The stories from The Dark Magazine this month seem to focus on families. Mothers and daughters. Or stepmothers and stepdaughters. These are stories about how things are inherited. How the darkness that the mother grows can reach for the daughter. Or how the stepmother can feed the stepdaughter to the darkness only to find it…doesn’t go to plan. As always with this publication the stories are filled with uncomfortable moments, unsettling silences, and some unforgettable horrors. Tackling fairy tales and apocalyptic destruction, they don’t pull their punches and are not for the faint of heart. To the reviews!
|Art by Tomislav Tikulin
"Floodwater" by Kristi Demeester (4372 words)
I love the way that this story layers its narrative. It's a story about disaster, to me, both in the large sense, a global catastrophe that might have very large implications on human life, but also a very personal kind of disaster. A loss that is transformational. A story about legacy and children. The main character is Kayley, a young girl who is perhaps a bit old for her age because she's already lived through loss, lived through bouts of her mother's depression which were [SPOILERS] especially strong following the loss of a child who might have been Kayley's little sister. The story unfolds in rain, a rain that doesn't seem like is going to let up. A rain that is like the sorrow welling up from the ground. Which reminds both mother and daughter of the missing child and sibling. It's a quiet sort of story, filled with long silences, and very nicely captures the feeling of a rainy day. The oppression of it. That there's not much to do and not much to say because the rain has lasted so long it's washed everything else away. All that remains is the deep hurt and absence that acts as sort of a blank slate that Kayley and her mother see something in. And I thought that it was very nicely done, having Kayley see the figure in the rain where her dad cannot. Showing that this trauma, this loss, is something that has been passed to her, that even at so young an age she has been effected by the death and then by her mother's prolonged depression. That she recognizes it and faces it in a way that her father does not. It's a difficult and gripping tale, one where the rain is a character, is the darkness lurking just outside. It's moody and it's dark and it's a great snapshot of loss and family and the way that trauma is passed on. A fine read!
"Some Pictures of Monsters" by Rhonda Eikamp (3361 words)
Okay then. The framing of this story is very interesting to me (also kind-of a pun), as the story unfolds as the description of a series of pictures. Like flicking through a photo album or, perhaps, a wedding album, given everything that goes on. It's also a retelling and reimagining of the Cinderella story, where the stepmother is the main character and her stepdaughter, the sooty one, attracts the attention of a prince who has a thing for dirt, who can't handle interacting with women as so lusts after one that he can dominate fully, that he doesn't have to treat like a full person. The story is dark as pitch and centers on monsters. The monsters in all the characters. The stepmother especially with her ambitions, with the way that she uses others, especially the sooty stepdaughter. But also the monster of the Prince. Of all the would-be princesses. Of the sooty one herself, who looses herself to ambition, to the hope that she can be loved by being beautiful. It’s a creepy and is an interesting take on the fairy tale, on the idea of the evil stepmother and the nature of monsters. It’s a grim tale, one where innocence is burned away and all that remains are monsters. That because of the nature of the world they’re living in, the only happy endings available are to monsters. And not just monsters, but the most monstrous. The goal then is not to be the most just, the most innocent. The fairest. The goal is to be the darkest of soul, the cruelest of spirit. The most cunning, yes, but by that the most vicious. It fits with the idea of the fairy tale and is nicely frame as what could be a photo album or, perhaps, a picture book. Something aimed at children, reminding the reader of what messages that we feed children, the ugliness that lurks in so many fairy tales, the ways we train them to be monsters. So yeah, a rather disturbing read but also well worth a look!