In addition to comics and zines, Youth in Decline is also planning to publish prose fiction chapbooks. We are excited to present compelling and interesting genre fiction stories, in a visually arresting and hand-printed art book format.
Love Songs for Monsters"Love Songs for Monsters" by Anthony Ha is the first prose fiction chapbook from Youth in Decline!
The book is 92 pages, with Risograph-printed color interiors. Featuring the following three stories:
- Destroy All Monsters
- The Last Days of the Good Ship Mercury
The book is now available for sale for $10:
Please enjoy these excerpts from each of the three stories in "Love Songs for Monsters":
The creature walked across the mountains, and the man followed.
Dying trees dotted the landscape, their thin, bare branches providing little shade. The creature’s eyes stung in the sunlight, and his skin itched. His gills, sucked dry by the parched air, rasped with each breath.
The smoke had thinned as the pair climbed. Here, over the hillside and halfway down again, the smell of rust still lingered, but underneath, the creature tasted a clean breeze: They were near the sea.
To reach it, however, they’d have to cross the city below. It was a true metropolis, not just a ramshackle collection of buildings, and its structures erupted from the ground like mountains. Metal blanketed the earth all the way to the horizon. The crossing would take at least another day.
The man pointed west. The creature could see the highway’s length as it plunged down, until the land flattened and the lanes disappeared among the towers. The road looked empty, its grayness unblemished. During their long walk, the pair had shunned the highway, afraid the dead might find them. Perhaps they could rejoin it safely now, finding relief from the dry bushes and brittle soil.
The man walked toward the road, and the creature hurried to follow. As the man moved, scars shifted across his back, turning the mismatched parts into a constantly changing puzzle.
Light fled the city after sunset.
The creature was a night hunter, at home in the darkness. But even before his capture, in the lagoon, he could always see the glow of distant settlements — and later, the lamps of boats exploring the river.
Though he feared the lights, they were part of his world. Their absence now, total and absolute, was another sign that the world had changed.
Was the man troubled? There was no way to know. Like the other humans, he tried to communicate with sounds. Those sounds could have been threats, questions, requests for aid — to the creature, they meant nothing. After their escape, when the man’s first attempts met with silence, he seemed to give up. Yet he had followed, and he was a useful companion on the march to the sea.
Usually, the two of them halted once night fell. Tonight, the creature was emboldened by the empty road, and he hoped to walk through the darkness. The man had other ideas. As the last sunlight disappeared, he slowed his pace and set an enormous hand on the creature’s shoulder.
Holding back a snarl, the creature tried to twist his body away. Anyone who restrained him should be fought, killed, eaten.
The man watched the creature, apparently unmoved by the squirming. He waved into the night, then lurched forward, arms outstretched. The creature guessed his meaning: He feared the dead were out there, unseen. Those fears seemed feeble when weighed against the closeness of their destination, but the creature did not wish to continue alone. He stopped struggling.
The man lowered himself to the ground, folding his hands under his head and staring into the sky. A few steps away, the creature flattened his body against the road’s surface, grateful for a bed that didn’t crumble under his weight or slip into the cracks of his skin.
Trying to ignore his stomach’s emptiness, the creature recalled the animal he’d devoured the day before. It had probably died of thirst, and its tough skin stuck between his teeth. Still, it had enough meat to sustain him for days, and he had taken his time, leaving only bones and clumps of fur. (The man, who ate sparingly throughout their journey, had just watched.)
The creature could still taste the blood and gristle, but the memory failed to sate his hunger.
Every night, he returned to the prison. Again and again, he saw the pool, which had been his entire world for countless days. It was too small for swimming, so he lay in the water, letting it slosh over his chest. The only illumination was a light below, which he avoided by staring up into the darkness.
As he floated, he moved out of his body, out of the room. The corridor slid past, most of its cells empty. In a few corners, he saw huddled shadows, and once, a silent face pressed against the bars.
The creature heard scraping somewhere above. Aware of his body again, he reared up and growled, looking for the white-clad men who always came, always hurt him. He saw no one, but the noise grew louder. It broke through the walls of his prison, of his dream, and he found himself on the road, blinking, listening to the sound of feet sliding along the ground.
