|Art by grandfailure|
Both stories in the May issue of The Dark Magazine feature women and isolation. Women in isolation, pushed by expectations and roles to a place where they don’t know what to want or what to do. Until they are confronted by shades along the edge of the vision. A hint of movement. A promise that maybe the loneliness they feel will be lifted, their solitude broken. Only what they find in the dark isn’t exactly what it seems at first, and both have to make choices about how they will confront what lurks in the dark, waiting to be let in. To the reviews!
“Wilderling” by Angela Slatter (5546 words)
No Spoilers: LP is a woman spending most of her time moving from hobby to hobby, trying to distract herself from the judgments of the people around her who pity and blame her for her lack of children. It’s the role she was expected to inhabit, and without children she’s something of a stay-at-home mom but with a central lack. Until a strange child appears in her yard. A child with a wildness and a hunger that maybe should frighten her but instead gives her a flicker of hope. The piece is heavy with the expectations that have been placed on LP, this one thing she’s supposed to do that she isn’t, and how it dominates so much. The mystery and promise of the child captivates her, and leads her on a dark path toward an unknown future. It’s creepy, unsettling, and ends with a shattering moment of hush and terror.
Keywords: Hobbies, Marriage, CW- Miscarriage/Difficulty to Conceive, Cats, Family
Review: You might want to proceed with caution if you really like cats, because a number of them are fictionally sacrificed here as LP works through her own feelings of inadequacy, boredom, and grief at her lack of children. It’s something that she’s accepted, something that she wants, though how much she really wants kids and how much she wants to just not be judged as a bad woman for not having them is a bit up in the air. Her life is defined by service, by the role that this small town requires. She’s supposed to be a mother, supposed to fulfill that promise passed on by her mother (a nasty and bitter woman who also feels LP’s failure as reflecting on her, because all these small towns have that mentality, that if there’ s a problem it’s the mark a family has been cursed for moral failings). And then this child appears. This wildling. And eats the cat that LP hates. And eats the other cats that LP leaves out for them, hoping perhaps to trap them and “tame” them and make them into the child that she always wanted. She never stops to really examine it, either, to ponder the toxic and dark path that she gets on when chasing this child. She doesn’t see that her desire for a child in this way is fueled by something rotten. She just goes toward it, not seeing until it’s too late what lies at the end of the path, where grief and frustration make a nest of tragedy. It’s an unsettling and wicked read, a slow descent, and it’s very much worth checking out!
“The Wiley” by Sara Saab (5373 words)
No Spoilers: Manon is a programmer and the only woman involved in a huge tech company sale that leaves her incredibly wealthy. She buys a big empty house and fills it with expensive furniture. Something goes wrong with the program she helped to build, though, and suddenly the country, then the continent, then more is bathed in darxne.ss as the electrical utilities are all shut down. At the same time, Manon becomes aware of a presence in her house, something drawn to her by their shared loneliness, and the piece gets dark and creepy from there, but also has an undeniable beauty as well. There’s a grace to it as it reveals the darkness that lives in the pursuit of power and fortune, the ridiculous work required to sell out right, and the damage it can do for all involved. It’s a strange, haunting piece, full of things a person finds in the dark, alone.
Keywords: Codes, Computer Viruses, Darkness, Monsters, Isolation, Loneliness
Review: I love the magic and the monster this story reveals. The sort of tender relationship between Manon and The Wiley. The Wiley, who is something foreign grown from the dark and loneliness but is also something that seems to come from within Manon, that mirrors her and is waiting only to be embraced. The story is framed as a sort of confession, Manon telling the reader all the things she cannot say in public, the truth that seems like fantasy. I love how the story draws around this strange virus, this intrusion into Manon’s order, the program that she spent so much of herself building. And I love how it deals with the isolation and the loneliness that she feels now that, her company sold, she doesn’t have to work. Doesn’t have to kill herself pushing forward on too little sleep for months and months and months. Doesn’t have to convince people to invest, and fix all the problems herself. Looking into the prospect of having time, the isolation that had always been present takes a shape, and introduces itself. And it’s such a weird story and situation, a virus that seems also to spring from Manon, from her despair and her repressed anger, all the things she’s not allowed herself to feel because she’s had to work. It lashes out, but even as it does other parts of her want to reign that in. It’s a story of conflict and Manon slowly reaching the point where she can ask for help, where she can confront all of what’s happening, and where she can decide what to do next. To try and tackle the problem as she’s done everything else, through brutal work and long hours and toil, or to turn a different direction and find a sort of comfort in the companionship of loneliness. And again, it’s just a haunting and dark read, with an almost dreamlike quality to it, where Manon must navigate a world of shadows and monsters, viruses and fires, and must find direction after wresting hold of her ambitions. A wonderful read!