BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Stories – by Jason A. Wyckoff
REAL-TIME REVIEW CONTINUED FROM HERE.
A Willow Cat in Meadowlark
“The shimmer in the room made it impossible for Samantha to see them clearly, and the colours ran like the glint of diffraction in oil.”
A few stories in this book will become seasoned classics of the ghost story, horror or weird fiction genre, I sense – and, if so, this will be one of them. A case of mistaken identity by the deceased about the bereaved, in essence, but there is a definite linear story behind that throwaway line of mine: concerning Samantha Perridot – a schoolteacher – who is left a house by a mother who she thought had already been dead for many years – and a mortician whose character reminded me of Peter in ‘Black Horse’ – and, for me, not so much a deja-vu dream but an event with the power of retrocausality in order not to create a memory of that dream but (uniquely) actually to create the earlier dream itself and not just a memory of it. This story further accrues Wyckoff’s ‘dying fall’ — including the ‘props’, as listed in my entry about ‘The Trucker’s Story’, to which is now added a wonderful conjuration of a woman’s polka-dot tea dress — and also to what I shall call the fiction’s cone-point or coincidence-point of an “impossible coincidence” (my underlining not the story’s) which, in the case of this story’s ‘impossible coincidence“, would be a spoiler to divulge. — [Brainstorming:- Each story’s ‘impossible coincidence’ is something which everyone is empowered to locate, including the author, i.e. not exclusively the author, hidebound as authors are by ‘The Intentional Fallacy’. My own far-fetched or unlikely offer is this story’s passing mention of “purple heart” and this book’s earlier ‘mauve blot’. ] “…the indefinable ‘extra’ in the dream’s essence, a purity of instinctual, primal connectivity against which any appeal to rationality faltered.” (7 Mar 12 – 1.10 pm gmt)
Hair and Nails
“It’s a damn shame,…”
I’m afraid this seemed like a muddly bloody horror story; I found it very difficult to concentrate on it – involving a descendant in a Funeral Parlour firm family – and his occult-believing friend – who, with some reference to a known fallacy that hair and nails still grow after death, start to tap body-snatching forces mingled with magic methods to locate the treasure the dead forebear could still reveal… I may have got all that wrong. But if I’m right, I’m not sure how a story like this can creep into an otherwise wonderful collection. Having said that, the prose style remains generally in the high class that this book has led me to expect, with regular stirring observations, e.g. the argument for cremation on page 216. (7 Mar 12 – another 3 hours later)
“…he was indicating ‘better we smell them than they smell us’. […] So there was no surprises in their appearance (besides the fact of them appearing at all),...”
I eat humble pie. Today, I sense that “Knott’s Letter” – although complete in itself as an adventure story – synergises mutually with the previous story. There, we had the ostensible burial/cremation instincts of we humans (who are – or, rather, see themselves as partly something akin to humanity and partly something akin to animals, and dependent on one’s religion or realism or whatever, the ratio of those parts vary in individual minds). Here, now, in the form of an effectively plot-spoiler letter from one protagonist to the parents of another protagonist who we therefore know straightaway died as a result of the events being narrated: a narration about cryptozoologists (who are partly scientific, partly mystical, again in a varying ratio of parts from individual to individual) and about their expedition to the mountains – an expedition not to find living Sasquatch (of which I know nothing and felt it would be a plot-spoiler for me to look up on google) but to find never-before-discovered-dead-remains of the Sasquatch (that I sense to be partly human, partly animal, with a ratio in quite a different order of varying (between certain tolerances of variation) from our own individual perceptions of our own human ratio (cf: Blackie in “Black Horse”)): and the contrast between ‘Hair and Nails’ and ‘Knott’s Letter’ regarding the hiding of their own kind’s remains (like some animals bury their ‘finds’ or waste products) from perceived competitive species: even to the extent of burying their own kind’s remains actually within themselves like cannibals. All very intriguing. It’s like the Garden of Eden was the living ‘Fall’ as the temptation of fleshy pleasures: in contrast to the dying ‘Fall’ where flesh has become a new temptation of stench and decay. The relics of bones and pelt (hair, nails?), in ‘Knott’s Letter’, the relics of rich hoarded trinkets (cf: Wyckoff’s ‘props’) in “Hair and Nails”? — [Brainstorming:- The worship of snakes etc. in “Raise up the Serpent” is now perhaps part of an inner gestalt formed by the three stories I have so far least appreciated personally in this book, but now beginning increasingly to percolate in my mind?] (8 Mar 12 – 3.40 pm gmt)
An Uneven Hand
I have only read so far this the first coda of two brief concluding codas (I suspect) to this book’s symphony. A Gary McMahon type tale: this tale of a subway train journey amid today’s dangers of urban horror – featuring a family of variously aged children accompanied by an ambivalent mother whom they paw and suckle like animals even while variously adjusting their particular ratios of ‘human : animal’ in continuous tune with my aforementioned ‘inner gestalt’ just gestated… (8 Mar 12 – 90 minutes later)
A Matter of Mirrors
“Also I have read some of his other work, and I worry that his muddled aesthetic judgment will compromise my intent. He tends to omit proper endings,...”
Not a coda, after all, but an ‘author’s note’ in disguise. All those who have read my real-time reviews know that I eschew introductions, story notes or any other extraneity-creep. So, only semi-tantalised by this bogus vampire tale addressed directly to me, I omit a proper ending to this review. All I’ll say is that this is another ‘honey-do’ situation, I guess. Authorial:familial. Dead:undead. Just more ratios.
A seriously rising star of a weird fiction author. Wyckoff. Not a swear word. (8 Mar 12 – another 45 minutes later)