Friday, April 7, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #23

For the original fiction in this issue of The Dark Magazine, I might say that the theme is hauntings. At the very least, the two new stories look very closely at the ways that people can haunt and be haunted. The way that places and situations and especially relationships can link people, tie them together, and not always in a very good or healthy way. These stories explore how the dysfunction and abuse between people can create a story of haunting, a situation where people become trapped in a place, or near a person, and lose the ability to escape. There is a gravity to pain and torment, lies and longing, and the issue does a great job complicating that. But before I ramble on too long, to the reviews!

Art by Aleksandra Grahovac


"The Name, Blurry and Incomplete in His Mind" by Erica Mosley (4971 words)

This story speaks to me of marks—on walls and on lives and on people. It reveals a father and daughter who are living in very different worlds, who only meet once a week, and whose relationship is complicated and marked by an interest in the marks they can find around their house, in the stories that emerge out of this strange haunting. And Jentry, the daughter, is pulled in the wake of these fantasies until they infect her, until she loses herself to the pull of them. It’s a strange and moody story that captures a strong gothic feel with the emphasis on Jentry’s house, a dilapidated affair that seems to stand for the shambles of her father’s affection for Jentry and her mother. This house is full of the marks of...someone else, and to me comes to represent the people in her father’s life that Jentry is cut off from. He guards that part of himself, that “new life” that he’s created away from Jentry and her mother, and yet the marks of that life show through, are found all over, and come to haunt Jentry, who knows that her father’s affection isn’t really with her. The mood of the piece is oppressive and dark, the house cavernous and in need of repairs that Jentry’s mother can only slowly work on. Meanwhile Jentry herself is left to wonder about her life and her father’s life, about the people that he must know, about the family that she doesn’t know he has, though she suspects something, even if only unconsciously. It’s a story of fractures and bruises, and I like the way that it shows this fragile relationship between father and daughter that only really works when it’s based on lies and stories, when it doesn’t dwell on the people but a fantasy that they share. It’s moving and it’s complex and it makes for a great read!

"The Language of Endings" by Kristi DeMeester (2641 words)

Hey, the magazine’s called Dark for a reason, and it certainly reminds me of that most issues. This story is uncomfortable and about as light as an anvil, as cheery as a black hole. It centers a woman who was in an abusive and forced marriage, raped again and again by the man who called himself her husband. And as the story opens she is dead. Is a ghost. Is nameless as far as the story goes but in that also a stand-in for all women, for everyone trapped and made small in a relationship that is based on an imbalance of power and a sexual exploitation of youth. And okay, yes, from all that you can assume trigger warnings abound. But the story also does a great job of capturing the feeling of oppression, that weight and that state of being trapped. That the main character is stuck in this house, that even death could not truly free her. And she’s made to be witness as her abuser continues the cycle. As he targets new women and victimizes them. It’s a deeply disturbing piece in that way, in the way that it portrays this situation. There is no turning away as a reader (save from not reading the piece, which I do not recommend), just as there is no turning away for the main character. For her, the world is confined to this space where her abuse continues, where this man claims to gaslight her, to tell her he loves her, to hurt her for the simple reason that he gets off on the power. [SPOILERS] It’s not a mystery, though the way that she died is never revealed. The implication in that is something that haunts the rest of the story. That she’s dead and obviously because of him and yet he faces no punishment. He was so secure in his power over her, and the rest of the world so affirmed that, that her death is just a matter of fact, that she was murdered and yet there’s no chance he’d be in prison. The story as a whole looks at what remains to this woman in the face of such injustice. The answer, the reach for freedom, is no less uncomfortable or dark as the rest of the story, and it’s difficult to say that it’s truly satisfying, because it shows the harm that even that escape requires. I think it does leave room for a sliver of hope, though, even as the main point for me is to illuminate the vast abuse and tyranny that our culture allows. It’s a visceral and unsettling read but definitely a piece to spend some time with and pay attention to!


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