THOMAS M. DISCH “Voices of the Kill.” First published in Full Spectrum, edited by Lou Aronica & Shawna McCarthy (Bantam Spectra, paperback original, September 1988). Reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy: Second Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (St. Martin’s Press, trade paperback, 1989). Collected in The Wall of America (Tachyon, softcover, 2008).

   Thomas M. Disch was an author almost as well-known for his poetry as he was for his unique blend of science fiction and fantasy. While “Voices of the Kill” is a fantasy tale through and through, it is poetry as well, and in a way as opaque to me as most poetry is.

   It is the story of a man who, living alone in a cabin along a stream, falls in love (of sorts) with the flowing water, or (perhaps better said) is seduced by the stream, lying at night as he does in its waters and soothing embrace, listening to it talk to him.

   I do not know why Nixie asks him to place a twenty dollar bill under a stone in its (her?) depths. When William’s cousin Barry comes to visit, the overnight stays in the stream must end. When the two travel down it to its outlet into the sea, Nixie is annoyed.

   And what is the significance of the black woman in a pea-green swimsuit who is playing there with her son on the beach? (She does return.)

   In spite of these and other questions I cannot answer, the effect of this story is one I cannot get out of my head. Good poetry (and fantasy) can have an amazing effect on one’s mind. It is no wonder this was the lead story in the Full Spectrum anthology where it first appeared.