Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #39

August brings two stories of hauntings to The Dark Magazine. In one of the stories, the haunting is of an exorcist who thinks he has lost everything. In the other, the haunting is of a man wandering a ruined world. In both, their special sight gives them a power and perhaps a way out of the darkness that surrounds them. Only for one of them that way out might well be a terrible trap, while for the other it might require a confrontation with some difficult truths. It’s a well paired and creeping issue, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

Art by grandfailure

“The Last Epic Pub Crawl of The Brothers Pennyfeather” by L Chan (4636 words)

No Spoilers: Bill and Bob are the Brothers Pennyfeather, exorcists who have taken up their mother’s mantle as the best in the Work. After a rather horrendous outing, though, Bob has slipped away, and it’s up to his brother to maybe bring him back in with an epic pub crawl through a slew of haunted locations. The story is thick and winding, focusing on grief and the words unsaid between the two brothers. Bob’s situation especially is heavy with grief for the losses he’s suffered, and for the burden he carries forward, that his gift, that allows him to do the Work, has become irrevocably tied to his pain and memories. It also has a rather powerful twist that deepens the story and gets at the heart of Bob and Bill and their relationship, and their future.
Keywords: Ghosts, Brothers, Pub Crawl, Death, Queer MC
Review: I love the way the story builds to its twist, setting expectations and then playing with them. The brothers are very much Moody Ghost Hunters, and there’s a certain joy in seeing that relatively new trope played with. The story does a lovely job of showing how they care for each other, but how their realtionship is also built on hurt and vulnerability, that they know each other too well and aren’t supposed to use that, but both do when they want to protect themselves, when they want to avoid talking about what’s really going on. And that’s part of what makes the story fun and deep, that it’s so much about what they’re talking and drinking around, that Bob is deep in grief and guilt and needs to get over it, get over himself. He’s lost a lot, but that doesn’t mean that he is dead, even when so much of his work revolves around death. And as Bill shows him around, visiting different ghosts who are unable to let go, who clutch to things that aren’t good for them. Who linger. And really it’s about Bob realizes that he’s still alive, that he doesn’t need to suffer because he’s survived. And the story accomplishes that well, visiting the ways that Bob’s life has been shaped by his Work, and his family, and how without one of those, he feels like he has nothing left. For me, at least, it’s a story that evokes a whole lot in the relationship between Bill and Bob and their time as exorcists, and brings them to a new point, where maybe they can move forward. Especially for Bob, that maybe he can forgive himself and step fully into the world of the living. A great read!

“For All His Eyes Can See” by Steve Rasnic Tem (4022 words)

No Spoilers: Peter lives in a post-disaster, likely post-War world where there’s little more than scrounging and surviving. Except that he’s been chosen by someone called Clarice because of what he can see. Because of how he can see. Because Peter is able to see beneath the surface of things, to their edges, to the decomposition of the universe. He can see truths and experiences in items that people perhaps shouldn’t, and it’s this gift that makes him valuable to Clarice. It’s also something that might put him in danger, if the advice Peter’s getting is to be believed. The story is strange and ominous, exploring a ruined landscape made even more haunted and alien by Peter’s abilities and the escalating horror of his situation.
Keywords: Sight, Post-Disaster, Hunger, Bargains, Training, CW- Eye Trauma
Review: Peter’s situation is rather familiar, which is part of what makes it terrifying for me: he’s comfortable, suddenly, after so long of living hungry and vulnerable that he doesn’t want to question what might be coming with this comfort. What it might cost. He thinks, and I ache with understanding at this, that this situation is just, and that it’s good, because he so needs it to be. Because he was staring down starvation and suddenly he’s fed and content and just has to follow some admitedly strange demands but nothing too difficult, and nothing that makes him think he’s doing something wrong. He just has to look. To train his eyes to use his gifts better and better. To see beneath the surface of things. And so he does, and he does, never asking what he’s training for, and I love that progression, how Peter ignores the warnings, the people reaching out to try and warn him that something isn’t right. It speaks so real to me, and then shit happens and it all comes to a head and of course it’s tragic and horrifying. Of course everything degenerates into chaos without a filter. Because the truth of this world has always been that there’s no winning. Though that’s the goal that Peter is shooting for, it was never open to him except through chance and he just never got that lucky. Instead, he joins the masses who disappear, to descend into something dark and obliterating. And it’s a striking commentary on how people trying to rise out of broken and ruined systems are never free of vulnerability, are only more likely to be taken advantage of when they seem to come across a lucky break that gives them something for nothing. A creepy and provoking read!


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