them.

Her East Side apartment building was bright with lights when his cab pulled up. The architecture reminded him of egg boxes. Soft creatures called people lived in the private chambers. He felt a bit useless and infantile as he paid the driver and walked toward the glass entrance. Doubts slipped through him. How could he presume to know another's mind? They were all ever-changing labyrinths, his own included. His professional knowledge permitted nothing more than a form of organized insisting, a sublime version of parental scolding. His training was a weak imposition on a beast that was ancient and sure in its ways, always ready to overcome its displacement. It lay coiled and waiting for everyone. He was no exception.

The doorman's scrutiny made him uneasy, but finally he was in the elevator, on his way to the thirtieth floor. She was waiting for him at the door of her apartment, dressed in jogging clothes, newly laundered, by their smell.

"I'm really beat," she said, as she locked the door and led him through the living room into the bedroom. "All my keys are in the safe. Here's the spare. Check the front door again, so you'll know I can't get out. Is that scientific enough for you?" The sarcasm in her voice wounded him.

"You'd have to fly to get out of here," he said, looking through the window at the East River.

"There are books by the desk," she said, getting into bed. "The light won't bother me."

She closed her eyes. He stood over her, watching her face, waiting for it to relax, but there was no change. It remained composed, oblivious to his eyes. He felt lost, on guard over a plundered fortress.

There seemed to be a lump in bed with her. He waited, then lifted the blanket slightly. She did not react. He peered under and saw that she was holding a small fluorescent light, the kind mechanics used when they worked under cars. He put back the blanket and went over to the desk.

He sat down and went through the motions of selecting a book from the small bookcase at his left. There was nothing of immediate interest. He sat still, listening to her gentle breathing and began to grapple again with his feelings for her. Tenderness struggled with simple desires. It seemed that she was everything he had missed, making him feel deprived and alone. It was an old pattern with him, going back to his college days. He had considered it broken by the time he had entered medical school, yet here he was again, all but alone in a room on a Friday night, fantasizing as he had done in his freshman days.

There were some papers on her desk blotter, and he found himself looking through them to distract himself from self-pity and the thought of her in the bed behind him, warm and soft under the covers. There was an old clipping, a death notice giving the date of birth and the date of death, including the man's profession and the name of the cemetery where he was buried. The yellowing paper dropped from his fingers as he realized that he could no longer hear her breathing.

He turned around, but the desk light had affected his eyes, making the room black. He waited, then got up and went to the bed.

It was empty.

He looked around, wondering if she could have crept past him in the dark, but then he saw that the covers had not been disturbed.


Excerpted from Black Pockets: by George Zebrowski. Copyright © 2009 George Zebrowski. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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