He’s Just a Poe Boy From a Poe Family
If you haven’t read The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, then please stop reading this, go read it, and come back.
No, no – I’ll wait.
For those of you who are already familiar with the gothic poem, you’re probably already reciting it in your mind. I remember trying to memorize it all in high school, and (ah, distinctly I remember) I can still recite quite a bit of it to this day, even though high school is ancient history – the kind of thing that might be found in the old catacombs and lonely, abandoned graves found in Poe’s tales of terror.
These were stories with ghosts, and skeletons in the closet (or perhaps buried behind the walls, or below the floorboards) put there by nervous, haunted protagonists who were either mad in the first place, or else driven mad by the guilt of what they had done. They were gothic and romantic in their grandiose style and language. They were stories of bitter revenge, of loss and longing – they showed how death left its sickly mark on those left behind. Poe created lonely places, empty and silent – too quiet to be peaceful – where broken men sat and pondered, weak and weary, over many a curious volume of forgotten lore. And in that pondering, what might the imagination conjure up out of guilt or remorse. What foul deeds might a wicked man conspire to when left alone in those dark places with nothing but his imagination to keep him company?
People did unthinkable things in Poe’s stories, and were nearly almost discovered in their crimes. Poe had a strange sense of justice, not relying on the police to bring the culprits to task, but rather relying on their own sense of guilt, either brought about by the sting of their own conscience, or else, with a little help from the spirit world.
Poems like Ulalume show the haunted psyche returning to the very place where the loss occurred, on the very same night of the year – a memorial pilgrimage to revisit old ghosts. But there was also darkness – a mean-spirited humour, almost – to some of Poe’s work. A poem like For Annie, for example, depicts a man who lies so perfectly still that when his love comes home to find him she thinks that he’s dead. And he relishes in the thought of the torment he causes her, because she thinks that he’s dead.
In my tale Twisted Valentine, I combine Poe-esque verse with that same sort of cruelty in a tale of jilted lovers and revenge – always a good topic for these kinds of things. In it, a man writes a letter to the woman who did him wrong, only, for good measure, he inscribes the missive on his own skin, which he has peeled from his back. Perhaps a little more Clive Barker than Edgar Allan Poe, but the gothic horror practically drips off the page.
Twisted Valentine is but one creepy tale found in Viscera, published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.
Viscera — Jessica B. Bell
Viscera is a collection of short stories full of all the things that make you squirm, cringe, and laugh when you know you shouldn’t. You’ll remember why you’re afraid of the dark and experience an abundance of weird creatures: witches, ancient gods, and all-too-human monsters – the scariest of all.
Indulge your twisted sense of humor with stories about unconventional werewolves and a woman with a frog fetish. Know what it’s like to arrive too late to save an unusual alien abductee, or giggle with sick delight as a woman serves up a special Hasenpfeffer dinner to her pig of a husband.
Settle in for bedtime stories fit for monsters.
Viscera will grab you by the gut and squeeze, making you cry for mercy—or laugh like a fiend!
Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.
Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com