Two chilling Gothic micro-stories: Daisy Feller and Joss Deane write for the Dark imaginings exhibition competition
Not the Co-Op Bookshop
There is a space behind the other spaces, the spaces that you see. You will never see this place because you will not look. And if you look, you will not think of it because it is of no use to you. That’s what they will tell you. Do not listen. Look. Please. Come into the room that looks like a storage closet. We are waiting for you in the swivel chair that does not swivel. You will mistake us for someone else, someone with the same name. Do not fall victim to their trickery. Do not be tempted by their orange sign. They will give you things that someone told you that you need. They will make you beg for things. They will make you march in a line of beggars for things you will never touch. Come into the space behind the other spaces. Reach out your arm in any direction. Touch someone else’s mind and steep it with paper teabags into your own heart. Find what you need in the book co-op. We are unaffiliated.
A year from emigrating, we summered on the Jurassic coast, wet but green. The soil is moist with worms and liminal, squelching mud, and my sister and I rolled about in it naked and howling. Dorset in the rain smells so alive it’s scary. You scale one hillock and you’re lost in emerald feathers… I was blubbering loudly– like at Kew, when I get lost– to be located. A boy my age found me–I straightened.
He was wearing a coat of leaves, his body and genitals covered in mud. I’ve always known mirrors lied to me; his face showed every tremor I had sensed underneath my skin, my gums bleeding when I brushed too deliberately, the desire to chew with my mouth open, to put myself in a human-like animal. I looked into his eyes hungrily as he pointed to a mound of earth to my left, his right, nails charcoal black and bark-thick.
I did so, keeping my eyes on him, raking my fingers. His eyes were yellow. I stopped when the first flash of teeth broke the earth.
“Sometimes you forget” he said, stepping towards me. “We’re taken in the woods, you take our place, but you forget”; he was clutching a bluestone rock. “You think you’re the real one…”
The next thing I remember is my mum and dad, red-faced, gasping, swabbing me down with handkerchiefs before gripping me tightly. The rock was in my hand, sticky, smelling funny. The hole in the earth was bigger, white gleaming from the mulch like a dragon’s hoard. I asked my mum who they belonged to. They didn’t look at me when they said naturally “it’s a cow, bunny, just a cow.”
The Dark Imaginings exhibition will finish in less than 5 weeks, on 31 July, coinciding with the close of a competition which invites University of Melbourne students to write and submit a Gothic story in only 300 words, or less. The response has been extraordinary and reading the stories a rare privilege. Soon I shall be handing them on to the judges, Professor Peter Otto and Dr Elizabeth MacFarlane, who will have some difficult decisions to make. In the meantime, I’m delighted to be sharing (with the authors’ generous permission) two stories that arrived in my in-box very soon after the competition opened. Enjoy! And remember: if you are a student here at the University, there is still time to enter.
Curator, Music and Co-curator, Dark imaginings: Gothic tales of wonder