- “Dukkering” by Nelson Stanley (horror short story)
- “Psychopomps of Central London” by Julia August (dark fantasy short story)
Ever since The Dark‘s pay rate change, I’d been considering covering it or at least looking at it and, between it appearing among the poll write-ins and the day being Halloween, I finally got around to doing at least this special holiday review. Unfortunately, this particular issue wasn’t great for me, though I can see the tales appealing to some.
“Dukkering” describes how terrible traumas (supernatural, but with a significantly natural component) contribute to a boy losing faith in his mother and his world. Set amidst 19th century (or so) Romany in England, it’s full of dialect which may go beyond natural flavoring and reach the point of obstruction. It contains some remarkable lines:
What she could do, though, was dukker better than anyone, twisting the threads of your hopes and fears into a life-line that she’d anchor somewhere so solid in the future that you felt you could drag yourself towards it, hand-over-hand, dangling above the awful yawning chasm of the possible.
But it also contains awkward attempts to force emotion.
I shan’t tell you of the next part: how weak she was, the rank smell of rot that clung to her; how light she was, gone bird-like in her bones, so that I more than half-lifted her from the bed, our roles reversed, as if I were the parent and she the child; the piteous weakness of her, the way that the life was nearly gone from her, the way she slumped against the trailer’s wall.
I could do that. But I shall not.
“Psychopomps” is another English tale of contagious traumatic loss (in this issue) and is another elliptical second-person present tense tale (in most all of most everyone’s issues) in which you are a woman heading through the outskirts of the London underworld, searching for your daughter with a guide who has her own issues. This is a nice idea that generates some nice mood but, despite its brevity, its narrative strategy and wandering nature make it feel long.