I’m sure a great number of us have at one point or another in our lives had our hearts broken, our motivations crushed, our inspirations disappearing is a wisp of curling smoke. Perhaps we sat with our lips wrapped around cold steel, trying to summon the courage to pull the trigger. Maybe we pushed at our wrists with a sharp blade—sweat running down our face, eager to make this a serious effort, and not just a cry for help. Maybe we drove down the road, and for just a flash, we considered opening the door and spilling out, or wrenching the wheel to one side, into oncoming traffic, or a brick wall. There are moments like this, when we are weak, when we are lost, when we doubt that we have value at all. I’ve been there, my friend, and those horrors—they are not that uncommon. For some these suicidal tendencies will win out, and the great darkness will swallow them whole. For others, you and me, it seems, we endure. We find a way to survive, a way to become whole again—a reason to keep living.
In this collection of short stories, Solarcidal Tendencies, these gifted authors weave a myriad of webs that ensnare us, pull us under, hold us still, as the danger inches closer, and the darkness wraps around us, as the trouble we have solicited finally comes home to roost.
We experience loss, sadness, brutality, war, dreams turned to nightmare, vengeance, solitude, confusion and a dark, rippling justice. But at the same time, quite often, there is hope, there is guidance, a laugh sprinkled in now and then, closure found, acceptance delivered, a lesson learned.
We witness the supernatural as well as the everyday grind—we encounter the bizarre, the transgressive, and the horrific—in unflinching detail, in hazy whispers, in dysfunctional retribution, movement in the shadows, under the secrecy of night, in the darting eyes of our accusers.
What do we witness on the page? We see bestiality gone horribly wrong, a talking herpes sore, and a father that remains distant, olive branch extended in peace. We see a great flood pushed over the land from a playful god, the dark emotions of birth, expectations turned sour, and a disease that slips over the crumbling ruins, tendrils locking as a new life evolves. Dark dreams and murder, cheating wives and purgatory, monkey faces, hidden bunkers, and those teeth clicking on cold steel. Angels battle demons, families engage in covert murder, suffering that only arrives on our deathbed, and our identities questioned, the answer as clear as mud.
Nobody wants to read about a happy family that wakes up, has breakfast together, father off to work, a briefcase in his hand, the content wife, with apron on, drying her hands with a dish towel, a quick peck on the cheek. We don’t want to see the quiet, well-behaved children playing in the living room, a day that slips into night, with dinner on the table, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, green beans, and a glass of ice cold milk. There is no conflict here, there is no tension—we do not care about this family, because this is not how it really works. No, the father is eyeballing the secretary, as she drops her paperwork, bending over—her tight skirt riding up. He hasn’t had sex with his perky wife in three months, she is cold as ice, her smile all surface, no heat under her pale skin. And why is she this way? Because he broke his promises, he is as distant as he can be, her dreams put aside, to make his come true, her spirit squashed, her hopes a distant memory, crying in the grocery store between the Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The children are no saints, either, the boy with his magnifying glass, roasting ants in the back yard, the girl a bit older, almost ready to drive a car, vomiting in the bathroom, shallow cuts on her inner thighs. How this story ends, well, that’s up to the author, right? But can you see it now, do you place the blame—and who exactly are you rooting for? We want to see people in those moments where the mask is taken off, when the truth oozes through, when their true colors show, as we applaud, and gasp, and try to find our breath. We want to live these dark moments, because in reality, we want none of that—we pray every night in the darkness of our homes, as we lie awake in bed, that whatever evil lurks in the world, it will keep on walking, on down the block, further down the street, a few cities over—anything but here.
Solarcidal Tendencies is just such an adventure. Enjoy these dark tales, cover your eyes if you must, look away—but then look back, you may learn something. Or perhaps in seeing a bit of yourself in here, root for the hero to find a way through it all, to survive. Because when the darkness comes for you, my friend, I guarantee you will not go easily—some with fists and clenched teeth, fighting for every extra minute; some with soft words and bargaining, pleas offered up, sacrifices and promises, whatever it takes to stay alive. Do not go gentle, into that good night—instead, find a way to make it to the dawn.
April 28, 2014
Richard Thomas is the author of five books—Disintegration, Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots, Staring Into the Abyss and Four Corners. He has over 100 stories in print, at venues including Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Pear Noir, Chiral Mad 2, and Shivers VI. Visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com for more information.