Inside the New Gothic: “The Devil in a Hole”

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 Devil in a Hole’, Mason Wild easily evokes the craggy, sun- kissed landscape of the Ardèche Valley in France with a tale that both disgusts and delights. His ‘cadaver man’ is one of the most original characters we’ve seen in a long time and Wild’s use of scripture and metaphor adds great depth to such a short story.

Father Guigal says that when the world was made, the Devil drew a long-nailed finger across the landscape as if it were a whore’s back, and carved out the Ardèche valley. The Devil cut deeply in places, and, there, the water cascades; in others, he marked out gentle, teasing curves, and the river meanders; and, where he drew straight lines, the current is slow with treacherous eddies. When we drink together in Martel’s bar, and the priest is in his cups, he leans forward and speaks of the Devil with almost Protestant relish. If he were not a man of God I would be concerned for his soul. But the rich red wine of Orgnac-l’Aven is heady, and as the Father says to me when he is sober, “Yves Montrevel, avoid the wine! Lay it aside, my friend. Your eyes will see strange visions, and your heart utter perverse things.” What else does he say? That the white rock of the valley is riddled with fathomless tunnels, that Hell draws close to the surface here, and that a man is just a slip and fall away from tumbling straight into the pit with no chance of redemption.

This talk of the Devil, and of the ground riddled with holes, brings me to my tale. My work is not noble, but it is necessary, for I am the cadaver man. Wherever there is livestock, there is pestilence, injury, and death: a swollen calf with its tongue protruding, a sheep savaged by a wolf, or a pig with murrain. A limping animal is of no use to anyone, and bloated corpses spread an evil miasma that afflicts other animals, so the farmers look to me to rid them of half- dead cattle and even the occasional aged, loyal hound. All they know is that I take them away, and, in return, they might give me small golden discs of soft goat’s cheese, a bag of chestnut flour, or a cured ham…

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

Mason Wild lives in a crofter’s cottage overlooking the Esk valley. He shares his house with two Irish wolfhounds and a crow. He gets his ideas from a Victorian tin chest he found buried in the garden beneath a rosemary bush. This is his first published story.

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