“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler, is from the 63th issue of The Dark magazine. This short story takes us to Red Bay in New Foundland, a settlement of Basque and Portuguese whalers, and the things that come up out of the sea. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night; I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosomed night! “…sea half-held by the night” is a quote from “Leaves of Grass,” a famed collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The volume of poetry, containing anywhere from 12-400 poems depending on its publication date, emphasizes the body and physical world, as opposed to spiritual, and nature and human kind’s place in it. It’s a lovely bit of poetry, it’s a lovely line, and it’s a fitting title for a story about humans and whales and death. The story is told from the point of view of Tota, a young woman married to a whaler. She works with the whales as well, harvesting spermaceti, the wax-life stuff found in a specialized organ of a sperm whale’s head. It was used in candles and lamps and to make medicines. It’s…

“Being an Account of the Sad Demise of the Body Horror Book Club,” by Nin Harris

Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club by Nin Harris looks at “body horror” in an interesting way. What is body horror? It’s a genre of horror that deals with the body and the way it can be intruded upon, changed, taken over. Common themes include possession, parasites, mutations, body parts falling off, infection, etc. Certain bodies– those with uteruses and vaginas– have their own special body horror elements surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and the vagina/uterus as some kind of holding cell/pocket dimension out of which slugs, snakes, demons, aliens,etc are free to come out of at will. There’s an entire genre of horror films centering around menstruation, for instance. “Being an Account…” takes 3 approaches to body horror: Lila imagines bodily horror/torture/mutilation/etc happening in the flat above hers Lila’s “body” in the form of her home/surroundings are invaded by a malevolent force The group discusses books and folklore that feature bodily horror Noise is common in shared living spaces. In Lila’s case, she’s in a very large gated condo development. She’s had many upstairs neighbors, plenty of them loud and irritating. But one neighbor is more than irritating, he scares her. Not that they’ve…

Snake Season by Erin Roberts

“Snake Season,” by Erin Roberts, is a claustrophobic story about love and loss and being forced to make do. Content Note: child death Marie, a pregnant woman with one living child, is visited pretty regularly by the ghost/spirit/manifestation of her first child, Sarah. Sarah slowly, over the course of her childhood, turned monstrous and ultimately Marie killed her and buried her. That’s what she claims, anyway. As we read the story we find that Marie, well meaning and full of love, isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Time passes and pregnancy after pregnancy results in a baby girl who “goes wrong” until she’s forced to put them out of their misery when her husband Ray is away from home. Now, though, they have Junior… their only son, nearly a year old, and perfect as perfect can be; and they have the baby in her belly who she assumes is also a boy. Everything looks good, right? And then Sarah comes for a visit. Ray is worried about Junior and about the unborn babe. Reading between the lines it’s clear he isn’t worried about them being monsters — shrunken tiny heads, bulbous eyes, arms that reach the floor– he’s worried about SIDS,…

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan, is a story about choices; in many ways it’s about the choices that we all make as we enter adulthood, as we live and stretch in relationships. It’s a story about potential. It’s a story about men and women. The narrator is reminiscing, or spinning a story, or simply narrating, the story of their conception and the life of them and their parents prior to their birth. The child’s mother, Ash, is a hunter who runs with a wolf, as a wolf, under the moon and brings home her prey to carve, to salt, to season, to dress. She uses their meat and fur and feathers and bone, as hunters do. The child’s fathers are Caleb, who runs Loch Ness boat tours, and Zev, who is a wolf. Caleb doesn’t know about Zev, does’t know about Ash’s other, wilder life. Caleb doesn’t know about the wild child, half wolf and half human, shifting between two states, in Ash’s womb. Of course, Ash doesn’t know just how wild Caleb’s friends – his very human friends – are until she encounters them drunk in her living room. Ash and Caleb need to make decisions about who they…