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.
Subtle terror pervades the small town visited by the narrator of ‘The Debt Collector’ by Fi Michell. Although he quickly discovers there is a vampire in the village, the extent of the vampire’s influence makes for a disturbing revelation. The story is a slow burn with an atmosphere reminiscent of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.
Bored of watching the locals, I examined the dimly lit black-and- white photograph of a deer-hunting scene that hung on the wall above my table in the Wolf’s Head Tavern, the only decoration not scallop-shaped. Judging by the Art Deco style, this wing was newly built, doubtless thanks to the hamlet’s thriving tourist trade. The din of the pounding rain mingled with laughter and singing.
Cold wind parted the smoke haze. In the open doorway, a man in an old-fashioned hooded greatcoat bent over his wooden cane. By my wristwatch, precisely nine p.m., as we’d agreed. I stubbed out my cigarette and signalled.
The hood concealed his inspection, but I felt it nonetheless. The same joint-weakening predator’s scrutiny I’d learned to flee growing up in the Bryceter city slums. Not something I’d expected.
As he shuffled through the crowd, conversations paused. Several patrons nodded to him before returning to their beer. The proprietor signalled a waiter to take the coat, but the old man waved him away and leaned his cane against my table.
I stood, extending an open palm. “Mr. Devereaux, I am Marcus Slade. Thank you for coming. May I buy you a drink?”
“Mr. Slade.” His voice rasped; his grip was icy and surprisingly firm. “No, you may not.”
We sat, and he pushed back the hood, revealing a scalp as white as bone and sunken eyes set into bruises. If I’d not felt that gaze, he might still have been the elderly man I’d expected, so I looked for the spark deep within his pupils.
There it was. The faintest indigo flicker. My left hand clenched over old scars. A vampire, and only two feet of table between us.
For the rest, get The New Gothic from Stone Skin Press.