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Igms issue 43, p.9

IGMS Issue 43, page 9


IGMS Issue 43

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  "I'm not stupid," Beatrice said the next morning. "I know you saved my life."

  "There are dangerous things in the swamp."

  She kicked a stone over the side of the bridge. Its splash was faint beneath the heavy patter of the rainfall. "You'll keep me safe."

  The ghastly thing moved deeper into the shadows. Beatrice confused it. She never said things that were easy to understand.

  "And I know another thing," she said. "You're too brave to live under a bridge."

  Although there were no breaks in the clouds, and the rain remained constant, the sky appeared a tiny bit brighter.

  "I think it will stop raining soon," Beatrice said.


  "Do you think it will stop for long this time?"


  "Why not? Last time, the rain stopped long enough for me to skip all the way around my house. Maybe this time the rain will stop forever."

  "The rain always starts up again."

  Beatrice considered this. "If it doesn't, will you come out from under the bridge?"


  "Because everything would be different without the rain. You could be different too."

  The ghastly thing snorted. It scratched itself. It knew what it was: a ghastly thing too dreadful to gaze upon. It didn't want to be different.

  The sky continued to lighten. The rain never fully let up, but occasionally, a beam of sunlight penetrated the clouds and lit a patch of swampland.

  The ghastly thing wondered if Beatrice might be right. The rain had always restarted in the past, but who could say if it would do so again?

  The ghastly thing spent a little time each morning clearing the area around the bridge of all hunting beasts.

  When Beatrice arrived, it didn't like how energetic her movements were on top of the bridge. It expected her to bound down the embankment again to try to catch a glimpse of it.

  "I had an idea," she said. "You could wear a mask. That way, you could leave the bridge and you wouldn't hurt anyone."

  "A mask?"

  "Yes. I already made you one." She dropped a dark bundle over the side of the bridge.

  The ghastly thing retrieved it to find a cutting of ratty brown fabric stitched into a hood. Ten eye-holes had been removed from the front and a dozen more cuts had been made in the top for spikes and horns.

  "I guessed where all the holes should be," Beatrice said. "Will you wear it?"

  "I don't know," the ghastly thing said.

  "I have a question," Beatrice said one afternoon. Her voice took on a serious tone, so the ghastly thing put down the swamp-fish it had been gnawing on and waited. "Are you a boy-thing or a girl-thing?"

  It thought about her question, then shook its head. "I don't know. Why?"

  "Never mind. Doesn't matter."

  "It doesn't?"

  "I just thought maybe we could be married one day."

  "You should marry someone from your village. If you married me, you would die."

  "I don't like anyone in my village." Her voice hitched. "Besides, if we were married, you couldn't kill me. We'd be in love."

  The following morning, the ghastly thing looked up at the sky. The blackest clouds had moved off and the cloud layer above appeared monotonous and gray.

  When Beatrice arrived, the ghastly thing could tell she had something to say, so it waited under the bridge for her to get around to it.

  "I don't mind dying, you know." She threw a stone off the bridge. It plopped into the swamp and disappeared with a burp.


  "Nope. If I died, the village elders would sink me in the water, like they did with my mother. But I'd be dead, so it wouldn't matter."

  The ghastly thing picked some gristle out of its teeth with a fishbone. "Okay."

  "I just wanted you to know I'm not afraid."


  Beatrice threw another rock that didn't reach the swamp. It rattled into the brush and out of sight. "You shouldn't be afraid either."

  The ghastly thing rummaged through its possessions. Kicking over its collection of bones, it found an intact spine of a large swamp-fish. It ran the spine through its fur, snagging again and again on thick, matted tufts.

  It knelt at the creek and scrubbed its face. Several swamp-fish floated to the surface, dead.

  It knew that every single thing that gazed upon it had died. It knew Beatrice wouldn't be any different.

  It tried on Beatrice's mask, but the hood didn't fit. The holes she'd made didn't match up with its spikes and horns. The eyeholes were off-center, so it couldn't see clearly.

