Artist: Lou Rogers

Sunday, April 23, 2017

If Love were All: Stephen Volk Whitstable

Whitstable
Stephen Volk
Spectral Press, May 1, 2013

Volk's novella Whitstable is a brilliant conceit. Actor Peter Cushing fights a monster in his own town. It's a poignant story and one I really enjoyed.

Wonderful narrative moments abound and underline the menace:

....“Horror isn’t everywhere,” Cushing said. “But horror is somewhere, every day.”

....He woke to the sound of seagulls snagging and swooping above his roof.

At the best of times, he despaired at their racket. And these were not the best of times. Now the noise was no less than purgatory. As a child in Surrey he’d thought they were angels, but now he
held no illusions about the species. The creatures were the very icon of an English seaside town, but they were relentless and without mercy. He’d once seen a large speckled gull going for a toddler’s bag of chips, almost taking off its fingers, leaving it bawling and terrified in its mother’s embrace. They were motivated by only selfish need and gratification, thought only of their own bellies and their own desires. It seemed almost symbolic that we never ate sea birds, knowing almost instinctively that their insides would be disgusting, inedible, rank, rancid, foul. It seemed to Cushing that their screeching was both a bombastic call to arms and a cry of pain.

....“Then what do you have to fear from me?” Cushing spoke quietly and with precision.

“I don’t know.” Gledhill shrugged. “I don’t know what you think.” And he laughed again. And the laugh had a wrongness.

There was something in it, a grace note, deep down, disingenuous, that the older man detected and didn’t like. If pressed, he couldn’t have explained it any more than he could have explained why, on meeting his wife he knew instantly they were meant to spend the rest of their lives together: it wasn’t even love, it was that he’d met his soul. Similarly, the thing embedded in Les Gledhill’s laugh was inexplicable, and, inexplicably, enough.

....Now he faced another Jekyll and Hyde, another beast hiding under the mask of normality. A clash with evil in which he could only, as ever, feign expertise. Fake it. But at least with the right tools. And in a costume that felt proper for the fight.

....“Carl?” Cushing said. “Sometimes you can hide the hurt and pain, but there’ll be a day you can talk about it with someone and be free. Perhaps a day when you’ll forget what it was you were frightened of, and then you’ll have conquered it, forever.”

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