The story of an author meeting his own fictional characters is a common one — and usually it becomes some kind of metafictional meditation on the nature of authorship and what it means to be a fictional character. But what if that fictional character comes from a weird post-apocalyptic world, and it was kind of a shitty story?
David J. Schwartz's "Bear in Contradicting Landscape," in the new issue of Apex Magazine, is a really disturbing, unhinged version of the "author meets his own fictional characters" trope, in which meeting one's own creations is just a catalyst for the unraveling of reality itself. And the onset of a lot of weird animal metaphors. Here's how it begins:
I didn't recognize Eddie at first. He got on the train at Division, sat down opposite me, and every time I glanced up from my book he was staring at me. He wore a trench coat over a bluish gray polo shirt and khakis. Sweat stood out on his brow.
As creeped out as I was, there was something familiar about him. I shut the book and met his gaze. "Do I know you?"
"I'm Eddie," he said, and then, when I didn't react, "Eddie Olstrowski."
It took me a moment. "Eddie from…?" I couldn't complete the thought.
"Yes." He offered his hand, and we shook across the aisle of the train.
"How" was too big a question to start with, so I went smaller. "Is Ann here?"
He nodded. "At the house. We have two kids."
The train was slowing down as it approached the Western stop. "I have to get off here," I said. "Can we have lunch? Something?"
He dug out his wallet and extracted a business card. "Call me at the office." He blushed as he said it; I wasn't sure why. By that time I had to hurry off the train, and a moment later he was gone.
Outside the el station an old man asked me what day it was, and for a second I wasn't sure. I walked to my apartment, counting the blocks. In an alley two blocks from home, a group of kids were tagging the side of a brick building in the twilight, spraying unrecognizable sigils around a massive portrait of a bipedal rabbit. They stared as I approached and laughed when I walked past.
L was on the couch with a book when I walked in. "How was your day?" she asked.
"I met one of my characters. He gave me his card." I handed it to her.
Read the rest over in Apex's new issue, which also includes a reprint by Maureen McHugh.