He started at his wrists, since those growths had blossomed first, and were largest. He pruned them one by one, scraping the blade along the clustered stalks. They popped free and dropped into the steel waste bin with a spongy little ping that made his teeth itch. Some as small as his pinky nail. Some the size of his thumb. Brown-capped or gray, with creamy undersides and speckles.
Perfect, round mushrooms. Dozens of them. Hundreds, maybe—if he gave them another hour in the dark, and the sun wouldn’t be up for another six hours if he was lucky.
They were less trouble from dawn ’til dusk, and less prolific when he kept his skin dry. That much Raul knew. He was still learning what worked and what didn’t, but the truth was more horrible every day: He couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t manage them. He could only hide them.
He’d drawn a card, and it’d turned. Simple as a noose.
now that alan brennert has given me an “in” to the wild cards universe with Skin Deep, i’m FINALLY able to go back and appreciate all the wild cards stories tor has so generously posted on their site over the years.
like this excellent piece of noirish urban fantasy.
i’m not wild-cards-savvy enough to know whether this featured character; a hit man whose body inconveniently sprouts mushrooms, is a known entity within the world, or a one-and-done for this piece, but i do know that it’s a sharp-glinting, world-weary firecracker of a story and it doesn’t require too much background to enjoy. cherie priest has written a number of wild cards stories, and if they’re all as good as this one, i really have been missing out all these years.
i’m looking forward to making up for lost time and reading the rest of the wild cards stories as i continue to celebrate my years-long love affair with these free tor shorts.
read it for yourself here: