Monday, March 06, 2017

It's Chilly Behind Dark Doors

It was fun going through Susan May's complete collection of 18 short stories in 'Behind Dark Doors' (2016). I had seen it earlier but wondered if it would be a waste of time. Kindle blurbs tend to over-promise on how wonderful a book is.

These are very very short stories. Six stories in, and I declared this collection a winner. For an avid fantasy, horror and supernatural fan, the plotlines aren't completely unpredictable, but I like the way the author thinks and how she has chosen to present them. I like the pacing and the deliciously morbid bits. The author left the scariest bits unsaid. I like how she ended each story with a backstory of how it was inspired and how it eventually got written.

'Do Us Part' threw me into peals of laughter. About those sweet elderly couples who've been married for like five, six or seven decades. You wonder what lies beneath those sweet smiles and pleasant vibes. This is the story of George and June, and their "wonderful marriage". After the third of these interviews about the secret of the longevity of their marriage, he realized a secret that she never told him after all these years, and without clarifying anything, he smothered her to death with a pillow in the night.

The words "a little more" kept repeating in his head; a broken record of torment he could not switch off. Seventy years—thanks to "a little more". Lord knows how many still to come. 
June's piggy-grunt snores filled his ears, and his mind glided through the seventy years he could have enjoyed if not for that "a little more" which he now knew was not his. 
Then the pillow was in his hands, and his strength surprised him. How little she struggled. Even in her last breath she tried to talk. God bless her or God damn her. He wasn't sure. 
So there'd be no mistake—because she always liked things crystal clear—he whispered into her ear, "Sorry, but divorce was not an option."

'Where We Once Were' tells of a future of 2123 when time travel was possible, scholarship recipients twenty-four-year-old Tamara and her classmate Henry traveled back to 1898 colonial Australia to the small town of Gatton in Queensland. It was after Christmas on 27 December at 11.13pm. Tamara had gone through the contents of her great-great-grandmother Susanna's belongings, with a note "Where we once were, we must never return", and read through the newspaper clippings chronicling the murders of Murphy siblings Norah, Ellen and Michael. They were killed that night in 1898. The murders were unsolved and through this scholarship time travel project, Tamara wants to find out what happened to the Murphy siblings, and Percy, a traveling music-sheet salesman that her grandmother seemed to be fond of. Then as a time-traveler, she had no doubt that the extra stranger she saw with the Murphy siblings that night was her great-great-grandfather. She didn't want to believe that her great-great-grandfather could be the murderer. Against all time travel rules and paradoxes, she went after the group. To try to change history two hundred years before she was born.

Why did history and fate have to take this path? They were here right now, and the thought her ancestor might be involved or maybe be killed or kidnapped suddenly felt terrifying. What if he hadn't yet married. What if her great-great-grandmother hadn't given birth yet to their only child? What if somehow Tamara and Henry's visit had changed everything? She couldn't imagine what they'd done. There'd been no mention of the Murphys leaving the town with anyone. So this could be a time line kink.

I really wanted to know how this mystery pans out. Gatton exists in Queensland, Australia. It's about 90 minutes out of Brisbane. I've actually visited the area with friends whose parents live there. The author grew up in Brisbane, and her mother's family roots could be found in Gatton. She began this as a short story in 2012. However, she said that she might put out a full novel of 'Where We Once Were' this year. Hurrah. I'm so curious as to what happens after Tamara catches up with the stranger. Would love to read this story in a novel.

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