|Art by grandfailure|
January 2019 seems a great time to remind readers by The Dark Magazine is named, well, The Dark. Because it sets a course for visceral horror and does not waver as it sails directly for it. Through a quiet, almost somber tone, it takes readers on a descent, through the crust of the earth to the roiling innards and deeper, deeper, cutting through the societal niceties and norms and finding a raw and bleeding heart crying for change. The stories feature characters trapped in many ways by their roles, by their jobs, and by their responsibilities to their families. They take two very different paths, but both works explore what lurks beneath the surface, and what darknesses can come back up when people dip down and try to rise.
“Burrowing Machines” by Sara Saab (3779 words)
No Spoilers: Jo is an engineer working on expanding the London Underground, putting in a new line around the various waterways, most importantly the River Fleet, which runs underneath the city, and hiding some dark secrets which a dig in Hampstead Heath’s duck pond helps to uncover. The story follows Jo as they work on this project, as their dreams are invaded by their past, and as a series of mysterious and tragic events make for a dark and brooding narrative about monsters and undercurrents and the awakening of something huge and hungry. The piece is built around tragedy, layered new and old, and a deep tiredness that comes with living in the dark.
Keywords: Water, Subways, Monsters, Siblings, Loss, Dreams, Rivers
Review: I love the way this story captures a feeling of the past resurfacing. It layers Jo’s own tragic past with what’s going on with the project, with the dig in the duck pond, with the strange attack on the Underground. It has this draining, heavy feel to me, that comes through from the way that Jo works, from the way that she never really sees the sun. As someone who does work sometimes where I don’t see the sun for a week because of the seasons, because of work, I really get the way that it wears on a person, the way that it pushes them to strange dreams, strange thoughts, and a sense of dread. It’s a slowly building read, where things don’t go bad all at once. It builds, bit by bit, giving Jo and the reader plenty of time to know what’s coming. And in some ways it’s because Jo is tired, primed by dreams and exhaustion to be able to think of something outside of what should be possible. Ready to believe in monsters because of their own guilt and their own sorrow and their own urge to isolate themself, to hide from the world, to lurk away from humanity. And I like how it ends up drawing them out, because they end up being able to see what’s happening. To the city. To them. And that they feel it inside themself as well, what this job is doing to them. I love how, in the end, this new tragedy ends up pulling out into the world, into the daylight, to start a school program and make a break from living underground in the dark. It’s a creepy piece, slow and ponderous, and a great read!
“Tansy” by Angela Fu (2450 words)
No Spoilers: Set in sometime during what feels to me like the mid-Twentieth Century, this piece explores gender roles and parenting, sustenance and infidelity. It features unnamed characters distinguished by their roles. The wife, the husband, and the baby, who might also be you. The piece is strange, lightly speculative but anything but light in mood and content (and hey, the publication is called The Dark for a reason). It’s a difficult piece, mostly because of the care and quiet that pervades something that is incredibly upsetting to read. At its core, though, it seems to be about the poison of gender roles, and the tragedy of being stuck in them.
Keywords: CW- Cannibalism, CW- Death of a Child, Infidelity, Marriage, Parenting, Cooking
Review: Okay, so occasionally I’ll come across a story about eating babies and it’s always something of a shock. And definitely full content warnings here, though I think what the story does very well is in showing how the cooking and even killing of this child aren’t these isolated things. Taken individually, they are no more tragic than everything else in the piece. In many ways, they are inevitable given the trajectory of the lives in question, the way they’ve been pushed and the ways they are falling apart. It’s a picture of supposed domestic bliss, but it exposes just how shallow that portrayal is, hiding over a messy truth of frustration, hurt, and rage that is never supposed to see the light of day. The wife is supposed to do everything unquestioning. She is supposed to accept all the things that happen, is supposed to suffer and support and always always bury her own opinions and feelings. The story is broken by time in an almost dreamlike way, one time line showing the family going forward, the husband cheating, the wife aware but doing nothing, the child brought up in that broken environment. In the other, the baby is dead and being cooked. Which is reality? Which a dream? Can they both be true at once? The piece prods and provokes with its disturbing content, with the way it blurs the line, also asking which version of events is better? Which do we want? Who is to blame? When the entire situation is fucked up, bound by roles that might be a bit different now but still run deep in our culture, and certainly at the time were strong as iron. And it’s a visceral, wrenching piece with an understated emotion boiling beneath a serene surface. Definitely a piece to spend some time with!