  The ghastly thing spent a difficult night under the bridge. It thought of Beatrice.

  Eventually, it slept.

  When it woke, it placed the bush it usually hid behind on top of the bridge, in the very center.

  When it smelled Beatrice walking up the road, it moved to the darkest corner under the bridge, where it crouched and waited.

  Beatrice paused for a long time on top of the bridge. The ghastly thing heard a soft splash in the puddles as she moved in a slow circle. When she finally spoke, the ghastly thing could barely hear her words.

  "This is a present, isn't it?" she asked.


  "Thank you," she said.

  "You're welcome."

  "Can I see you now?"

  "Not yet. When the rain stops."

  Two days later, Beatrice sat in her usual spot on the edge of the bridge. The ghastly thing crouched in the dark, under the arch, looking up at the sky. They didn't speak.

  The rainfall had been slowing.

  And then the rain stopped.

  The ghastly thing didn't know how long it looked up at the sky. Bright blue gaps opened up in the white puffy clouds, letting golden sunlight through.

  It held out a paw, flat. Not a single raindrop struck it.

  A pool of water, unprotected by the bridge, had been constantly agitated during the rainfall. Now its surface was mirror-still.

  The ghastly thing moved out from under the bridge just enough to stand over the pool. It knew its reflection would be quite clear from on top of the bridge.

  It held its breath.

  "Beautiful," Beatrice said.

  The ghastly thing smiled.

  Beatrice thumped to the ground in front of it. She lay crooked and twisted. It waited, but she did not get up.

  The ghastly thing stared at its reflection in the pool of water. It stared for a long time.

  The sky darkened, and the rain began to fall once more.

  The ghastly thing carried Beatrice out of the rain and under the bridge. It propped her up in the worn section of its boulder. She stayed where it put her.

  Her eyes remained open as it washed the mud from her face and out of her hair.

  "The rain started again," it told her. "Nothing has changed. We can still be friends."

  Beatrice didn't answer.

  After a while, the ghastly thing sang her a song.

  It sang off-key.

  It bungled most of the words.

  The ghastly thing wrapped Beatrice in the swamp-cat's hide. It left everything else behind, including the mask.

  It held Beatrice against its furry chest and gave the stone footbridge a long look, knowing it would never return.

  Despite the rain, things had changed.

  It carried Beatrice far into the swamp, away from the village. It let Beatrice go in deep water, just as the village elders had done with her mother, and she sank.

  The ghastly thing waited until the green swamp-scum returned to cover the water's surface. It listened to the steady popping of the rain.

  "Thank you for the gift," the ghastly thing said.

  The ghastly thing walked slowly. Its eyes stayed focused on its mud-caked hooves.

  It had always thought that under the bridge had been a good home -- dark and dry, with plenty of food.

  Now it wanted more.

  It wanted to live a brave life, like Beatrice.

  It hoped to find others of its kind, if such things existed.

  And if it existed, the ghastly thing too dreadful to gaze upon hoped to find a land without rain.

  At the Picture Show: Extended Cut

  by Chris Bellamy

  * * *

  On the origin of...

  A look into the future finds Hollywood in a very specific rut

  January 21, 2020

  It's been another year for the history books in Hollywood. There were the highs, such as the latest Avengers sequel becoming the first film to cross the $2 billion mark at the domestic box office. And then there were the lows, like James Cameron's widespread introduction of Smell-O-Vision in Avatar 5: This Movie is Totally a Metaphor, which backfired when the natural body odor of the Na'vi proved far too pungent for mass audiences to handle.

  But just as President Kucinich is preparing to take on a full crop of challengers in this fall's election, so, too, is Hollywood preparing for its next crop of box-office juggernauts and Oscar contenders. And boy, this year's lineup certainly is a veritable who's-who of beloved characters and ubiquitous franchises littering both the big and small screen. Rest assured, if you're a fan of finding out the complete personal histories of all of your favorite characters, you're in for a treat in 2020.

