The Perfect Setting To Write A Post-PostApocalyptic Gothic Horror Novel
Let us say you’re writing a post-postapocalyptic gothic horror novel set in a frozen barony. It is approximately -40°C outside, and the cold has already killed your car battery. Dawn comes late and dusk early; at high noon, the sun struggles unseen behind the jagged peaks. You have not heard the sound of your own voice for about a week. You are the happiest you have been for a long time.
Every day the dog wakes you by sliding out from under the covers and whining like an ungreased hinge. The windows are frosted over, and it’s still dark; you’re not sure how late you’ve slept, and mercifully, you don’t really care. You pull on your long johns and take the dog out to the meadow by the river, where you find yourselves stuck between two halves of an elk herd. They are slow-moving but impossibly huge, lumbering like sinister afterthoughts in the needly underbrush. You slip behind a safe palisade of tree trunks and stop in the clearing where you had once found a large spiral pattern of stones—it is buried under a few feet of snow, but you have no doubt it’s still there. You’re unsure of its origin, but like the elk, you know better than to disturb it.
The dog leads you around the bend to the fork in the river, then back across the meadow and into your kitchen, where she watches you intently. Every step you take, she copies, ravenous for crumbs, attached to your heels like a limb. When you bend to start a fire, she sees that you are on your knees and your hands are occupied with something besides petting her, so she approaches and knocks her skull against yours. While you write, she lies on your feet, grunting every time you move your toes against her ribs. You type out a paragraph you think is astonishingly clever, while the dog lifts her head and fixes you in her gaze. Her look is dull; she is unimpressed, and she is right. You rethink that decision.
You work together in complete silence for hours. You click your nails against the keyboard, spinning a tale of crumbling manors and gargantuan elk-like silhouettes. She clicks her nails against the wood, making her rounds of the kitchen, turning and pawing and judging. She reminds you of the need to take breaks, to walk, to breathe. Occasionally she’ll whine out some frankly scathing feedback.
The fire dies. Shadows pass under the lone streetlamp outside, blurred by the translucent curtains. You’re pretty sure they’re people, though you can’t hear voices. They slow, then linger, then loom—you strain your ears but can still hear nothing. The dog lifts her head and growls, then releases a low bark, almost operatic in its steadiness. The shadows disappear. She lays her head down and sighs, then glances at you expectantly.
Your voice is a croak, but you know she wants to hear this aloud.
“All right,” you reply. “The dog lives in this one.”
Leech by Hiron Ennes is published by UK Tor and is available to buy HERE.
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Ennes is a writer, musician, and student of medicine based in the Pacific Northwest. Their areas of interest include infectious disease, pathology, and anticapitalist healthcare reform. When they’re not hunched over a microscope or word document they can be found playing in the snow or playing the harp (though usually not at the same time). They’re queer in every sense of the word, and they really want to pet your dog. Leech is their first novel.