Phillips' two-page stories read like quick nightmares, filled with wit and creepy illogic; one, "Monster #2," was based on an eerie dream she'd had as a 10-year-old. "That one scares me!" she said, after the audience had gasped at its conclusion. Ned Thimmayya read from a work in progress about the origins of a monster catfish, before reading "an old ghost story" (in which he repeatedly pronounced "pond" to rhyme with "behind," a kind of magic in itself) that the crowd greeted with cheers. Anthony Tognazzini announced that he had "a new story about a guy abducted by litterbugs," but because it was too long he read instead a story that highlighted the absurdity of heredity and legacy through absurdity, telling the tale of a born-skydiver who'd rather be a zookeeper. It was softly comic yet poignantly detailed.
Alexi Zentner, hailed as the inventor of a new genre called "mythical realism," read passages from his novel Touch, which included a sad, riveting, macabre, and harrowing scene of an accident on a frozen river. Zetta Elliott read from her YA fantasy A Wish After Midnight, a pre-9/11 story that time-travels to Civil War-era Brooklyn; she read two passages set in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, one sweet one in which a black-Latina girl gabs with an old Danish man, and another of ghostly, moonlit, time-folding strangeness. Elliott ended on a breathless cliffhanger that left the crowd scrambling for the merch table; during the break, everyone seemed to have a copy of her book tucked under their arms.
Meanwhile, I waited on line to use the bathroom for a minute, until one of the doors finally swung open—but no person emerged. The lady behind me and I looked at each other. "Myth and magic?" I muttered.