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.
‘The Fall of the Old Faith’ was one of the first submissions we received for The New Gothic. Ed Martin’s appreciation of the old masters, MR James, Edgar Allen Poe, is obvious in his prose and structure. The sound of a door creaking open on a forested hill thrusts our narrator, and us along with him, into a chilling sequence of events from which nobody will escape unscathed.
Two days later I returned to the wood. It was the weekend by this point, and the countryside was thick with ramblers and dog walkers, to whom I should not have liked to explain myself. I cast a glimpse at the fields around me as I stole into the deeper woodland where I had first heard the sound of the door and experienced the strange, compelling sensation that drew me into my investigations. Fortunately, despite the presence of a few walkers, I did not see anybody looking in my direction and was able to disappear into the thickets. To my considerable annoyance it appeared as if the sky was darkening again, despite the weather forecast suggesting nothing but glorious sunshine all day. It had certainly seemed glorious when I left home. At the time I was more irritated about leaving my umbrella at home; in retrospect the unnatural speed of the clouds, which drew over me like a stage curtain, should perhaps have caught my attention rather more than they did. It was almost as if the wood and I were being hidden from the rest of the world, the better for it to reveal the secret at its heart.
The walk gave me time to think my investigations through. There had to be, I reasoned, some piece of physical evidence remaining on the site, however small. The fact of my hearing the noise, and then discovering the text in the library, seemed too much of a coincidence to put down to my imagination. The building in question was supposedly a small one, which could perhaps account for the absence of any apparent ruins waiting to be discovered by one of the innumerable people who must have walked through the site over the centuries. Had the building been made of stone, it was more than plausible that its masonry may have been taken, a piece at a time, for other uses. Therefore, if anything were to survive, it would probably be the foundation stones, hidden from disturbance by the thick carpet of ferns and bracken that covered the area. For this reason I had thought to stow some thick gardening gloves in my rucksack before setting out.
I arrived at the site at around three o’ clock in the afternoon. The wind had become unsettlingly cold and, while no rain was falling yet, the sky was heavy and dark…
For the rest, get The New Gothic from Stone Skin Press.
Ed Martin is 28 and teaches English Literature in a Surrey secondary school, and often uses unsuspecting students as sounding boards for the occasional ghost story. When not teaching he can often be found exploring the Surrey countryside, searching for some interesting piece of folklore. His influences include Mervyn Peake, M. R. James, and Nigel Kneale; “The Fall of the Old Faith” is his first publication. He can be found tweeting at @EdMartin84.