Inside the New Gothic: “The Boy by the Gate”

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.

In ‘The Boy by the Gate’, Dmetri Kakmi give us a beautifully classic tale of a disappearance and a friend who goes searching. Kakmi begins his story, as we all would, safely around a fire with friends but what follows takes us far from this warmth.

It was a rainy night, and the four of us — Ross Orr, Geoff Hitchens, Rebecca Nagy, and myself — had gathered round the fireplace at Rebecca’s home to stay warm and keep each other company during the longest and coldest night of the year. As happens at this sort of gathering, what with one thing and another, people began to tell ghost stories. Real ghost stories. Things that happened to them or to a close friend.

As Ross related a particularly gruesome tale about a driver who encounters a grey woman on a lonely country road, Rebecca shuddered and, excusing herself, walked to the kitchen to fetch more of her excellent chocolate cookies. As a tribute to her culinary skills, they were devoured in no time, and the plate had to be replenished, together with cups of hot Belgian cocoa.

Next in line was Geoff with an unsettling story from his childhood. Between the ages of ten and eleven, he awoke every night to find a blond boy standing at the foot of the bed. Nothing ever happened. The scene merely repeated itself, night after night, over many years, until Geoff was used to the visitant and did not bat an eyelid when the phantom made his nocturnal appearance. In adulthood Geoff discovered that a child of the same description died in that room more than thirty years earlier.

Being the close-minded sort, I had nothing in the way of phantasmal visitations to offer, which meant I could pass the ball with relief to our hostess. Rebecca remained quiet for a minute or two. Then she raised her dark head and said,

“This didn’t happen to me. It happened to a friend long ago, when she and I were doing Year 11 in high school. If I hesitate it’s because I’m not sure I have a right to tell the story to a group of strangers who didn’t know her and can’t possibly appreciate the seriousness of what happened to her at a young age…”

For the rest, get The New Gothic from Stone Skin Press.

Dmetri Kakmi is a writer and editor. His book Mother Land is probably the only memoir that features ghosts and mythological beings. Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards; and is published in Australia, England, and Turkey. Dmetri also edited the acclaimed children’s anthology When We Were Young. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies. He’s currently working on two novels.

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