Issue #2 |

The Framework of Horror

setting the scene

Gloom, gallows.  A taste for gothic.  Perhaps a butler is creeping behind a hidden wall.  The bare branches are spiderwebbed, an eerie light refracted from a dusty looking-glass.  This is the hiss in the cellar, the mad mutter in the attic. What soft organ pulses beneath that antique carpet?  Graffiti, grist. You find demonic symbols inked on the undersides of dinner plates. This is the beginning.


doomsday device

What hum?  It’s not the goggles that define the wickedness of his science, the imbalance of his equations.  You might have tried to charm him away from that blinking switch, to breathe and breathe with the rhythm of firing pistons.  He tells you this is the only way, that his measurements are exact, his methods precise as perfect nuclei. You hear the whir of mechanical wings, notice the pulleys are screaming.


a question of sanity

It’s possible that you are the unreliable narrator.  That you are a sociopath and a poisoner and you don’t even know it.  This is evidenced by the thallium in a hidden teacup, by the scratches in the woodwork that say “bodies in the hog yard.”  There was that day you tried to boil your pocketbook for supper, that day you bit the baby just to see how she’d taste. You’re feeling quite well, really. Later it will be revealed you are an epileptic, or a phantom.


the pretty, pretty monster

Really, this is about the erotic span of leathery wings against the satin sheets.  About the lamia, the imp, the cute goblin girl in knee socks that buys you a chocolate milkshake.  You’ve never cared for kisses, except when fanged women promise you eternity even though you know it’s all misdirection, that afterwards your heart will be roasted on the gas grill in the backyard, eaten with salt and pepper and a side of jasmine rice.  You think she’d look pretty sexy with your blood smeared across her cheek.


the ambiguous ending

(The Framework of Horror)

The music swells.  You might hear a fetal heartbeat inside the villain’s burned out shell, or realize the whole thing took place inside a hermetic bubble, that the gory bones were merely a dream symbol, or the imaginings of a coma patient. The meat changes at every meal, but the costumes remain the same.  None of the dinner guests seem to notice.

Wait.  There is something the protagonist doesn’t see: a shiver that appears in a waterglass or the blur of a swinging hatchet. This means something.  This means he is wolf, or a little girl in canine skins. This means the monster isn’t the monster. This means there’s more to the archetype than we imagined.

Susan Slaviero is the author of two poetry chapbooks: An Introduction to the Archetypes (Shadowbox Press, 2008) and Apocrypha (Dancing Girl Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in Rhino, Flyway, FOURTEEN HILLS, Wicked Alice, Caffeine Destiny, Arsenic Lobster, and others both online and in print. Her poem “The Noir Wife” appears in the 2008 Best of …

Learn More