  Studio insiders have confirmed that an estimated 71.2 percent - a new record - of all films and television series released over the next two years will focus on origin stories within existing mythologies. The trend began in full force several years ago, when the major studios - faced with the prospect of their most reliable properties running out of steam - decided to double-down on those properties and explore them from the beginning in a series of origin-based spinoffs and prequels. In a matter of just a few years, we, the lucky audiences, got origin stories of - among others - Peter Pan, Boba Fett, Willy Wonka, King Kong, Commissioner Gordon, Saul Goodman, the Wizard of Oz, the Smurfs, the Minions, the Penguins, the Monsters of Monsters Inc., the Huntsman of Snow White and the Huntsman, the Wolverine, Puss in Boots, Han Solo, Yoda, Santa Claus and . . . sigh . . . Spider-Man's Aunt May. And just like that, a glorious new era was upon us.

  That bold storytelling innovation has now become the Hollywood standard, and indeed the upcoming 2020 movie season promises to bring an exciting assortment of shopworn ideas and stories. But, y'know, with younger faces.

  Perhaps the year's most anticipated film is Untitled Jason Bourne Project, which reimagines the titular character as a wayward teen who overcomes an abusive childhood and a crippling speech impediment to become one of the world's most highly trained brainwashed assassins. Bourne is drafted into Project Treadstone - which, in this new, modernized interpretation, injects its volunteers with a super serum that makes them indestructible - before being recruited to join the Avengers by none other than Nick Fury, played by Jaden Smith.

  Publicity around the new Bourne film - which producers hope will kickstart an entire new standalone series, in addition to the character's ongoing involvement with the aforementioned crimefighting team - has been hobbled by the controversial decision to cast a lead actor with no charisma or screen presence. (Bourne star Josh Hutcherson could not be reached for comment.)

  Of course, Jason Bourne isn't the only action hero getting a youthful makeover. One of the most controversial developments in recent years was the announcement, after nearly 60 years and 25 movies, of an origin story for none other than James Bond. The as-yet-untitled reboot will star Nicholas Hoult as James Mortimer Bond in his younger days before adopting the legendary 007 call sign for MI6. This gritty new take on the character's backstory will show James as a wayward youth who overcomes an abusive childhood and a crippling malaria infection to become a decorated war veteran who, according to the film's official logline, "like probably fights the Taliban or something."

  A veil of secrecy surrounds the new Bond films, however, as director Christopher Nolan has taken the reigns, bringing his trademark coyness along with him. However, the Bond gig didn't come without a price for Nolan, who after a series of contentious negotiations finally gave up the prequel rights to Inception. Columbia, in conjunction with Warner Bros., wasted no time getting the new film off the ground, casting Dane DeHaan as the young Cobb (the role previously filled by Leonardo DiCaprio). The film, tentatively titled Before Inception, will follow Cobb's globetrotting adventures in the mind thief trade as well as his on-again, off-again relationship with the enigmatic Mal, played by Pauline Burlet.

  And it's not just Nolan - the new Hollywood model seems to have opened the door for myriad respected auteurs to cash in on their creations. After 35 years of maintaining their undisputed artistic integrity, Joel and Ethan Coen finally sold out last summer, agreeing to produce origin stories for three of their most iconic characters - Anton Chigurh, Barton Fink and Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski.

  Tom Hardy will play all three characters.

  Producers have assured us that the upcoming prequels will finally answer all the questions that have agonized fans for decades, and put all mysteries of each character's background to rest once and for all. At long last, we will discover exactly what happened to the fated original Port Huron Statement before the compromised second draft sent Jeffrey into an emotional tailspin. We will finally see doe-eyed, idealistic Walter as his worldview is shattered when his buddies die face-down in the muck in the Vietnam War. And of course we will see both Jeffrey and Walter as they befriend a talkative young athlete named Donny, who teaches them to bowl in an afternoon that will change all of their lives forever.

