We have original short fiction from Woody Dismukes (“A Cast of Liches”) and Joanna Parypinski (“It Accumulates”). Our “The Horror Lab” micro-treats include a flash story by Michael Kelly (“That Which Crawls from Dark Soil”) and a poem by Meg Elison (“Modern Promethea”). In the latest installment of “The H Word,” Donald McCarthy talks about how horror has helped him cope with mental health issues. Plus we have author spotlights with our authors, and a review of the movie Hunter Hunter. It’s creepy stuff!
Mar. 2021 (Issue 102)
Welcome to issue 102 of Nightmare! In the Northern hemisphere, March is the first month of spring. Where I live, it’s the month when the dead gray sticks surrounding the house suddenly transform into living trees, all green leaves and pink flowers. Perennials spring up from the dull muddy earth, turning brown to viridian. It is a season of transformation, when magic feels possible, and anything might happen. The work in this month’s issue all touches on transformation and change.
“For how long must we keep doing this?” the first lich asked the second. His dreadlocks were dry and had faded near to white, a smell not of fragrant oils, but of something long past due permeating the air around him. His eyes were tired and sucked back into his skull. “As long as it takes,” the second answered. Bent forth on his crooked staff, he observed the cauldron’s brew. “Keep churning.” A third lich stood by silently, as if deep in meditation. After a time, he too leaned his wicked bones over the pot and spit. “That should do,” he said.
On a barren hiking trail this past summer, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a young person just off the path, half-hiding, peering quizzically at me. The sun was blinding. I blinked and the person was no longer there. I followed the trail, and circling back to the same spot I saw, or imagined I saw, a blur of a face peeking from behind a tree. There, then gone. Did I see someone? Who? What were they doing? And why? I chalked it up to the heat. But the questions remained.
About a decade ago, my friend drove me through what remains of Pilgrim State Hospital, an area filled with derelict structures that look as inviting as prisons. One structure, a cylindrical brick building, stands in an otherwise empty field, like a watchful creature waiting to pounce. The structures fascinated me as much as they intimidated me. As someone with mental illness, my relationship with the landscape was an odd one. It is not inconceivable that in a time before antidepressants I could have ended up in those buildings back when they operated.
It is a frequent yet mild aggravation to return to one’s car in a public parking structure and find stuck beneath the windshield wiper or in the door handle a postcard peddling Chinese delivery or Jesus, which is then folded angrily and left in the pocket of the driver’s side door until you remember to clean it out—but it is a sight more unsettling to find, instead, a black postcard advertising in bold red letters: “Exorcisms.” In the greenish fluorescent light of the cement structure, surrounded by empty spots, you might pause over the ad, might even chuckle.
I was thinking about the power of Frankenstein not to raise the dead and become like god, but to redress the unjust nature of death (femicide in particular) to make god irrelevant. I was thinking about how not all women bear children, and some of us make people in other ways. How we all make each other. How we’re all riding the lightning, just staying alive. And then there was a poem.
Our reviewer checked out the movie Hunter Hunter. Would he recommend it? You’ll have to read to find out!