We are now accepting pre-orders for print copies of C. S. E. Cooney’s brilliant post-apocalyptic novella The Big Bah-Ha, to be released February 2011. If you’d like to purchase the ebook only, it’s available in the ebookstore in a variety of formats.
“Physicists are discovering, to their horror, that future events cast their shadows into the past. If this be so, the fear of clowns so often seen in children may have its origin in this story. It is deep and wise and fabulous, and will leave you shuddering and strangely at peace. You could found a religion on it — or it may found a religion without you. Or found some new thing that humankind has not yet seen. Only God knows what would happen after the founding. As someone (you’ll find out who) says deep in the story, ‘We’re all clowns now.’” — Gene Wolfe, multiple award winner and author of The Sorcerer’s House
Beatrice, who only moments before was the eldest member and leader of the Barka gang, wakes up dead. She was almost, probably, 12. Either the slap rash got her, as it gets everyone over the age of 12, or the Flabberghast got tired of waiting for her to drop dead and took her skin for a door and her bones for his stew. Who can say? What she can say is that she didn’t get to wake up in heaven. Instead, she’s in the Big Bah-Ha, a place that’s supposed to be a comfort to children after they pass on. Only something’s very, very wrong here and, despite all her bravery and cunning, she’s not quite sure how to fix it or if she’ll survive the afterlife long enough to try.
BEATRICE DID NOT WAKE UP IN HEAVEN. She was flat on her back. The surface beneath her was hard as concrete, maybe bouncier, like those playgrounds made from recycled tires. Bitter crazy cold out, but she could not see her breath. Blew against her hand. Not a tickle.
“Dead then,” she said.
Not panic. Not exactly. A pang, maybe. Best not to pay attention to that. Might begin to gnaw holes in a girl when a girl most needs to be whole.
So Beatrice sat up and patted her head. Pigtails still held, thank the Good Goddess Durga, as Dad used to say–although Dad hadn’t believed in any pantheon predating Darwin, had gone gravy to the slaprash an atheist, and a scientist, and taking in vain the name of all fiend-eating ladygods sharing cross references in the ’cyclopedia.
’Spossible, she thought with an inward sparkle of enthusiasm, I meet up Dad in this place. We’ll discuss gods, or death, or breathing without breath, or whatever, like we used to do in the olden days. Except…
Except this place seemed to stretch out forever like an elastic elephant skin. Empty. Or–not empty? There. A gleam of red and white. Listing not too far from where she sat, a striped barber’s pole. The fat white glove at its pinnacle wriggled hello at her, making an arrow with its index finger. It urged her down a path.
The path, Beatrice saw, was the same gray as ground and horizon, easy to miss. Just a thin groove to be picked across like the wirewalkers used to do. Or a girl might elect to stroll with more dignity at its side. If a girl followed it at all.
But standing still invited the biting chill, and Beatrice shivered. The pointing glove reminded her of the Flabberghast’s hands, which were just as white, but much slimmer. Slim and graceful, nearly transparent, the fingers too long and the wrists too bony. He was the last thing she remembered: his long painted face peering at her through the bushes, his eyes shining black as beetles.
“He killed me!” Beatrice said aloud, startled. “Him and his diamond teeth.”
Well, she didn’t remember that part, not ezzactly. Not the getting gobbled part, only the part where he smiled.
But she was here, wasn’t she? And here could be anywhere, but it could also be in the Flabberghast’s stomach. And even if here were really elsewhere, she’d bet she’d left her bones behind to undergo eternal digestion. Danged Flabberghast! Old carrion eater. Old clown.
But how’d he get close enough? Beatrice had lived by the same command she’d drummed into her little Barka Gang–Tex and Diodiance, Granny Two-Shoes and Sheepdog Sal–she’d always told them: “Beware the Flabberghast.”
And when they asked her why, she’d said: “Well, because he’s a Tall One. Because he appeared with the others after the world ended. Because he’s here to eat the bones, and he’ll eat yours when you go.”
“So?” Diodiance would ask. Diodiance, who liked the Flabberghast, liked his cardboard hut, liked his yellow shoes, his little way of bowing low. “We ain’t dead yet so he can’t rightly eat us. ’Til our slaprashes show, mayn’t he come over to play?”
