The latest issue of The Dark Magazine offers up two original stories that focus on family and hurt. About the oppression of the roles people are forced to adopt, and how seeking to escape them is not always successful. Because regardless of how much a person wants to flee, wants to escape, wants to be free, family is something that often sets its hooks deep, and can only be broken with a lot of pain and blood. These stories don't hesitate to show the harm that family can cause, that societal expectations can cause, and how people have to live with what comes after. So yeah, time to review these dark fantasies!
|Art by Vincent Chong|
"With Her Diamond Teeth" by Pear Nuallak (5010 words)
This is an unsettling and sharp story about stories and about sisters and about brides. About the ways in which people trap women, the ways in which the game is rigged and stacked against happiness that doesn't come from a wedding party, that doesn't come from the union with a man. The story is a fairy tale of sorts, where a crocodile attack rends to sisters apart, steals one and leaves the other grieving and alone. I love the way the story maintains its composure for so long, the remaining sister in a sort of denial or shock but not really dealing with it, sublimating that energy into art, into seeking some way to forget, but also into sharing in this experience that is going on without her, that is the true separation between the sisters. It's a story about oppression, about being trapped in the roles that culture demands, about the small escapes that the sisters find in each other, in their games and their rivalry. And it's a story that is full of magic and darkness and examinations of the shape stories take. The idea of the hero rescuing the young woman and taking her for his bride. The idea of women as silent and interchangeable, there only as prizes and with no real inner lives. No hidden desires. And yet the sisters desire for something more, for something forbidden. And I love how the story moves toward the ending, how [SPOILERS] the two sisters in some ways become interchangeable, how the story draws them toward an end, a fate that might be without a groom but has dangers all its own. It's an unsettling read because for me there is this promise of violence toward the end, this way that the story pits sister against sister, their cruelty bent inward because they are not allowed to turn it outward toward the forces holding them down. It's a difficult story and a rather creepy one and it's definitely worth checking out!
"Some Breakable Things" by Cassandra Khaw (2616 words)
Well eff. I love the way this story uses progression and distance. It's a story about hauntings and family and abuse and trauma, but it's also a story about space. The space between people. The story opens at a funeral where a person faces the death of their father. A father who was abusive both physically and emotionally, who burdened his child with more than any parent should. And who the child ran from, ran from to start a life they could be happy with. The death, the funeral, bring back the ghost of their father quite literally, but it's a ghost that at first keeps its distance. And this distance is very nicely reflected in the emotional distance in the narrator, in the child, which slowly crumbles. More and more the narrator just remind themself not to do certain things. To try and put some distance between them and their father, but it doesn't work. They can only get so far and the ghost follows, disrupts, and demands. There is guilt and there is anger and it's very complicated and it's very dark. But it's also a touching and beautiful portrait of grief and of pain, or hurt and of family. There's a lot going on, layers of guilt and longing, and a lingering dread through it all that there are some things that cannot really be exorcised, that cannot just be wished away, that we carry and which haunt us through our lives, with the hope perhaps that by confronting them and striving to live with them, things will get better. It's a great story and another unsettling piece, visceral and raw and alive and an amazing read!