“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková

April 18, 2018

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková, is a very short story about a very big issue. The title is taken from Euripedes’ play, which shows two twinned but opposing sides: order and rationality versus Dionysian instinct. Without this wild instinct, this impulse, this influence of Dionysus… humans suffer. When it’s suppressed it turns dark and chaotic, destructive. Dionysus, angered, inspires his Bacchanates to run wild and attack men and cattle, to steal, to destroy what’s in their path.

Bethan, drunk and leaning against a wall, begins attacking the concrete wall. She does more harm to herself than to the wall, and her equally drunk from Angharad intervenes and tries to pull her away, calls the cops to get her to safety. Bethan is wild, bleeding, but once fully parted from the wall and tucked into a police car she goes limp and compliant… although still very aware of that wall. At the hospital, they don’t find anything WRONG with her, and Bethan is released. She, Angharad, and Bethan’s mom head straight back to the wall. The wall is surrounded with wild women eager to beat that wall, to pull it down, to destroy it.

I’m not familiar with London, but I live in Chicago and I’m very familiar with how small buildings are pulled down and large ugly buildings are put up… or erected on open land. It changes the skyline, casts shadows on public beaches, crowds things. If you let it go on enough the entire world gets girded round with straight lines and buildings and no wildness left at all, no openness, nothing natural or free. I looked up “1 London Bridge” and lord it is one ugly, horrible building. It’s conspicuous wealth that centers the desires of the rich at the expense (so to speak) of the poor. It’s passed off as “rational” and “order” but that can only last so long before things start coming apart at the seams. In many ways, a crowd of wild woman pulling down a wall in rage and despair is the natural order of things.

You may know Erin Horáková from her fantastic article on Captain Kirk in Strange Horizons. She also has a short story in a “Women Up To No Good” anthology currently being Kickstartered, a collection of feminist dark fiction. Check it out, and consider supporting it if you can.

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