Then Beatrice, quick as a slung-shot rock, would parry: “What if the Flabberghast don’t feel like waiting ’til the slaprash takes you? What if he picks up a crushing stone with his weird white hand and caves in your skull, and strips off your flesh to stretch for a great moony drum, and sucks on your bones good and fresh? Flabby’s not contained like the other Tall Ones. The gravy yard gates don’t bar him in. Lives outside the gates in his cardboard hut, don’t he, smiling with his bright teeth at any kiddo strayin’ bold from her gang.”
“Di, don’t stray,” Tex would plead with Diodiance. Those two were just each other’s age, just eight. His ashy, stiff hair stood on end at the thought of losing her.
“Oh. Awright.” Diodiance never did sound convinced.
And Beatrice would, more quietly, repeat, “Don’t stray,” gazing at her Barkas with the solemnity of her age. She was near twelve, and they all knew the slaprash would get her soon. Watching them remember this, she’d soften her fierceness to a smile.
“Barka dears, this is world’s end, and you’ve only got a few years to your names. You gotta live ’em, not go playin’ flirt to Death’s own maggotman. Don’t go near the gravy yards. Don’t stray. And beware the Flabberghast.”
Or not. Sighing for her lost Barkas, Beatrice pushed herself up from the squishy hard ground. Her gait felt off. She glanced down.
“Appears,” she observed aloud, “I’m missing my shoe.”
Not only that, but the white cotton lace edging her left sock had gone all rusty. Looked old. Looked like it’d been dragged oh, many a long mile. Or like something bled all over it. Beatrice bit her lip, and even that felt like nothing, and she covered her eyes with her hands, but there was only the same gray inside as everywhere else. The thought of limping listlessly along that thin groove with only one shoe and a rusty sock was the three-ton straw atop the hump of a brittle-boned and spindly-kneed camel, and it was enough, it was OUTSIDE ENOUGH!
Beatrice crumpled and began to cry.
“Please!” she sobbed, her tears all dried to dust. “Oh, please! Oh, Durga! Oh, Dad! Daddy!”
Above her, pouring from a rip in the empty sky, something like ravens circled.
“C.S.E. Cooney is a remarkable young writer whose passion and elegance have thrilled me for some time now. I want the real world to be more like the magic she fashions and the truth she speaks. For now, we’ll all have to settle for her poems and her prose.” — Catherynne M. Valente, multiple award winner and author of The Habitation of the Blessed
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you a P.T. Barnum production of Dante’s Inferno, scripted by Shel Silverstein, directed by Federico Fellini — if you can envision this unfolding around you in the Big Top, then you might have a grasp of what awaits you in C.S.E. Cooney’s dizzy-giggle plunge into funhouse Hell. A cotton candy nightmare that bounces and crawls with carrion-eating clowns, murderous balloon beasts and deadly tent-spinners, “The Big Bah-Ha” wows with madcap twisted invention — and in its few short pages, you can’t help but come to love its plucky, pint-sized heroes, and be moved by the big heart that’s beating underneath. — Mike Allen, Nebula nominee and editor of Clockwork Phoenix
The Big Ba-Ha is a macabre post-apocalyptic fairy tale, a rollicking fantasy of a band of near-feral children who brave a plague-ridden landscape on a desperate quest. To rescue one of their own, they will ally with the monstrous and enigmatic Flabberghast — who arrived only after the world ended and eats the bones of the dead — and penetrate the mystery of Chuckle City, home to ravenous packs of balloon aminals, murderous Gacy boys, and the elusive Gray Harlequin. The Big Ba-Ha — it’s “The Goonies” meets “The Road Warrior,” perfectly suited for both ordinary children and gifted adults, and one of the most original fantasies I’ve read in a long time. — John O’Neill, Founding Editor of Black Gate
C.S.E. Cooney lives in Chicago (but maybe not for too much longer), revising a novel that, with diligence and a new gown, will soon be ready to go to the ball. Her fiction and poetry can be found in Apex, Strange Horizons, Clockwork Phoenix 3, Ideomancer, Goblin Fruit, and Mythic Delirium. She has a poem due out soon with Cabinet des Fées, and novellas forthcoming with Papaveria Press and Black Gate Magazine. Possibly there is a poetry collection in the making, and if it were, it would be called How To Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes.
Pre-Order in print and receive the ebook free!
You may choose to purchase one of 26 signed, lettered editions, which will include additional content or the trade paperback. When you purchase the print book, the ebook will be made immediately available as a free download.