The Thyme Fiend: A Tor.Com Original
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
The Thyme Fiend by Jeffrey Ford is a dark fantasy novelette about a young man who can only prevent seeing visions by eating or smoking thyme. When he finds the skeleton of a missing man the skeleton begins to haunt him. What does it want?
pipe. Emmett told his mother he was going to go run with the other kids for a few minutes and she said, “Fine.” He left her side and bolted across the lawn where kids from his school were chasing lightning bugs. On his way toward them, though, he was stopped cold. His body registered it before he was even sure what had frightened him. There, sitting at the end of the third long table, the one farthest from the church door, was Jimmy Tooth, not a ghost but his gnawed skeleton as it had been
said. “I want to go.” On the day the satchel of thyme arrived, Emmett and his father and Jimmy Tooth sat at the kitchen table. Mr. Wallace instructed on how to roll a respectable cigarette. It took the destruction of a half dozen rolling papers and a scattering of thyme before the boy caught on. When he finally had before him a tightly rolled bone of uniform width, his father handed him a box of matches. Emmett lit one, brought it to the end of the cigarette, and inhaled the way he’d seen Chief
didn’t mind going his own way. The break from Jimmy Tooth gave him time to get back to reading, and he finished Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra. The next day he brought the book to school and afterward to the barbershop to return it and see if he could borrow another. When he entered the shop from the side door, he noticed that Peasi had a customer in the chair. The barber looked over and saw Emmett standing there holding the book. The scissors stopped snipping and with one hand Peasi ran a comb
leaving his bike, and hobbled down the bank, slid across the ice, into the woods beyond. Jimmy Tooth was waiting for him in a small clearing. When Emmett caught up, the skeleton reached out as if to shake hands. The boy was stunned for a moment and then backed up a step. Jimmy held his posture, waiting, skull cocked to the side like a marionette at rest. A minute passed in silence, and then Emmett stepped forward. His hand passed through its skeletal partner. It wasn’t merely thin air, though; he
window, they slowed and crept to avoid breaking sticks underfoot. Each took a side and peered in—a skull in the bottom left pane and Emmett Wallace in the bottom right. In lantern light, Mrs. Holst sat with her back to them at a vanity with a large oval mirror. Emmett could see the reflection of her face in the glass as she brushed her hair. She never appeared in public with it down, and he couldn’t believe how much of it there actually was. He wondered how she stowed it on her head. She had