Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology edited by Celine Frohn. You can find out more about the anthology on its Goodreads page or website, or reading the synopsis below!
Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.
Huge thanks to Mols and Celine for sending me over a review copy!
Excerpt: Homesick by Sam Hirst
The worst thing about being a ghost is running out of books.
The material plane is not accessible to you, only that which was material alongside you. Contrary to what the Bible states, you do get to take it with you. In a way. You have access to it if you want it. All that you had when you were alive is one wish away but anything that came after is strictly look-and-don’t-touch. Marion had owned quite the library in life, but she’s a fast reader and over 200 years of death meant that she had left new material behind a long time ago. What she needed was a holiday. A trip to the coast. To gaze out at the cold North Sea.
And so it was that a week later, she sat on a harbour wall, looking into the midnight blue of the night sky as it stretched to meet the ocean. Eternity was more tangible to the dead but the sight still held a tinge of the old familiar sublimity which had filled her soul with the hum of possibility in life. It was far enough away from the cities of incessant light to be able to trace the stars. She recalled the old patterns that she had learnt and called her celestial globe into her hand. She had no doubt that it was outdated but she lovingly traced its surface with her hand and bent her attention to identifying what she could see with the naked eye.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” The voice came from behind her but two feet appeared at her side before she had time to turn. “Do you mind if I sit down?”
Marion looked up to the right and saw a tall girl looking down with a somewhat shy question in her eyes.
“Of course,” she half-whispered before clearing her non-existent throat, irritated at her lack of voice.
The girl arranged her skirts, which were black and floor-length, before sitting cross-legged beside Marion. She held out a hand, shaking back the sleeve of a baggy red cardigan as she did so.
“I’m Sanan,” she said as she waited for Marion to take her hand.
They shook. There was a feeling of warmth for a second as their fingers pressed together. It had been a long time since Marion had felt anything at all. If she’d thought about it, she’d have supposed the dead couldn’t feel much of anything. But then, she’d never had any actual contact with those other wailing spectres.
The shy voice broke through her wondering confusion, “I’m sorry to intrude but you so rarely see anyone who’s not…you know…”
“Rather too much the spectre?”
“Exactly,” nodded Sanan with a small smile of fellow-feeling. “A bit ghost-y.”
Their eyes met, curious and tentative. Marion couldn’t remember the words to say. She had forgotten the patterns of conversation, the words that kept the other speaking, that kept them with you for a little while.
Sanan, for her part, feared she was disturbing this straight-backed, peaceful woman who slipped so easily into silence and whose eyes seemed half lost in the night sky. But she had been alone too long to let her slip away so quickly and she still remembered the desperate stultifying rhythms of small talk that you hoped would become the beginning of something real. “What’s your name?”