The Slow Anticipation

Originally published on 18 February 2012

‘We entered the land of desolation on wings, and in less than half an hour there was neither boat nor fishing-hut nor red roof, nor any single sign of human habitation and civilisation within sight. The sense of remoteness from the world of human kind, the utter isolation, the fascination of this singular world of willows, winds, and waters, instantly laid its spell upon us both, so that we allowed laughingly to one another that we ought by rights to have held some special kind of passport to admit us, and that we had, somewhat audaciously, come without asking leave into a separate little kingdom of wonder and magic…” — Ambrose Bierce, The Willows

I’m not completely sure how I missed this story in the years that I’ve been reading short horror fiction. This is especially embarrassing to me as I much prefer horror and gothic and creepy stories over their novel-length versions. True, I went through a phase in the 80s where I read everything with a foil-embossed cover and a frightened child and a blurb from an author who may once had been told the plot by an agent. And when I grew out of that, short horror fiction, especially the stories of Poe and Lovecraft, Borges, Dick, and holy-crap-Robert Aickman… every minute that you spend trying to find one of his out-of-print books or working to buy a reprint is a minute well-spent. This goes double for Cold Hand in Mine. I used to feel bad about this, but sometimes, when people ask me what Stephen King piece I like the most, I answer “The piece where he recommended Peter Straub and Robert Aickman. If nothing else, “The Swords” is the most disturbing story about a man losing his virginity (in a couple of ways, not just physically) and is one of the books my Muse likes to pull out when trying to tell me what I could be writing.

And I am writing. I have two chapters more of Witness to put up, and I’m re-re-revising a novella (after having it thoroughly shat on, then rinsed off, then set on fire, by my fellow editors at “Empyrean Press”) and another story finally crawled out of my noggin. I may actually put the new story up today… I could use input, and I’m worried that it’s too obvious and cheesy. For now, here’s one of the few poems that I’ve written this year:

 

Fragment from a poem about death

across the field

And still he ran, shouting, after
the birds that had left

Screaming for them to come back

Though he didn’t know what
he would do
if they
did

except

join them sooner
than later

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