We have original fiction from Lori Selke (“A Head in a Box, or Implications of Consciousness after Decapitation”) and Vincent Michael Zito (“The Owner’s Guide to Home Repair, Page 238: What to Do About Water Odor”), along with reprints by Halli Villegas (“The Family”) and Lynda E. Rucker (“Different Angels”). We also have Gwendolyn Kiste bringing us the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, and a feature interview with up-and-comer S.P. Miskowski.
In This Issue: Jan. 2018 (Issue 64)
Be sure to check out the Editorial for a run-down of this month’s content, plus all our news and updates.
This is not about the movie. The movie that launched her career, where she played the pretty wife of a headstrong cop. Pretty, blonde, smart, convincing. Unhappy. The dutiful wife, killed, dismembered, beheaded. Just like the only other woman in the film, the fatal object of sin manifest. How ironic was it that The Actress first made such a strong cinematic impression with her portrayal of a character whose severed head does indeed end up in a packing crate in the middle of a field so that The Actor—her boyfriend at the time—can have a crisis of conscience?
The family’s house was a rambling white-frame farmhouse set on a hill. It had attics and dormers and porches. To her it seemed like there were twenty, forty, even fifty children in the family, but the actual count was thirteen. Like a family of rabbits in a warren on the hill, instead of underneath it. Not all the children lived at home; a few were off at university or had jobs in the city, but there were still enough to make the house feel perpetually in chaos.
Growing up, I never remember fearing witches. Instead, I feared the men who burned them. As a strange, bullied child who always took magic for granted, I tacitly assumed if witch-hunts ever started again, I wouldn’t be safe. Somebody would quickly recognize me as “wrong” and tie me to the nearest pyre. Witch hunts were the stuff real nightmares were made of. Men would yank you from your bed in the night and lock you up in a dark cell. Your chance of a fair trial was non-existent. And they did this ostensibly for the good of your neighbors and your family.
Turn the crystal knob on your kitchen faucet and shut off the water. Step back. Wave the air in front of you, cough, snort, pinch your nose, do whatever you must to clear the repulsive smell clogging your nostrils as if you’ve just inhaled rotten meat. Think of the dead crab you found when you were ten years old, its body washed to shore in Rhode Island, and you brought it home and kept it all summmer long in an empty pickle jar on your dresser, even as the crab’s shell turned a sick, dark grey and erupted with crawling pink worms that scavenged the flesh, until one day in August when you opened the jar.
In the swelling, oppressive heat of a Georgia midday, Jolie came home. She choked on the red clay dust clouds billowing from beneath the wheels of the old Chevy that dropped her off a half-mile past the end of the paved road. They had picked her up walking on the Calhoun Falls highway headed out of town. Jolie could see the concerned faces of the snot-nosed kids with whom she’d shared the back seat pressing against the window, until the car dipped down a hill and out of sight. Her fingers were slick on the strap of the overnight-sized suitcase she carried, and she let it slip to the ground.
Three-time Shirley Jackson Award nominee S.P. Miskowski was raised in Decatur, Georgia, but later moved to the Pacific Northwest. After receiving an M.F.A. from the University of Washington and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, she seemed poised for a career as a writer of mainstream fiction (she cites Flannery O’Connor as an early influence), but instead found her way into the horror genre. She debuted with Knock Knock, the first of a series of books set in the fictional town of Skillute.