  Meanwhile, in Cormac McCarthy territory, the Chigurh standalone film will begin with Anton's troubled childhood, the pageboy haircut that changes the direction of his life, and the pivotal day he receives a lucky quarter. You know, just the kind of thing we always wanted from this unstoppable force of nature - a childhood psychological profile!

  Rob Zombie is set to direct.

  And finally, the prequel A Portrait of Barton Fink as a Young Man will explore his working-class upbringing, his apprenticeship under his fishmonger father, his crippling fear of wallpaper, and his lifelong aversion to wrestling. Early reports suggest that he will move to the big city to become a writer and befriend a dame. Or else a young kid. A dame or an orphan, one or the other.

  Meanwhile, the major studios have their sights set even higher. Peter Jackson is currently completing work on an origin trilogy about Aragorn, and is contracted to make additional trilogies about the genesis of Legolas, Galadriel, Gimli and Sméagol. The 15-film project - the entirety of which will be shot in "groundbreaking" HFR of 96fps - is anticipated to be the one of the largest undertakings in cinematic history, and Jackson reportedly has not ruled out setting a separate trilogy around Frodo's origins once the other films are in the can.

  And the biggest fish of them all, James Cameron, is making an origin story of his own. Loyal movie fans will remember that in his third Avatar sequel, 2018's Avatar 4: A Very Important Movie About Real World Issues, Cameron inserted himself into the movie as a film director who singlehandedly saves Pandora from his odious human compatriots. But Cameron is planning to explore that character even further in the upcoming prequel, which will show the character's origins on Pandora as he assimilates with the Na'vi tribe and mates with all of their women.

  James Cameron's Avatar: The Beginning is expected to hit theatres in 2024, just in time for the new wing of Avatar Land to be completed in Orlando.

  Of course, these are but a few of the hundreds of origin films currently in development. Now that Liam Neeson is through with his Taken trilogy, the series will shift back to the character's beginnings, with Michael Fassbender starring as a young Bryan Mills, who develops a very particular set of skills in the hotly anticipated The Take.

  Meanwhile, the Mission: Impossible series is going back to the past as well, as the upcoming entries will explore the young Ethan Hunt, set to be portrayed by Shia LaBeouf. (In an odd side note, Tom Cruise is still reportedly insisting on pe
rforming all of the stunts in Ethan's action sequences.)

  Three more Spider-Man reboots are on the way as well - each telling the same origin story, each with a different cast and each released simultaneously - as Sony attempts to find a formula that will work. And Colin Hanks will take over for his old man in The Young Robert Langdon Chronciles.

  Finally, over on the small screen, HBO is planning standalone prequel spinoffs for each of the 357 characters on Game of Thrones. And receiving even more buzz is the recent revelation of a True Detective prequel series exploring the origins of detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart. Garrett Hedlund has been tapped to play a young Matthew McConaughey, while McConaughey himself will play the young Woody Harrelson.

  Indeed, it's clear that this is a golden age for movie and TV fans everywhere. Now, at last, our most cherished characters will stay with us, essentially, forever. We will never be lonely again.

  Letter From The Editor

  Issue 43 - January 2015

  by Edmund R. Schubert

  Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

  * * *

  Welcome to Issue 43 of IGMS, my first issue back in the big chair after a hiatus of two issues. I have to thank Orson Scott Card for allowing me to take the hiatus, Scott Roberts and Eric James Stone for their terrific job selecting stories in my absence, and our ever-present, yet ever-invisible managing editor, Kathleen Bellamy, for keeping it all on track (which, with my absence, had to have been a much easier job).

  Our cover story for this issue is "The Wellmachine Robot" by Lon Prater, a touching tale of robots and zombies, the (possibly) last boy on earth, and a theme of which Pinocchio would have approved. This is Lon's second story in IGMS and his first cover.

  "The Pining" by Sarina Dorie is a foray into the land of fairies, questioning what's real and what's not, including love.

  "The Man in the Pillbox Hat," written by Mjke Wood is a short short written from the point of view of a man whose wife has gone off into outer space, leaving him wondering not only if she'll return, but if she does, who she'll be when she arrives.

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