Tag Archives: Cemetary Dance

White

White is a British Fantasy Award-winning novella by Tim Lebbon, originally published in 1999 and now the debut release under his very own Dreaming In Fire Press. The setting is Cornwall, where a group of people are holed up in a manor after the ostensible end of the world. Two of the characters have been stationed here to “keep a check on the radiation levels in the Atlantic Drift, since things had gone to shit in South America and the dirty reactors began to melt down in Brazil.”

The other characters are friends, lovers, or acquaintances who are now more or less trapped together. After losing contact with the outside world when television and radio go silent and the phones stop working, they spend their time dealing with the uncertainty of survival in their own ways. Meanwhile, it is snowing. It snows every night, and by the time they decide it might be in their best interest to travel to the nearest village for news and help, it is already impossible to get through the deep snow.

This is a tale that is grounded in the characters reactions, to their predicament and to each other. And as they find themselves confined to a small section of the manor that they can keep heated, living on the remains of food stored in the pantry, and uncertain of what is going on with civilization as a whole, they are handed another dilemma. There is something outside in the cold, something moving at the periphery of vision, only half seen and terrifying because of it. And then those who have spoken of seeing something out there in the snow begin to die. Ripped apart and left as red splatter in the pure white, they are a warning of what’s to come.

Included with this re-release of White is a short story, “Kissing at Shadows,” which first appeared in Cemetery Dance #36. This is another take on post-apocalyptic survival. Where White is definitely horror, “Kissing” is more of a love story and centers on a man who makes a solitary annual journey to visit his wife. Regardless of the obvious dangers, and the fact that his daughter begs him not to go, he has a promise to keep. A quick, immersive read, and yet quite touching.

I really enjoyed both of these tales, and would certainly recommend them. White is available through Dreaming in Fire Press.

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Jack & Jill

I was quite excited to have been offered a chance to review Kealan Patrick Burke’s forthcoming novella, Jack & Jill. I’ll admit up front that this was my first read of Mr. Burke’s; but I’m happy to say that this will certainly not be my last.

The odds are good that you know the nursery rhyme of Jack and Jill. This novella is a darksome meditation on that, with a contemporary glimpse into how such a metaphor could play out in a familial setting.

From the outset, it is clear that the narrator, Gillian, has gone through some tough times in her life, and they are taking their toll on her home life. She spends so much time sleeping that she’s less and less involved with her family; her husband Chris is growing weary of how tired and unfocused she’s been acting, her 9-year-old son Sam is often left neglected, and her teenage daughter Jenny ungraciously rebels by keeping herself isolated from everyone.

Meanwhile, it is in these times of sleep that Gillian dreams—and in these dreams, she is visited by her dead brother John—and by an unforgettably creepy image of her father, wearing a plastic bag around his decomposing head and with rusty coat hanger hooks for hands.

On the surface, Jack and Jill is a moody tale of a woman haunted by her past, with some particularly vivid and hallucinatory dream sequences, but it’s also about the horrors that can stem from too much introspective reflection and miscommunication. As an occasional “intronaut,” myself, I could easily identify with Gillian’s pneumatic outlook on the world around her, and how easily the imagination can play with perception. Mr. Burke perfectly captures this mindset in his portrait of Gillian, and with it created an edgy, dark, and melancholic tale.

There was something else particularly noteworthy about Mr. Burke’s narrative. A writer friend once told me to stay away from opening a tale with a dream sequence, because it’s a clichéd hook; I would argue, having read this, that it should be avoided unless you know how to do it just right—which he clearly did.

Jack & Jill isn’t all familial drama, however; make no mistake about it—this is a horror novella, period. The dream sequences were literally nightmarish, and done with such frightful detail that there were times where I actually exclaimed aloud at what I, the detached voyeur, was helplessly witnessing. It’s also worth mentioning that there was one sequence toward the middle that, while I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say has got to be one of the most disturbing scenes to take place in a bathroom (this side of the Overlook Hotel or the Bates Motel). This novella was creepy, through and through.

I wound up finishing Jack & Jill with my cheeks puffed out and my breath escaping slowly. I’d had no idea where it was headed, much less with any idea of how I wanted it to end; because of this that, I was a little mixed about its ultimate destination, but I was more than a little satisfied with the journey there.  Jack & Jill was a harrowing read, riddled with emotion and elegantly told with dark beauty.

Jack & Jill will be published in e-book form this December. It was previously a print-to-order limited edition hardcover from Cemetery Dance.

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