The Gothic is the most enduring literary tradition in history but in recent years friendly ghosts and vegetarian vampires threaten its foundations. The New Gothic is a collection of short stories which revisits to the core archetypes of the Gothic, the rambling, secret-filled building, the stranger seeking answers, the black-hearted tyrant, and reminds us not to embrace but to fear the darkness.
Richard Dansky’s ‘A Meeting at the Devil’s House’, embraces the Southern Gothic and begins with one of the genre’s favourite tropes; a mysterious meeting between strangers in a remote house. With Lovecraftian influences, the house and its two unwitting visitors are pulled into a situation they can’t possibly comprehend or escape.
No roads led to the house where I was going, and you couldn’t find it on any map. Built before the War of Northern Aggression, it had wrapped itself in fog and moss and vanished into history like a leading lady walking offstage before the wrinkles could begin to show. To find it, you had to know where it was, and, to know where it was, you had to have been there already. This kept the fools and the drifters and the tax men far from her doors, allowing her to slowly crumble, at her own pace and without any witnesses.
But I had business there, and I knew where I was going. Had been there before, on business other than mine, and so the path was familiar. Officially the place was in Mississippi, or it had been once upon a time, but when I turned onto the dirt road that led down into the mist, all the names and labels went away.
The last time the house had been painted, it had been painted white. It still held that color in most places, the ones where vines hadn’t wrapped themselves around columns and up waterspouts and given the place an accent in dark green. All those columns still stood, holding up the roof over a porch that by rights should have moldered into sagging, broken wood.
It hadn’t. Nor had the front door fallen from its hinges, though the brass knocker that once adorned the heavy wood had long since been ripped out and carried away. I’d heard what had happened to the man who’d done that, once, and I had no need to hear that story ever again…
For the rest, get The New Gothic from Stone Skin Press.