by Nik Houser
Standing over the corpse of the letter Q, no one knew quite what to say. The Qâ€™s and Aâ€™s had lived in peace for years.
The Q had been found dead in its apartment, its curved body mangled, its glossy black ink smudged across the living-room walls. It was unspeakable. Unpronounceable.
â€œJesus,â€ murmured Amos. The deputy had only just arrived, five minutes behind Forensics. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œSee for yourself.â€ Sheriff Abernathy gestured without looking up. The victimâ€™s body had been broken apart, its round sides straightened, the tail at its base torn off and stuffed into its midsection. An inkblot test would be needed to reveal its sex. It was hard to tell with Qâ€™s. The fact that there was only one way to pronounce them was just one reason their presence in the town of Great Faith had always made some Aâ€™s uncomfortable. â€œWhatâ€™s it look like?â€
â€œIt looks like....â€ Deputy Amos coughed into his sleeve. He couldnâ€™t finish the thought aloud.
â€œ...turned it into an A,â€ the sheriff finished.
â€œYou think an A did this? You think it was one of us?â€
Sheriff Abernathy nodded to the wall behind the deputy, at the murdererâ€™s message written in the victimâ€™s own ink:
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"Q&A" is roughly 3105 words.
Nik Houser grew up in Texas. He went to school far from there. He now lives even farther from where he went to school than from where he grew up. His work has recently appeared in Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and Best American Fantasy.