The two stories of this issue of The Dark Magazine take on some deep subjects, namely death and history. And not just death, but suicide and loss. And not just history, but torture and oppression and erasure. They both look at the wounds left over by loss, by violence, and both concern people and places being haunted. Not being allowed to move on. Having to deal first with what has happened, what has been taken, before healing can begin. These are stories with some definite punch and a strong creepiness and I'm going to jump right to the reviews!
|Art by Tomislav Tikulin|
"The Sound That Grief Makes" by Kristi DeMeester (3892 words)
This is a story that looks at loss and the grief and at the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of the suicide of the her husband, his father. And it's a bit of a heartbreaking story, both people so shocked by what had happened that they don't know what to do, how to react. They fall into a pattern where the mother pretends to be the ghost of her husband in hopes of giving some comfort to their son. Because she knows that what has happened doesn't make sense, because she wants to believe as much as he that Caleb, the man they're missing, is still present somehow. It's a story that looks very starkly at suicide and I'm grateful that it doesn't seem to condemn Caleb, who was obviously dealing with a lot of shit. But Caleb is absent, is denied much of a voice in any of this, and the story's focus is more on what happens with him gone, when the crush of grief becomes so great that it seems to divide mother and son. And I love how the story draws that relationship, both afraid of the other, afraid for the other. Afraid in some way that they will lose another person, that this is all perhaps their fault. It keeps them from being able to reach out directly, and so instead they enter into this dance of grief where they pretend. Like a game of hide and seek they comfort each other by pretending to believe the other, though deep down they seem to know what's really happening. And it's a powerful story, one that [SPOILERS] does finally allow them to cross the fear and the hurt and begin to work together through their feelings directly. It's a story of ripples and wakes, ghosts and hauntings, and it's anchored by love, so that despite the darkness there is a vein of light and hope like the glow from the crack of the door, promising a brighter future. An excellent read!
"The House That Creaks" by Elaine Cuyegkeng (3139 words)
Well I'm not going to have trouble sleeping forever always or anything (*sips coffee, glances nervously around the room the hint of a shadow*). This story…this story to me is about history and about ghosts. About houses that are so full of both that they dream of creating something new. Something different. And yet they are so full of death that they can't avoid it. Can't escape it. And I like the idea that these places that see such great violence end up being caught by that violence. That whether it's an old regime or a previous owner of a house, history is something that can't just be forgotten. That it sinks into a thing. A house, a country, and it takes on a certain power. This story mixes narratives, the history of the house itself and the history of one of the people who decides to spend some time within it. A group of young women, some of them hiding secrets of their own, bloody histories of their families, decide to explore the old haunted house. Because ghosts are powerless, right? But what they find is not what they expected and it is certainly not powerless. I love how the house is this power and that much of its power is memory. It remembers even when others do not and what it remembers is full of torture and death and that sticks to it. It is full of monsters and for those who come unprepared there is only further pain and tragedy. But something new is coming from this. Something is slowly unfurling from the chrysalis at the heart of the house, and it's creepy and beautiful all at the same time. It's a difficult story, one with layers of history and pain, and it makes for some uncomfortable reading, and yet it demands a space, a voice that was taken away. A new start that might be able to escape, to ascend. It's a powerful story and a memorable piece!