At a time when the literary community has seen a resurgence of interest and respect for all things gothic, For When the Veil Drops, a newly published anthology of short fiction by West Pigeon Press is a rather refreshing read. Billed as “a collection of resonant, unbridled dark fiction . . . unburdened by genre,” the anthology brings together the work of more established writers in the genre and those up and coming as well. Of the fifteen short stories two in particular resonate: “Still Life” by Michael Trudeau and “The City Underneath” by Robin Wyatt Dunn.
In the aptly titled “Still Life,” Trudeau gives us a glimpse into several rather mundane moments in the life of his unnamed protagonist. At first mention the thought of riding the train home from work, making a meal at home, or watching a niece or nephew, though all unquestionably mundane, do not seem particularly fertile ground for what Trudeau later refers to as the horror of the everyday. However it is in these moments and in Trudeau’s depiction of them that “Still Life” truly shines. We can all relate to the predictable rhythm of the everyday and this short story succeeds not just in communicating the twisted maxim that “horror is the everyday”, but in leaving the reader with a lingering unease for those quiet, lonely moments in the day when all we have is time to ponder our fates. Trudeau does a fine job in crafting his protagonist’s interiority and psychology and for this alone “Still Life” is worth the time.
In “The City Underneath” Robin Wyatt Dunn brings together three very interesting thematic threads: urbanity, dystopia, and the tension between Eastern and Western culture. While essentially the story of a vigilante named Kalish, whose name we are told means ”most beautiful,” and who ventures into the city as a stranger, “The City Underneath” is a tale full of glimpses-peeks-into a world the likes of which one may find in the mind of Phillip K. Dick. Throughout we are not quite sure why Kalish has come to the city and ultimately we are not even sure that his story is the story or whether it is simply that which we haven been shown-one vignette from a city Dunn goes to extreme effort to place as in between night and day, consciousness and sleep, real and unreal. Regardless of all the uncertainties and mysteries that abound in “The City Underneath,” I was left wanting more and that is never a bad thing.
The anthology is available for purchase in hard copy or Kindle versions via Amazon