|Art by Vincent Chong|
The latest issue of The Dark Magazine focuses on monsters, on beings who might be gods, beings who are making some unfair bargains and fully expect to get away with it. And, well, they’re not necessarily wrong to think that, as the stories are also visceral and intensely grim. They offer no real relief from the crush of injustice and the descent of time. But then, the publication isn’t called The Happy. So it’s a rather appropriate issue, if also a rather devastating one. To the reviews!
“Call Them Children” by Wenmimareba Klobah Collins (5947 words)
No Spoilers: Yuya is one of the few children left in their city, in a Puerto Rico that seems largely under water, which they live amidst the crumbling skyscrapers and where children are increasingly rare. One of the bright spots of their life is Camelia, their closest friend, but as the story opens she’s been missing for five days, and Yuya is determined to track her down. What follows, though, gets into the magic and the horror of this post-disaster world, and Yuya’s attempts to reclaim their friend will take them down some shadowed paths into certain peril. The work is tense and sweeping, the landscape twisted and hiding dangers great and small. And through it all is the dedication Yuya has to Camelia, and pressure from all sides pushing towards destruction, loss, and tragedy.
Keywords: Post-Disaster, Climate Change, Snakes, Children, Music
Review: I love the feeling of the story, the sort of fallen nature of the place, of the world. The way that everyone seems to be holding their breath waiting for a final push, for some new tragedy and horror. The world has lost a lot, but there really doesn’t seem to be a sense that it’s something that can be pushed back against, can be fought. For me at least it’s more trying to hold onto what’s left, knowing that even that really can’t be, because of the way the world has gone, the toxic elements, the hunger, the lack of hope. Hope that Yuya still seems to have to some extent, but that Camelia seems to have lost. That, for me, is a huge part of the story, that Yuya still believes in a future where somehow they can be happy. They can be together and build something but, more and more, that seems like a fantasy. That having children is selfish more than anything because who would want to bring a child into...that. That living in it, that bringing joy into it, is in some ways worse than being miserable because the joy seems almost...inappropriate given everything. At least that’s how it can seem, and Dlo, a giant snake and possible goddess of death, is sort of running with it, taking children before they’re ready, ushering them into the chorus of those who sing for her as she hunts. In return, she offers these children a release from the stress of the world and from the future. The uncertainty and disappointment of it. For me, Yuya’s struggle to save Camelia is a struggle to try and convince her and convince themself that it’s worth it. That despite the oppressive setting and the lack of prospects, the future can be bright still, can hold for them something real and good. And the piece is otherwise just sharp and terrifying, grim while also gutting because of the love Yuya and Camelia share, the future they had hoped for that might not survive the optimism of childhood. It’s just so raw and real, visceral in the way that Yuya fights, devastating in the way they can’t defeat the decline of their world, their civilization, and the hungry jaws of death. A wonderful read!
“The Goatkeeper’s Harvest” by Tobi Ogundiran (4175 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is a widow and mother of two living on a farm, who finds goats eating on her yams one day and seeks to drive them off. But of course the goats aren’t exactly goats and her act inadvertently breaks a compact that has kept the region relatively prosperous. The situation goes from bad to worse to HORRIFYING, though, as she has to face what’s happened, hoping for help and deliverance from people who probably should have done more to protect her from this very thing. It’s an intense horror, immediate and obliterating. There’s this overwhelming power and violence involved and it’s a bit of difficult read but also just some brilliant horror.
Keywords: Yams, Goats, Bargains, Family, Transformations
Review: I really shouldn’t be surprised that the author manages to continually get under my skin. He has a way with horror that is unrelenting, that doesn’t really give much in the way of relief or hope. And here the piece is so visceral, stemming from a singular misunderstanding, really, but no less deadly or tragic because of it. And I think for me that’s a huge place where the horror of the story comes from, the Out-Of-Proportion nature of the thing. That the narrator could do something small, not even really kill a goat, and somehow be guilty of it, and in the aftermath lose pretty much everything left to her. Not just a goat for a goat, as the bargain might have been, but much worse math for her. And it underscores that really this shouldn’t have been her price to pay at all, that this was something that was specifically hidden from her, so that when she acts she does so innocently, and yet she is the one who has to pay. It sort of gets at the way that these systems disproportionately punish women, even when women already have it harder in having to overcome more, having to worry about raising the children and growing the food both, having to do everything and then find through the fault of a man, really, that she’s been doomed. It’s gutting and upsetting and real, and the story captures that so well, the force arrayed against her, the poor protection that she’s offered by those who were supposed to protect her and failed. Who don’t show up to rescue her. Who let her down in just about every way. And fuck it’s just a grim read, absolutely devastating how it shows her life dismantled as if by a storm that barely has a thought for her. That sees her only because she’s angered it, a fly buzzing in its space, and its reaction is like a lot of people’s--to pick up something and squash the fly. It’s not fair, because it was never her bargain, never her opting in, but then so little in the world is fair, and the tragedy follows the lines of injustice, a woman crushed under the weight of other people’s decisions. A sharp and wonderfully terrifying story!