Midnight Echo Issue 8 Preview – Joanne Andertonon October 29, 2012 at 1:15 am
The Midnight Goblins have cornered the ghoulishly delightful Joanne Anderton today, whose story ‘Always A Price’ won the Short Story category of the annual AHWA Flash and Short Story competition 2012. It’s great to have Joanne in Midnight Echo Issue 8.
Don’t forget, pre-orders are now being taken for what’s gonna be a wild issue. Just click here for details.
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Midnight Echo: What is your favourite short story and why?
Joanne Anderton: Singing My Sister Down my Margo Lanagan. Probably because it was the first story by Margo I ever read, and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. THIS is what a short story is supposed to be! It is deceptively simple, and it’s delicate and beautiful even while it’s ripping out your heart. The story it tells is small and personal, but terrible and universal all at once. The characters and the world are so real. It makes me cry every time.
Midnight Echo: What was the inspiration behind Always A Price?
Joanne: Ok, this is kind of gross… but my own wardrobe. You see, we have this strange cupboard within a cupboard arrangement where there’s a storage area behind the back of the wardrobe. I discovered that the cats were particularly fond of it — I guess it makes a good hiding place/sleeping place. When I finally realised this there was so much fur in there, and hairballs and… and it was just horrible. Really. Gross. So I guess my mind just picked up that image (and the smell) and ran with it.
Needless to say, the storage cupboard is now locked.
Midnight Echo: What scares Joanne Anderton?
Joanne: Um… I hate to admit this, but pretty much anything. I might be a horror writer, but I’m also a chicken-shit. I have a love/hate relationship with all horror movies, books and video games. I’ll quite enthusiastically watch them, or read, or play, and then I’ll be too terrified to sleep for the rest of the week. My husband thinks it’s hilarious.
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Always A Price
By Joanne Anderton
It didn’t start the night of Sylvia’s party, not like everyone thinks it did. I’m the only one who knows this. After all, I brought the damned cat home.
Sylvia had a way of dealing with the cancer that made us all uncomfortable, but we didn’t have the balls to say anything. We went along with it all. Allowed it to become the centre of our lives, never dared raise our own problems, those trifling matters that simply could not compare. We referred to the lump in her left tit as Ziggy like she wanted. We even organised the mastectomy party she demanded, complete with male strippers, a game of ‘pin the boob on the hospital patient’ and enough booze to poison any clump of inconveniently mutating cells. Always with a smile, that same, strained grin we all shared. Don’t know how the others handled it, but I dealt with Sylv’s illness the same way I dealt with everything—a small razor, and a fuck load of gin.
We were all taking turns with the body paint, covering her too-thin body with countless new boobs in a garish variety of colours, when the cat strolled in. It’d been living in our shared townhouse for two months now; well fed, patted, cleaned, but it looked just as mangy and feral as it had the day I brought it home. I’d told the girls I’d rescued it, found it pathetic and alone in a pile of garbage and coaxed it into a box with a can of sardines. This wasn’t exactly true. But we all cling to our secrets and comforting delusions, don’t we?
It walked right up to Sylv’s bare feet, sat and stared up at her.
Couple of Sylv’s work friends started cooing. It didn’t last long. Despite its name, Mr Muddles was not the kind of cat you cooed at. There was something in the way it looked at her, with those too-smart, hard yellow eyes. There was something in the way it dug long claws deep into the floorboards, gouging great gashes that bled sap, like the wood was still fresh. Its matted fur stuck out at irregular angles, its smooth cat-lines made jagged and harsh.
In the tense silence, Sylvia knelt. Mr Muddles placed a paw on her naked knee, instantly drawing blood in a neat pattern. She didn’t move. Careful paw by careful paw it crawled its way into her lap, across her stomach, and onto her chest. There, it began to knead.
None of us tried to stop it. Maybe it was the surreal nature of the sight—Sylvia, naked but for white cotton undies and bra, bright with paint, hands lifted but not grasping, not even touching the small black cat pummelling her tits. Her mouth was slightly open, her eyes wide, but she looked surprised, nothing more, not in any pain.
Not even when those strong paws sunk through her skin, and into her flesh.
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Biography – Joanne Anderton
Joanne Anderton lives in Sydney with her husband and too many pets. By day she is a mild-mannered marketing coordinator for an Australian book distributor. By night, weekends and lunchtimes she writes science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her short fiction has recently appeared in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear and Epilogue. Her debut novel, Debris was published by Angry Robot Books in 2011, followed by Suited in 2012. Debris was shortlisted for an Aurealis award and a Ditmar. Joanne won the 2012 Ditmar for Best New Talent.
Visit her online at http://joanneanderton.com and on Twitter @joanneanderton