The creature stumbled upright. In the moonlight ahead, he saw four silhouettes. Each of their steps seemed random, almost blind, but as a group, their direction was clear.
Glancing left, he realized that the man was already standing, ready to fight. The creature looked at the dead, then again at the man, who towered over all of them. If he ran now, his attackers would follow, driving him away from the shore. If he stayed and fought, with the man’s help, he might still make it home.
The creature walked backward to his companion. As the dead approached, he saw that they were thinner than he remembered, with skin drawn tightly over bone. Their clothing had disintegrated, leaving only threads.
Perhaps they were weaker now.
Perhaps they were hungrier.
[To read the rest of the "Destroy All Monsters" please consider picking up a copy of the chapbook.]
When Diana woke, she knew there was something inside her. It wasn't a person, exactly. But it was alive, a wisp of otherness squeezing her arms, her legs, and her ribs in steady contractions.
It seemed to be everywhere — one thread stretched beneath her teeth, another behind her eyes. Under her skin, she could feel the wisp nudging her, cajoling. Her body, responding to each contraction with a surge of pain, was uncajoled.
Diana had followed instructions, hadn’t eaten for a full day before the operation. Still, her stomach clenched, pushing its sparse contents upward. As she tried to turn herself over, she discovered that webbing held her down below the neck.
She spasmed, arms and legs jerking against her restraints. Her stomach forced clear, gooey liquid out of her mouth, which dribbled across her face.
She swore quietly, blinking away tears.
A red lamp glared down from the ceiling. Although Diana was held in place, she managed to twist her gaze away from it. There was no one here with her, not that she could see. The room's only features were a bed (which Diana occupied), a damp stump to her right, and the lamp. The webbing that held her down emerged from the stump, as did with a thick, red tube that curved under her neck.
Diana twisted harder. She couldn’t see where the tube led, but if she leaned to her left, she felt a tug at the back of her head — so the end point seemed obvious.
Forcing down another wave of nausea, Diana knew that she had to extricate herself. The webbing presented an obvious challenge. She swung her head left, repeatedly, as hard as she could. When Diana reached the end of each arc, there was a slight tear as the tube tried and failed to separate from her skin. Pain stabbed through her neck, down into the rest of her body.
Wincing preemptively, Diana prepared for her fourth swing. But before she could move, she became impossibly, wonderfully warm. The warmth spilled over her and weighed her down, making even her eyelids heavy.
Diana woke again. There was no sun and no clock to tell her how much time had passed. The webbing felt brittle against her skin, and when she tried stretching, it snapped open. All she knew was that she had to get away from the bed. As she sat up, dried-out ropes of webbing fell away. She was naked.
Diana stood and took one step forward, then another, then stopped abruptly. Unlike the webbing, the tube was unreasonable. It pulled taut, holding her in place.
She reached for the base of her skull, tentatively placing her fingers around the small circle where the tube entered her head. With their identical textures, the two surfaces offered no clear line where the ship ended and she began. As she squeezed the tube, she felt a faint pinch, as if she were squeezing her neck.
Diana stood still and thought about what to do next. She considered another attempt to break free, but the thought of ripping the tube from her head made her queasy.
She was still standing, still thinking, when a hole opened in the wall, and a man stepped through. Had she seen him earlier? It was hard to be sure who was who — like the other members of the Orion’s crew, he was pale, bony, and wrinkle-free. Skintight clothes wrapped his body, and all that remained of his hair was a light coat of stubble.
“I am Andreus,” he said.
“Hi.” Diana felt exposed, not to mention cold, but as long as she was attached to the tube, she was helpless to do anything about it. She faced him without covering herself. After waiting several moments, she pointed to the tube. “Could you help me with this?”
“Tell the ship to withdraw,” he said.
Facing a random wall and trying to sound commanding, she said, “Withdraw!”
“Use your connection. The Orion does not communicate ... ” His eyes drifted left and right as he tried to find the word. “ ... vocally.”
[To read the rest of the "Unplugged" please consider snagging a copy of the chapbook.]
The rain finally stopped on the morning that Patrick was kidnapped.
