Inside The New Gothic: “The Death Bell”

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 Death Bell’ by Laura Ellen Joyce involves two connected stories, beautifully told, one tale of a woman visited by her nephew, one tale of a couple on a first date. The gradual build-up to the shocking denouement is deliciously torturous.


This is good. Sarah said, genuinely impressed by the blood pudding; she loved the way that the black fat had cracked under the grill and oozed just a little. The delicate shards of bonemeal that gave it grit.

You’re such a carnivore Sarah, Ryan teased, flirted maybe. She let him, it wasn’t bad, this menu. He wasn’t such a sap after all.

Save some room for dessert, the waitress, who was constantly at their table, said. It’s a little bit special. She poured miniscule amounts of wine into their green tumblers, water into the blue ones. Sarah giggled. It was all so childish and pleasurable, she just let herself relax.

It really is special, the dessert. They put gold in it.

Gold? Sarah asked. It seemed ridiculous to her, such a city boy idea. Gold.

Doesn’t it taste like shit though? She teased. His face changed. She continued. It’s a great idea though, symbolic…

Sarah refilled both their wine glasses and when she placed the bottle back in the ice bucket, she brushed Ryan’s hand with her fingertips.

*

Grainne had been four when her grandmother had got the sickness. Four when she first heard the death bell. Adam, her nephew, was three now. Her sister, Mary, had been surprised to hear from her, but glad to have a few days peace whilst Adam visited Grainne; she’d sounded exhausted. Grainne had never met the boy before. She had not approved of Mary’s defiant childbearing at forty-five. Her own phantom womb clenched, like a Venus flytrap, at the thought of it. The second time the death bell came, Grainne had been sixteen. There had been no baby in the end, just a slick of ruined tissue and a curdling violence inside her. She had had an operation to remove the cursed organs and she was glad; there was only herself and Mary now, and, of course, little Adam. Mary’s man had been a sperm bank. Sperm. Bank. She spoke the words. Such an ugly thing it sounded.

The rain was coming down now, a horrid June, not a time for guests. But she’d made her plans, and she had such little time

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


Laura Ellen Joyce’s first novel, The Museum of Atheism, was published by Salt in 2012. She has had short fiction and poetry published in Succour, Metazen, Paraxis, and Murmurations: An Anthology of Uncanny Stories about Birds. Her novella The Luminol Reels will be published by Calamari Press in 2014. Laura teaches Literature and Creative Writing at York St John University.
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