Thursday, July 5, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #38

The stories of July’s The Dark Magazine offer up characters stuck in terrible situations. Trying to get by, but also caught in a way where doing something they know or feel is wrong seems to be their only way out. Their only way to claw their way up from the depth that the world has pushed them. Except, even then, there seems only to be more misery waiting, more danger and more trouble. These are stories that don’t offer much comfort or hope, but rather see that certain times, in certain situations, there’s nothing but a doom gliding toward you on a collision course. So let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Gloom82 (Anton Semenov)

“Sea Glass” by Carrie Laben (4217 words)

No Spoilers: Vida has completed graduate school to find that her best prospect is moving in with her friend, Lou, and Lou’s grandma Bea, and working part time as a bartender, trying to supplement her income by taking seaglass from a nearby park. Only when she goes to collect the glass, she finds something strange. Meat. And that begins a strange series of events that lead Vida more and more against the Way Things Are And Have Been. It’s a grim, rather gritty setting, for all that it’s basically exactly like our world (tells us something about our world right now), full of underemployment, depression, and The Doom, a sort of manifestation of the way everything goes to shit. For Vida, there’s anger and numbness and a tendril of hope, but not enough to value the nonsensical beliefs of the past.
Keywords: Employment, Crabs, Seaglass, Dogs, Roommates, Water
Review: What I love about this story is how it reveals just how ready Vida is to basically tear it all down. There’s an almost Lovecraftian horror at work here, subtle because it’s hardly mentioned, barely seen. Just this weird pattern of meat along the shore, and what it means—what it’s supposed to keep away. And Vida sees this and perhaps a part of her knows that this might be about more than crabs and dolphins. But I love that she can see what harm it’s doing, how even if it’s to keep back this deep, dark evil, there are these effects. The horseshoe crab suffers, the birds suffer. Maybe the story is putting her in a position to ignore traditional wisdom and so invite a greater evil than the slow Doom that she’s dealing with. But I guess I read it slightly differently, that this force from the deep, this ancient Thing that has been kept away by meat along the shore, is not worse than The Doom. I guess to me it comes down to what there is to protect. The Doom? With its creeping, soul sucking crush? I think what Vida does by breaking the spell and allowing that unknown and perhaps unknowable shape to have access to the land is to basically decide that if it’s destruction that comes then so be it. But that something needs to change. Something needs to Be Done. And she can do that by these small acts of defiance. And if that force from the deep turns out to be better than The Doom, then hurrah! And if it doesn’t, then at least it will probably be enough to make an end of things. And yeah, it’s an interesting read that leaves a lot up to the reader, while still focusing on Vida and her moment, her being trapped by having no good options. Definitely a piece to spend some time with!

“Vain Knife” by Dare Selun Falowo (2261 words)

No Spoilers: A boy has brought a devil back with him from the forest—a place he’s been forbidden to go. And yet with a mother who doesn’t love him, who abuses him and keeps him from escaping, the forest seems like the perfect place to go. And the Devil tells him to do things, to fight back, to use a special knife for its intended purpose. And a battle wages inside the boy, just as some other conflict wages that he is completely unaware of. The piece casts deep shadows, places where the boy’s mind goes when pushed by his mother, and places that she does when she finds out what all’s been going on. It’s uncomfortable and difficult, the boy’s struggle one without much hope because of the powers he’s up against, because he’s just a boy.
Keywords: CW- Abuse, Devils, Parenting, Freedom, Knives
Review: This is an almost claustrophobic story, in large part thanks to the limitations that have been put on the boy, the constraints that he must live with, not able to travel very far from home, depending on a mother who is cruel to him in order to get by. And I love how the story shows that push and pull within him, his desire, despite everything, for his Mma to love him. That he does resist the Devil and the requests to kill his mother, to end his torment. I love the moment when, even after everything that happens in the story, he calls out to his mother when he’s afraid. Beause it speaks to the central betrayal of the story. Not his betrayal of his mother, but her betrayal of him by raising him and not loving him. Raising him while hating him. It’s that which allows the Devil a foothold in his heart, because he does want to escape the pain. And it’s something of a rending story because for all it seems like he might be able to get free, giving in to the voice of the Devil doesn’t bring with it the reward he craves. For him, it seems, there is no good way out, or at least no bad way out. At it’s core, the story might be about not giving into the impulse to meet violence with violence. Not that he’s given much of a choice, but it does show just how unwinnable some of these situations can be, how stacked against the child. And it’s a difficult story that very much lives up the name of the publication, with a palpable darkness and vivid prose. Go check it out!


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