The two stories in this month's Nightmare Magazine offer up glimpses into what might have been. In the first, a woman is haunted by her past, by a loss she suffered and can't seem to get over. The same is true in the second story, as well, where the main character is prompted to action following the murder of his mother. In both instances the characters seek to deal with the nature of their losses. They both avoid and confront the specters of their lost loved ones and strive to do something about it. For the second story, that means trying to avenge a death. In the first story, that means trying to undo the death. It's a nicely paired selection of dark tales with a strong look backward into the past. To the reviews!
|Art by Jana Heidersdorf|
"Fossil Heart" by Amanda Downum (6370 words)
This story to me is about the past and possibilities, about fixation and obsession and loss and grief. About sacrifice and about the way that what might have been can be a hungry thing on the hunt. The story stars Nan, a woman plagued by a traumatic event from her childhood, by the day she lost her parents and her best friend. It's a moment that has shaped her, that has almost killed her, and yet she keeps going not in order to live past the event but to go back and change it. Because something odd happened that day, something that gave her access to jumping back in time. And despite a relationship with a loving partner (Evie), this urge to go back and fix her past is what she cannot let go of. The story is dark and it is deep, the characterization of Nan being one who hasn't managed to accept the loss she suffered. And the sadness and the rage and the denial that she faces are become physical things. Hungry things drawn to her unwillingness to let go, to her despair and her hope. The story does an amazing job of showing the cost on Nan and her relationship, of showing how this magic she has costs her so much because she can't just let it go. [SPOILERS] And maybe the point is that she doesn't have to. Indeed, the past ends up being altered. But not by Nan. Her and Evie's relationship is at the heart of the story, the love that they share that isn't enough to banish the demons haunting Nan. So Evie sacrifices herself in the hope that it will change things. And it does. It does but Nan doesn't seem all that much happier. Her might have beens come to be something less functional than her relationship with Evie was and the story carries with it a further loss. A loss of a future where they might have been happy that, yes, would have meant Nan's friend had died but would have left room for healing that is know impossible because Nan doesn't have the memoires to even mourn for what has been lost. It's a complex story that's beautifully told, the prose elegant and moving and the trajectory of the piece decidedly dark. But it's definitely worth checking out. A great read!
"The Hunt for the Leather Apron" by G. Neri (4123 words)
This is a historical story told in the dialect of an eastender of London during the early days of the Jack the Ripper murders. The story focuses on Edward John Nichols, the son of the first victim, a young man dealing with his own demons and feelings surrounding the death of his mother. The story's style is interesting and with the classic flourish of being framed as a police report recently unearthed concerning the hunt for an early suspect in the case, a man known as the Leather Apron. The story follows Edward as he tries to find the one responsible for the murders and only seems to get himself in trouble. But the story does do a good job of showing the conditions on the street, the mentality of a man who has found that his mother has been murdered, the guilt and the anger and the need to do something. As the story is framed as a report there is just Edward's own notes and thoughts, but I feel the story does a good job of using that to good effect, to lay down just enough clues and false leads and observations that complicate the Jack the Ripper story. That show glimpses into what might have happened and how this "forgotten" document might reveal more than it seems. For fans of the Ripper history and legend, the story hopefully adds some added wrinkles to what might have been. For me, who knows fairly little about it, it's an intriguing story that seems to promise a historical scavenger hunt of facts and leads and mystery. An interesting read!