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 ‘Viola’s Second Husband’, Sean Logan shows the deterioration of a grandfather through the eyes of his grandson but as the man gets weaker, the titular Viola seems more full of life than ever.
I glanced over at my grandfather. His head was lowered, and he was concentrating on his plate, stabbing glumly at the meat. I wanted to say something, to him or to her, to come to his defense, admonish her for being so insensitive, maybe even make a joke that would make him laugh and shrug off all the weight that made his shoulders stoop. But I didn’t. I didn’t dare say anything. I finished my meal in silence and went upstairs to bed. Grandpa read me another chapter, and I pretended to sleep. I tried not to cry. I think I succeeded. He turned out the light when he left, and, eventually, I slept for real.
Something pulled me out of my dreams. It was dark, and I was overwhelmingly and unreasonably afraid. I listened carefully and looked around the shadowy room with dread. I felt a cold, feverish prickling on my skin and a queasiness in my bowels. I saw and heard nothing, and my heart began to slow, but something still felt out of sorts. I bolstered my courage and crawled out of bed. I hadn’t brought slippers, and my feet were cold on the wooden floorboards. It had been chilly in the evening, and the temperature had dropped considerably since then. I could see the silvery wisps of my breath.
I crossed the room and opened the door to the hallway. The idea of seeking comfort from Viola was absurd, but her room was right there, and I was apprehensive about going downstairs. Her door was open. I stepped inside. It seemed brighter in there than it was in my room. Perhaps the moon was on her side of the sky. I saw at once that her bed was empty. I glanced around the room to make sure she was not crouched in a shadowed corner. It was the first time I had been in her room. There were shelves from floor to ceiling along two of the walls. They were filled with books and jars and small unfamiliar plants. I also noticed, up on the top shelf, a lidded ceramic jar, white with a blue floral pattern. It struck me as something that would contain someone’s remains, though I don’t know where I would have gotten that notion…
For the rest, get The New Gothic from Stone Skin Press.
Sean Logan’s stories have appeared in more than thirty publications and can be found most recently in Black Static, Supernatural Tales, Postscripts to Darkness, Dark Visions, and Once Upon an Apocalypse. He lives just north of San Francisco in a little house with a big, scary rottweiler that will run and hide at the first sign of trouble.