|Art by Miranda Adria|
October means an issue of spooky stories from The Dark Magazine, which is mostly just business as usual, to be honest. The stories do carry some of the hallmarks of “Halloween season,” though—namely, they feature ghosts and zombies. Just...not the kind that one would expect to show up in a rather commercialized monster tale. Instead, these stories trace the roots back to something still very much dangerous and lurking at the edges of vision, in the space where the laws of man and nature seem to blur and something else asserts itself. To the reviews!
“On Full Moon Nights” by Idza Luhumyo (3070 words)
No Spoilers: in a village by the sea, when a storm is strong enough, on a full moon night the water coughs up the spirit of a young girl, who joins with the spirit of a living girl in plaguing the town and certain people in particular because of a tragic event that happened. The piece is weird, flowing in a way that paints a rather poetic and terrifying picture of what’s happening, and introducing the reader to the variety of personalities involved, from the two little girls to their victims to the women of the village who know enough about magic to want to do something about it. It’s a haunting piece, and one that seems to understand that for some problems the solutions are complicated and grim.
Keywords: Visitations, Mischief, Dreams, Loss, Magic
Review: There’s something really magical and rather haunting about how the story comes together. It begins with the focus on the children and then travels with them through the town, their spirits lashing out because of the tragedy of what has happened to them. And there’s this sweep as the piece builds up the world, the town, and the specifics of the situation, like a fruit slowly being sliced until only the core remains. It’s something of a mystery, the story, and it delivers on its promises, though not in a direct sort of way. The action happens in cycles, in loops, in the meandering path of these girls who are causing such havoc in their wake. The whys of the story are slow in being revealed, but when they do, they hit and hit hard. And for me the piece explores the space that is opened after a wrong happens. The energy that such a chilling thing can have and maintain. And how it can threaten to bring people down with it, can infect them in many ways. If not magically, than through guilt and lingering fear of retribution. For the town, it’s something that is festering, rotting, and before long might get worse for everyone involved. Which is why it takes these three women, these three magical people, to actually put an end to it. It’s not a very pleasant end, but it closes the circle that was left open by the first death, and even if it’s not entirely right, it’s neither entirely wrong, and while nothing can bring back the dead or erase what’s happened, with the wound closed the healing can finally begin. Which means that for all it’s a story about death that ends in death, it also focuses on hope, and recovery, and balance, which are indeed magical forces. A wonderful read!
“Authentic Zombies of the Caribbean” by Ana María Shua, translated by Andrea G. Labinger (3258 words)
No Spoilers: Gonzalo is a boy on vacation with his family, from Argentina all the way to southern Florida, to Disney World. But not just that theme park. As the vacation continues on, the family decides to try some of the attractions outside Disney, and stumbles across an add for an “authentic” zombie experience. It’s certain...unique. The piece follows in detail what happens, the show that might be something more than a show, and the strange place that Gonzalo himself is in, a child but already starting to be disillusioned with the magic of childhood. It’s fun, rather funny, a bit irreverent, and darkly rewarding.
Keywords: Tourism, Magic, Voodoo, Food, Transformations, Family
Review: The whole set up of this family experiencing an “authentic” zombie show while eating pizza in tourist-driven Florida is rather wild and I quite appreciate it. Gonzalo’s family is hilarious, the rest of his family very interested in figuring out how things work, of offering up rational explanations to everything, and Gonzalo disappointed by the fact that the happiest place on Earth is, after everything, fake. Just at the age when he can realize that, there’s a sense that the trip has broken something in him, has cost him his belief in magic. Only the magic that he experiences at the zombie show is different. It’s not the safe magic of Disney, where everything is rather toothless, where the heroes always win and the princesses are always innocent. This magic is dangerous and comes from sources that Gonzalo hasn’t had to confront yet. There is an edge to this magic that is much uglier and real, drawn from death and exploitation and so much more tangible than anyone at the show is expecting. What’s interesting is that the “authentic” show is more authentic, is actually pulling from traditions and conjuring up some dark powers. All the while people eat pizza and think that they are safe, think that it is all fake. Even Gonzalo. But there comes a kind of reminder for him to know that magic is real, to understand that it’s not just the stuff of cartoons. That out there are hungry forces that can do wondrous and terrible things. And that sometimes wanting to experience magic can be a wish best not granted. It’s a fun read, one full of a grim humor and sense of adventure but with the sense that the fun only exists so long as people don’t see that it’s not fake. As long as people don’t believe. Because once they do, the punchline gets a lot more creepy. A great read!