A good story can make you forget about the bad stories, even if the bad stories are all you want to believe. All you’ve ever told yourself. And sometimes you have to choose to believe the good stories, even when it feels like there’s no choice at all.
—Simon Strantzas, Antripuu Nightmare Magazine, Issue 82
Simon Strantzas tales are well known to aficionados of the horror and weird tale scene. A writer who hales from Toronto, Canada, Simon has published several notable short story collections: Beneath the Surface, Cold to the Touch, Nightingale Songs Burnt Black Suns, and his latest – Nothing is Everything (here!)
Recently he’s published a tale in Nightmare Magazine: Antripuu, a tale of forests, storms, and mysterious creatures right out of some ancient tale of darkness and old world folklore. During the Middle Ages, countless texts were literally teeming with fantastic passages, sometimes accompanied by an explanation but more often presented with impenetrable brevity. They implicitly refer to the existence of an occult world, the laws of which are also in force on this plane.1
In many of these folk tales we discover monstrous and unknown forces that exist sometimes in various shapes, such as that of a human or animal, or even an inanimate object. Hybrid creatures as ancient as the earth herself, creatures that have no regard for the human ways and live in a pre-dawn age of amoral forces that live by one code: sex and survival. Such beings sustain themselves by a relentless pursuit of their prey, an almost impersonal force of hunger driving them forward.
Simon’s work recasts this ancient world within the confines of a modern day tale of horror, friendship, and loss. And, yet, there is a sense of the courage of hopelessness as well, of a Schopenhauerian will-to-live that drives these humans to certain choices and decisions. This is a tale of three friends who have gone stale in their work-a-day lives, and have need for adventure and a reaffirmation of their youth and vigor.
The tale leads the three friends into a forest outside their home town where they will confront not only the dark and unknown forces of the natural order, but those of an unnatural order that very few are willing to admit too, much less accept as real. The tale is told in media-res, upfront and personal. The main character confronts his own ghosts, his own failure in life, work, and love. There’s a sense that something needed to happen, that his was a real life tale gone sour while his friends seemed both successful and complete. It’s as if something is missing in his life, as if he need some kind of shock therapy to push him away from the desperate and suicidal course he’d set himself toward. And in this adventure he gets it, but not in the way he expected. Everything about the tale is relentless, driving you on the edge of your seat from event to event, never leaving you to rest on your laurels but pushing those horror buttons of expectation and emotional fear to the extreme limits and then dropping you off in a ravine of doubt and terror where hope itself seems more like a rushing river of pain that a safety valve of escape.
I’ll not go into the details of the story itself, you can find it on Nightmare Magazine: http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/
While you’re there pick up a subscription, too. And, by the way, you can listen to Simon’s tale on their podcast as a bonus!
Enjoy the ride!
- Lecouteux, Claude. Demons and Spirits of the Land: Ancestral Lore and Practices Inner Traditions/Bear & Company. Kindle Edition.