Fall 2023, Volume 44, No. 3
What keeps you up at night? Memories of lost loved ones? Racial and social injustice? Or maybe the fear that there’s someone outside the window…
This issue, we’re talking about all things that ‘Haunt’ us with Haunted: Things that keep us up at night!
Featuring new writing from Cory Lavender, Zilla Jones, Gordon Turner, Laura Maija Clarke & many more!
Cover image is “Let Me In” by Dan Saul.
Janet Pollock Millar
Laura Maija Clarke
This Fish Is More Plastic Than Fish
I know what I’ve been born into. My swallowed gum
seeding an entire orchard of broken tail lights ground into
microbeads. They exfoliate my womb. Make a popcorn ceiling
in my coral. I’m wearing my Baywatch suit at Snake Island so it’s all
one picnic bench over asking if I’m into freaky shit. Barracuda wants
my Nemo but I’m one step ahead. I took a capful of glove compartment
roe from the ’93 Nissan Quest and now all my scroll ads jig their flys for
my navel oranges. I’m upstream ripe. Unopened Purolator healthy.
To bring life into this world is to pull your stomach like a wallet
from a purse and unzip to find what a magpie rejects. Queer spawn
in a nursery of blue-green algae. They don’t want us to breed
more grocery bags to be kitchen sinked but it’s too late. My wife bit my hip fat
and now there are a billion eyes in my spherified Shirley Temples.
Alginated swarm of the night swim and the rock she found me perched on,
unbraiding buoy rope from my hair. All my friends microwaved their leftovers
in their takeout containers. We ration out our broods like handstamps
to the e coli-island rave where we drink each other’s lust as freezies.
I spit the only clean water left from my sinuses into her gullet.
What’s left of mine is still mine.
The Dead Hiker
Maybe the boy is making snow angels. Maybe he will push himself to sitting, straighten that leg, laugh. Maybe he will just walk away. Carmen allows herself to think this longer than she should, standing there at the top of the frozen waterfall, clutching a sapling for balance, peering over the edge of the cliff.
It is not snow angels. The boy is too old, the angle of the leg wrong. He is not moving. He is lying on the frozen creek with his arms flung wide, face to the sky. One foot shoeless.
She realizes she is holding her breath and lets it out in a white cloud. Last year two people fell off this waterfall taking selfies. From up here, with the leaves gone, you can see all the way across the valley to Connecticut. Near the horizon, the Hudson River curves, a grey line, and she can make out the castle structure of the religious commune—cult, Nick calls it—and the red barn of the apple orchard where every autumn she and Nick pick apples.
No, picked. Past tense.
She hadn’t seen a car in the parking lot. She thought she would have the trail to herself. To think. Overhead a crow in an emptied maple caws down at the pair of them, her and the boy.
On the trail leading down to the base of the waterfall she slips twice, the second time cracking her knee on a rock. A cold snap fell over the valley last week and the creek has frozen solid. Crouching, she crabs over the iced boulders until she is beside the boy.
He is sixteen, maybe. …
Pink T-Shirt Walks Past the Window
I am in the house alone: wooden house, edge of the wide dark forest, fifteen minutes by car to any town.
The sun is high, and a breeze is rustling the curtains, most of which have been drawn against the heat of the light that pours in from the south in the afternoon. Beyond the closed curtains, past a stretch of grass: the woods, white pines and red spruce, a creek, distant swamp, a web of gently disorienting paths.
What scares you about being alone in the woods?
I am asking you a question; I would like you to picture your answer. Right now, imagine: you are in a forest, afraid. Now tell me what shape the source of your fear takes.
I had a partner who was once nearly killed by a bear. An unlikely encounter that happened to be caught on video, the black shape running silently at him from behind, hunting and hungry. Strange and improbable black bear behaviour, an incident that would have been dismissible as a possibility, except that it happened. I have lived in places where there are bears, but he is the only person I have ever known who has come close to being killed by one.
Just now when you pictured yourself alone in the woods, and you imagined being afraid, was it something like a bear that scared you? Or was it something else that you pictured?
The curtains of the bay window on the other side of the room are open. This window faces east, onto a bush blooming with little pink trumpets that hummingbirds like to feed from. Beyond the bush, there is a dwindling path of gravel that marks the end of the driveway, and beyond the sparse gravel, a tangle of saplings, ferns and rowan trees. Someone in a reddish-pink T-shirt walks past the window. …