The week-long downpour left Maia so accustomed to gray skies that she awoke confused, blinking in the unfamiliar light. She crawled out of bed, shuffled to the window, and with her eyes still half-closed, reached out to turn the polarization dial. She awkwardly slapped the glass for a few seconds before remembering that this was a simple, unadorned slab of window, offering a simple, unadorned view of the docks.
This dumb planet. She shut the blinds (noticing, as she did, that two of the boats were gone) and walked to the shower stall in the room’s corner.
Over the past few weeks, her attitude toward her newly disconnected body had alternated between disgust and fascination. She could remember undressing for the first time after moving into the bungalow — she’d felt a sudden panic, one that had only subsided when she placed a sheet over the room’s single mirror. (The sheet was still there.)
At the same time, she found herself searching, constantly, for signs of transformation in her strength, stamina, and mood. The few times that she’d discovered that something had actually changed, she became inexplicably elated.
But regardless of where she found himself on the emotional spectrum, she was still at risk of infection — and that meant she had to conduct her by-now routine morning checkup. Today, she saw that the skin on her arms and legs continued to tan, making her skin the darkest it had been in her life (though still paler than a Nerean’s).
Her right finger traced a winding path under her left arm — if she closed her eyes, she could remember the steady beat of her implanted companion. They had been cut off from the Orion months ago, so the implant slept, giving no sign of its presence to either Maia or the outside world.
Well, almost no sign. Even though the implant was dormant, evidence of that long-ago surgery remained. Her elbows, shoulders, and knees appeared slightly swollen, hinting at the clusters of silicon and alien tissue that had once regulated the flow of data through her body. A small hole, where she’d plugged into the ship’s computer, remained at the base of her skull. And a network of faint scars ran up her arms and down her back, where the ship had opened her, years ago.
There was a more recent change, too — when she first woke up here, she’d discovered a new tooth, replacing one that she’d apparently cracked during her fit.
Anyway, those regulators had no purpose now. The connection point was beginning to scab over. And the scars were just scars. Nothing was wrong. Nothing more than usual.
Maia showered, shaved (she could start growing her hair out again, but why bother?), and dressed. The missing boat meant that Patrick was gone, probably fishing, and that breakfast would be ready in the main house.
After emerging from her room, she hiked up the trail to the top of the hill, using her hands to shield her eyes from the sun. The rain had stopped, but the ground was still muddy, and her feet kept sliding.
Even when the path was dry, the walk was a struggle. She made the journey every day, often more than once, so she’d hoped to become used to it. Instead, her hatred of the strain and the sweat only grew.
As usual, Maia was panting by the time she reached the hilltop. After slipping into the kitchen through a side door, she looked at the counter, expecting to see a steaming mound of eggs and fish. When Patrick set out on his morning expeditions, he usually cooked a large breakfast and left half of it behind. Today there was no food in sight, and as she stepped inside, the house announced, “There is one new message.”
“Play,” she replied.
A burst of static emerged from the speakers, followed by Patrick’s voice and the sound of waves.
“Hey, it’s me. I’ll be out late — I’m heading for deeper water. Oh, and just so you know, the comm system seems to be twitchy today. If you call, I might not be able to answer.”
Maia was confused by the fumbling, apologetic message — Patrick never took the time to explain himself. He did what he wanted and expected everyone to accommodate his plans. That seemed fair to Maia, since Patrick paid her salary. If anything, this arrangement gratified her, since it was straightforward and required little social finesse.
As she mulled the situation, Maia flipped a switch on the table, lighting up the main wall with a map of the nearby islands — virtually all of them owned by Patrick’s family, the Wongs. Land was represented by bright green, each of Patrick’s boats by red. One red circle remained at the docks, where Maia had seen a lone vehicle a few minutes ago. The other two (Patrick always insisted that his guard Lee take a separate boat) were about a kilometer a south — farther out than usual, but not by much.
She turned off the map. The position of the boats didn’t matter. Maia should be preparing breakfast, not struggling to decode her employer’s behavior.
After she’d been unplugged, Maia had to reintroduce herself to her body, to re-learn how to translate its signals into needs and commands. It was a slow, ongoing process, but this feeling … this was almost certainly hunger.
[To read the rest of the "The Last Days of the Good Ship Mercury" please consider buying a copy of the chapbook.]