Cemetery Dance, #49

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"Hide, Witch, Hide" by Nancy Holder   
"Striking Terror" by Lawrence C. Connolly      
"Hook House" by Sherry Decker
"John Wilson" by Clifford V. Brooks
"Misdirection" by Tony Richards
"Signal To Noise" by Gerard Houarner

This issue of Cemetery Dance opens with Nancy Holder‘s "Hide, Witch, Hide," a spooky tale of a woman who lives in remorse and shame. Rita cannot let go of the crime committed years back, when she was just a kid. Her history emerges slowly through the oblique and evocative prose alive with historical references and vivid images, as Rita spends the day with her 12-steps sponsor. The strange culture and jargon of AA and other 12 step programs is convincingly depicted, and provides an interesting framework for the protagonist whose life has been dominated by shame, albeit not because of alcohol. A strong and affecting tale.

Lawrence C. Connolly‘s "Striking Terror" is almost humorous at times, as it describes the protagonist who battles imaginary terrorists who live in his apartment. The mindset of the paranoid protagonist, Donny, creates a strange but accurate mirror of the societal fears and prejudices. This is a very short tale, and as such it didn’t leave much room for in-depth character exploration—not necessarily a drawback. A quick and disturbing read, which rang true.

"Hook House" by Sherry Decker is the longest story of this issue. Set in a modern day, this is a ghost house story, and a good one. The protagonist revisits the house she visited as a child, which used to belong to her great aunt, and is now the property of her mother. Countless ghosts share the house as well, doomed to recreate their past crimes. While the idea behind the story is not new, the rich, detailed atmosphere makes it an absorbing read. My only gripe concerns the ending. The protagonist’s rescue brought to mind fairytales where a knight in shining armor comes by to make everything all right. It jarred a bit with my impression of her as a strong, independent person; however, this is a minor complaint, and it by no means affected my enjoyment of this story.
"John Wilson" by Clifford V. Brooks didn’t quite work for me The character of this tale is a hairdresser who encounters an idealized version of her two boyfriends—John Wilson is not quite real, yet not quite imaginary. Prose written in short lines reminiscent of poetry was intriguing, but the story itself just did not amount to much, and too much of the happenings were left unexplained to be satisfying.

"Misdirection" by Tony Richards was a bit predictable, and ultimately this very short tale was somewhat disappointing. A group of friends visit The Edinburgh Arts Festival, and as they search for the next fringe show, they stumble upon the performer whose feats tend toward the gruesome. The description of the performance and the audience’s reaction was entertaining, but the ending did not provide a resolution, or at least an interesting twist.

"Signal To Noise" by Gerard Houarner is a real gem. In it, the protagonist is unable to filter out all the extraneous signals that we are bombarded with every day. At first, it’s just parents; but as his social circle expands, more and more signals join the chorus. The protagonist is the receiver, unable to stop the voices of all the others in his head. Medication fails him, as his life and marriage disintegrate. He knows his mission—he was given the answer, and now he only needs to be asked the right question and be discharged of his responsibility. The stream-of-consciousness prose is effective, and Mr. Houarner puts his experience working in a psychiatric hospital to good use, creating a convincing and deeply sympathetic portrait.