If you need to be mean
be mean to me
I can take it and put it inside of me
-Mitski, “I Don’t Smoke”
I have a picture of us from when we were ten years old — Rose, Audrey, Sam, and me. We’re standing on the gravel shoulder of the highway that cuts across our hometown like a life line across a palm. Our arms are wrapped around each other, affectionate and possessive with the weight of preteen desires. Have you noticed the way young girls cling to each other in photographs? Maybe we knew then the terrible possibilities of separation. If we hadn’t held on to each other so tightly through childhood, how would things have ended?
That was all before we grew apart. That was before I hopped on a plane, before Rose came to meet me, before we ended up in the mountains of Italy, alone in a 300-year-old farmhouse. That was when we still lived in our small universe of Halfmoon Bay, in homes secluded from the highway by long gravel driveways and undisturbed forest. What would have happened if the ghost had shown up then, when we were still so connected, instead of a decade later, across the world when there were just two of us in the middle of the night? More… “Gone Ghost”
Just don’t leave me alone
Wondering where you are
I am stronger than you give me
– Mitski, “I Don’t Smoke”
Sometimes being a girl is like being possessed. I look back on us, on our childhood on the Coast, on running away, on returning, and I wonder: Did any of this really happen?
There’s a picture of us as kids. I used to have it in a frame, but somewhere along the way I started using it as a bookmark. I won’t think of the girls for months, and then I’ll pick up a book and the picture will fall out. There they are; how could I forget them? Rose, Audrey, Sam. I say their names aloud and it becomes a spell — like magic, I’m ten years old again. More… “Ghost Girls”
If you’re a character in The Ring (’02) and you watch Samara’s psychically imprinted video cassette, you will receive shortly thereafter a phone call. “Hello,” you’ll say, because that’s how people answered the a phone at the turn of the millennium, and a voice will reply, “Seven days.” You’ll either be perplexed and/or dismissive — “a prank call” — or you’ll shudder because you know you have but seven days to live unless you can overlook the ethical — nay, moral — implications and show the video to someone else who’ll then themselves have a week to resolve the same dilemma.
Night (or Curse) of the Demon (’57) is about an easily insulted warlock who murders rivals with a slip of paper inscribed with runic characters; if said paper is passed by the warlock without the victim’s knowledge, the victim is pursued by a demon for three days, then killed — unless he can return the paper to the warlock without the warlock’s knowledge. Maybe you’ve sung along with Richard O’Brien and Miss Strawberry Time’s lips at the start of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (’75): “Dana Andrews said prunes gave him the runes / And passing them uses lots of skill.” You’ll be happy to know that Dana Andrews, before his three days are up, passes the runes to the warlock.
Adam Golaski is the author of Color Plates and Worse Than Myself. His poetry has recently appeared in SHARKPACK, Word for/Word, and Vestiges. He is currently at work on The House of the Devil for Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates monograph series and on a pair of novels. More at Little Stories.
It is not difficult to imagine Sherlock Holmes, that great eschewer of the supernatural, firing his clay pipe into the fireplace at 221B were he made aware of the cottage literary movement birthed by his adventures. People tend to forget that the detective and his dogged, Boswellian biographer Doctor Watson, investigated through the first quarter of the 20th century, existing as surely in the age of Babe Ruth as they had in the Victorian era of Wilkie Collins. There were, of course, hundreds of Holmes knock-offs and pastiches throughout the detective’s run, as there are now, but what some writers, at least, had the good sense to realize was that simply recasting the model of the genius deducer and his very human foil/partner was not going to achieve any more than serve up some Sherlock-lite. A new wrinkle was needed. Enter, then, the ghosts, and the duos who investigate them.
In the summer of 1914, when the wife and husband duo of Alice and Claude Askew published the eight stories that comprise the collected adventures of Aylmer Vance, “ghost-seer” — there’s something for a business card for you — supernatural fiction was going through a crucial change. The ghost story, long dominant in England, from where the Askews hailed, and which made up a goodly chunk of the best literature yet written in the States, had started to morph into the weird tale, the stuff that would dominate the pulps in the 1930s and 1940s, giving rise to those limited edition book runs at places like Arkham House, which recast horror writing much as Hawthorne, Poe, and M.R. James once had. Humans, now, were often the agencies of the macabre, or else elemental forces from the beyond divorced of human form, but borne of human crisis and strain. The dead girl in the glowing white dress, less so. More… “The Ghost Shift”
Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
Ah, Father Christmas, here you are again sir, and what is that you have with you, tucked under your arm? Why, a volume of Dickens, of course. Always Dickens at Christmas, right? And, if you’ve not yet gone to a production of A Christmas Carol, I’d bet you’re going soon, or else you’re going to be watching one of the many versions that will be on television here in the run-up to that greatest of days for some, and the hardest of days for others. Treat yourself right and go with the ’51 Alastair Sim effort or venture out a bit, and gather the family ‘round for a Christmas reading unlike any other. And no, I’m not talking the Carol. I’m talking about Dickens’ “The Signal-Man,” Christmas literature for how the other half lives. Not the denizens of Scrooge’s beloved workhouses (well, Scrooge pre-epiphanies… More…
When I was a kid, one of my greatest pleasures was staying up super late, when I thought everyone else was long in bed, reading Three Investigators books and getting spooked out of my mind in this easy-going, chummy kind of way. It was like I was in the company of good friends, and we were all in for some scares that we knew, collectively, we’d see our way through. I’d bargain with myself, saying, “okay, one more chapter, and then we really need to get to bed,” and on I’d read until two, three in the morning, always adding yet another chapter to my ongoing haggling until at last I gave in when I thought the sun was all set to find me out.
What appealed most to me, I now realize, was this idea of a compact between book and reader, like you were in on something together,… More…
In a public park where families take their children to play on the swings, in what was, just a few decades ago, East Berlin, is a wall of relief sculptures. The sculptures date from the Communist days. They depict children who are happy and healthy, adults who are industrious and kind. There is work, play. There is life. Monuments like these — the remnants of the dreams and aspirations of a lost civilization — can stimulate that most disconcerting emotion amongst Germans: ostalgie (literally, east-stalgia, nostalgia for the old East Germany). It is not the first thing you expect to encounter in Berlin, ostalgie, until you realize that nothing in Berlin is settled, no aspect of the recent past has yet been laid to rest.
Just up the block from the park is a square, in the center… More…
I can’t stop watching the film clip of Anne Frank. Ever since the Anne Frank House museum posted it on their new Anne Frank YouTube channel a few weeks ago, I have watched it again and again. I must have watched it a hundred times. It is 20 seconds of shaky, black-and-white silence, in which Anne Frank appears at a window on a summer day in 1941. It is the only known film of Anne Frank.
Only, it’s not a film about Anne Frank. At least not intentionally. The stars of the film are a newlywed couple, walking out of the house next door. The bride carries a huge bouquet of flowers and wears a modest skirt suit. She holds the arm of a lanky groom, who dons a top hat and tails. They smile. The street gathers to watch them, the windows in the… More…