|Art by Romolo Tavani|
Halloween is over but the darkness continues year round at The Dark Magazine. November brings a pair of stories that are very much about family...and the forces working to break them apart. They look at war and immigration, racism and despair, magic and peace. The characters revealed are struggling against heavy weights that seem poised to crush them, and their ways of coping are...not always the healthiest. But without other options, it’s what they have, and the stories explore what that means, and the cost it has for the characters and their families. To the reviews!
“The Beckoning Green” by Elizabeth Childs (5003 words)
No Spoilers: This story follows the narrator through a life grounded by a certain affinity for nature. For plants. A desire to be pulled into the green, where there is peace. Because in their life otherwise there’s mostly war. War that marked their mother, and war that takes their brother. And on, and on. The story moves in time, checking in on the narrator through their life, as a child who becomes a young protester who becomes a partner and a parent and another in a chain of people who lose and who are found in the cold wet places of the wild. It’s a piece that carries an almost sensuous flow when it comes to describing the way that plants, that the earth, effects the narrator, how they grow cold and transparent, like water. And there’s an urge to embrace that and the conflicting urge holding them to people, to their family, to the fragile beauty of a mortal and human existence. It’s a balance that can’t last forever.
Keywords: War, Plants, Water, Nature, Family, CW- Loss of a Child
Review: The story does a nice job of grounding itself in historical tragedy and conflict, first through the narrator’s mother having known war, then with the narrator’s brother being drafted into the Vietnam War. War is fire, is heat and trauma. It acts as a sort of counter to the cold peace of the green, of the earth, and throughout the story the narrator is pulled in both directions, where heat is the heat of people, and coldness the certainty of peace. And there’s a deep beauty to the prose of how that operates, something at the same time haunted and hopeful, sensual and broken. The narrator finds the cold a kind of release, but is constantly being pulled back. By their mother. By their brother’s jacket. By their husband, who is a fire fighter and carries that heat as well, of conflict and danger. And for a while it seems like the narrator has found their peace without having to sink into the green. That they have a family and a man who can keep them warm when they need it, who they can in turn help not burn up. Maybe, if history didn’t repeat itself, it would have been enough, beautiful, freeing. As it is, though, even with the lessons from Vietnam, the military actions in the Middle East pull the narrator’s child in the same way their brother was pulled. Only their child doesn’t come back broken. He doesn’t come back at all. And it’s a shattering moment, softened only by what else the narrator has in their life. The other people. But the story follows a kind of losing battle against the pains of the world. Where slowly, bit by bit, the reasons for not sinking into the green are taken away. And it’s tragic and freeing all at once, because at least it does give them access to this thing that has been calling them for so long. And by the time they embrace it, they’ve already lived long enough to lose most of the people who they were closest with, who could give them any warmth. It’s a lovely experience, dark but without a sense of horror or dread. Just...change, and the weight of all the ways the world isn’t often a very hospitable place. A wonderful read!
“Logic Puzzles” by Vaishnavi Patel (2379 words)
No Spoilers: This story focuses on a family who has moved from India to America in the hopes of achieving The American Dream. The father works at a plastic bag factory. The mother works cleaning houses. The daughter hates the country and just wants them to move back to where everything wasn’t so suffocating and so white. The only thing she ends up liking about America is logic puzzles. Something about them speak to her of magic, even if it’s not the magic she really wants. But as it’s all that’s available to her, she spends all the time she can making puzzles. Puzzles that, she comes to slowly realize, are coming true... The piece is strange, with a growing sense of dread and darkness made powerful by the casual grumpiness of the main character.
Keywords: Immigration, Employment, School, Puzzles, Family, Prophecy
Review: I love the way this story grows the horrific elements, and how it shows them as an aspect of American magic. I think that, most of all, is where so much of the power comes from in this piece, where the main character, the daughter, just wants a bit of magic, something to make her time in America less hellish. And in these logic puzzles she gets something of a release. It allows her to assimilate better, which is the direction that everyone is pushing her, even her parents. They see in becoming “American” that she will somehow be better off and, well, just better. Only she doesn’t care about that, misses the home she knew before the move and the magic there. In America, though she finds something new to enjoy, there’s this edge to it, this darkness. Where there’s a power that she taps into, that manifests in reality bending to the puzzles she makes. Only that’s not really under her control. Her puzzles come to her, are inspired by...something that she can’t quite explain or give voice to. But it’s from that inspiration that she creates and is able to either predict the future or create it. Only again, this is an American magic, and as such it’s a hungry, dark thing. That doesn’t stop from taking her father away, and, it’s implied, probably aiming for her mother next (though it might be possible that it’s the girl herself that is the target). Either way, it shows that this magic isn’t safe for her. It’s still targeting those who are different, who are marginalized. And even as she starts to see that this magic shouldn’t be trusted, shouldn’t be used, she’s faced with the fact that it’s her only way of coping, and she has no support otherwise. She must assimilate or be completely alone, but assimilating might just cost her everything, as well. At least everything that linked her back to her home, which means her family. It’s a creeping piece that really sticks the landing, and the last line is sinister and fucked up and goooooood. So yeah, definitely check this one out! A fantastic story!