Thursday, March 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark Magazine #34

A pair of weird stories anchor the original fiction from March’s The Dark Magazine. Full of the oppression that places can bring, that cities can nurture and let fester. In both, the main characters find themselves trapped. For one, by a relationship. For the other, by a city. But for me, in both, the focus is on how toxic environments can perpetuate cycles of violence, abuse, captivity, and death. These are not the easiest of stories to read, both because they come with interesting styles and because they are unsettling and (if the name of the magazine hadn’t tipped you off) very dark. These are stories of the ways that hurt leads to hurt, that victims seem to be interchangeable, separated by time but linked by their common plight and common location. So let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Laura Sava

“Your Damnation Will Be Infinite” by Hadeer Elsbai (3587 words)

No Spoilers: Nahla has just done something...rather drastic as part of an arrangement with a mysterious group of people. Thinking her part is complete, she finds that what comes next is nothing like what she expected. About bargains and the need for an escape from a violent situation, the piece follows the impact that abuse can have on a person, and just what they’ll do to escape it. Violent, horrific, and unsettling, the story opens and then draws the curtain open on what has just happened, revealing the levels of terror, shock, and relief that come next.
Keywords: Murder, CW- Abuse, Peace, Bargains, Creation, Ritual
Review: So for the second month in a row The Dark includes a body in a bathroom, though this piece is much different from last month’s piece. Here we find Nahla in a certain amount of shock over what’s happened, over what she’s done. And yet at the same time, there’s no remorse really. It’s a shock that comes from doing something difficult and disturbing and visceral, but it’s not something where she can’t handle it. She’s made a deal, and like many stories about bargains, she didn’t exactly understand everything that she was signing up for. Hence the strange ritual that she’s taken to, where she must relive what happened, where her anger and violence are taken and used to create...something. But I think what I like most about the story is that, for all that it’s one where Nahla didn’t fully understand her bargain, it’s not one that she regrets. Even though she’s killed. Because the alternative was worse. And, more than that, the story begins to take shape around that which is born out of violence, about of death. This group used Nahla’s rage and hurt to create something, to bring some fresh horror into the world. Which, in turn, brings more violence, more death. And yet there’s a question buried here about what else she could have done. That with this place the way it is, where Nahla was abused and where her abuser was protected more than she was, it does spawn its own horrors. That there’s a cycle to it, a gravity to it, and that it requires a lot to pull free. That even Nahla realizes, looking into her child’s eyes, that the cycle has not been broken, and for all that she feels relief, for all that this _is_ an improvement for her, things are not solved. Not really. And it’s a great, lingering darkness that gives the piece an added punch, and overall it’s a great read!

“Corwick Grows” by Aliya Whiteley (3139 words)

No Spoilers: A man who likes to wander about the UK countryside finds himself in a strange place he’s never passed before, and without thinking much about it accepts an invitation inside. What’s waiting, though, is something strange and terrible. The piece has a strong sense of weirdness to it, and cycle, growth and decay, life and death. For the main character, the ending is also the beginning, and it’s an unsettling read, one where what’s really going on is hazy, growing clearer only slowly and with growing what-the-fuck-ness. It’s not necessarily an easy story to follow, but it’s definitely one that seemed to worm its way into me, the horror tense but subtle, growing closer and closer before it strikes, never fully revealing itself even in that moment of climax. Dark and weird.
Keywords: Cities, Captivity, Wandering, Integration, Care-giving
Review: The story splits itself between either two perspectives (less likely imo but very possible) or two time periods, where a man arrives in a place called Corwick only for it to, in turn, arrive in him. The action is split between his initial arrival in Corwick and a strange nightmarish scenario where a man is being cared for, his body invaded by tubes whose function is mysterious. But it becomes more and more clear that somehow Corwick exists as a place that needs someone to...power it, maybe? It needs a body to somehow allow it to grow, spreading out through the vitality of this host and declining as age takes that vitality back. In some ways the story to me feels like an exploration about places, about the life and death of towns and cities, their lifeblood literally people who need to stay and sustain them, and this city in particular somehow more directly needing someone to connect with, to use in order to feed its expansion. It’s weird in part because it’s difficult for me to tell how much of this is literal and how much is illusion, how much Corwick is somehow alive and how much it has more to do with the people there, running some sort of experiment or simulation. Whatever the truth behind it, the story explores the distance between towns and country, between the narrator’s wanderlust and his aversion to city’s and the way that city’s seem to actively hunt people at times, anchoring them in place, draining away their ability to travel, to walk, to explore. It’s a story, for me, about the loss of freedom, about a forced urbanization for the sake of growth and a hazy sort of industry. For the narrator, it’s repulsive even as it offers a certain comfort—of being around people, of being a part of this larger center of activity. But it fades, and ultimately the narrator is a victim of this place, of a situation it is beautifully and disturbingly rendered. A fine read!


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