Interfictions 2: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing
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by Delia Sherman, Christopher Barzak
Description: Delving deeper into the genre-spanning territory explored in Interfictions, the Interstitial Arts Foundation's groundbreaking first anthology, Interfictions 2 is ready to be read, discussed, taught, blogged, taken apart, and re-interpreted. Here are twenty-one innovative genre-blending stories from contributors from six different countries, including the United States, Poland, Norway, Australia, France, and Great Britain. Established visionaries such as Jeffrey Ford (The Drowned Life), Brian Francis Slattery (Liberation), Nin Andrews (The Book of Orgasms), and M. Rickert (Map of Dreams) rub shoulders with newcomers such as Alaya Dawn Johnson, Theodora Goss, and Alan DeNiro. Reviewer and blogger Colleen Mondor (Chasing Ray) interviews the editors for the afterword and Henry Jenkins, long-time director of MIT's Comparative Media Studies program and now a member of USC's Annenberg School for Communication and School of Cinematic Arts, provides a fantastic introduction sure to set readers' imaginations alight: Let's start with some basic premises: 1. I do not belong in this book. 2. The contributors also do not belong. 3. You, like Groucho Marx, wouldn't want to belong even if you could. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't have picked up this book in the first place...
eBook Publisher: Small Beer Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: October 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [524 KB]
Reading time: 328-459 min.
The War Between Heaven and Hell Wallpaper
Just before I dozed off to sleep last night, I had a vision. I saw, with my eyes closed, a room that was wallpapered with the most amazing scenery of a battle between angels and demons. It was brilliantly colorful and so amazingly detailed. I can still see the deep red of the evil horde, their barbed tails and bat wings--classic Madison Avenue horned demons, but playing for keeps, slaying angels with their tridents. The angels wore billowing white robes and, of course, had feathered wings in contrast to the slick rodent ones of the enemy. Halos, gleaming swords, harps to call the troops to charge, they poured out of the clouds, riding beams of light toward Earth where the demons crawled out of cracks in the ground, smoking volcano craters, and holes in giant trees. The middle part of the wall, from just above knee-height to the top of the rib cage, was taken up by the actual battle. The upper part held scenes in heaven as the troops made ready to descend and the dead and wounded were brought in. The lower part of the wall was the stalactite-riddled caverns of burning hell, showing the incredible numbers of Satan's minions. If you've ever seen the Where's Waldo books--it looked like one of those, or at least every inch was as crowded with as many characters, painted in the style and color of Mathias Gr?newald. One thing to keep in mind--I knew this was a war between Heaven and Hell, not the war in Heaven in which Lucifer and his posse were evicted.
The sight of this wallpaper jazzed me back to consciousness, and I said to Lynn, who was dozing off, herself, "I just saw War Between Heaven and Hell wallpaper." She was silent for a while, but I knew from her breathing she wasn't asleep. "What do you think of that?" I said. She laughed. "I have to get up early tomorrow," she said. A few moments later I was describing it to her. When I was done, I said to her, "What do you think that means?" "You've got a screw loose," she said. "It was so colorful and intricate," I told her. "Great," she said, and a few seconds later, she was lightly snoring.
I lay awake for a while and contemplated the War Between Heaven and Hell wallpaper. In my imagination a woman got this wallpaper installed in a room in her house. Eventually she noticed that the scenes changed each day while she was at work. On the days when she had a bad day at the office, Satan's troops had gained the advantage, and the days when things went well for her, Heaven took the lead. Months went by and Heaven really started to kick ass, pushing the demons back into Hell and then invading the smoky underworld in order to finish them off. The last battalion of winged demons had pulled back into the frozen parts at the center of Hell where they'd amassed their infernal artillery and battle beasts, falling into a siege amid the ice mountains. The angels surrounded the last bole of Hell and used long bows and spears.
For the woman to take all of this in each night, she had to get down on the floor and move a desk out of the way to see the spot where the final battle was taking place. Just as it looked like the demons were going to be obliterated, she started to feel badly for them. She felt an uneasiness with the lack of balance represented by the wallpaper's scenario. Since the wallpaper scenes had something to do with what happened to her through the day, she decided to try to turn the tide of the battle by performing acts of evil, things that would reflect badly upon her and ensure she would have a bad day. She put her plan into practice, and the demons began to rally. A call came through on her cell phone, and Satan engaged her as an agent in the War Between Heaven and Hell. That's when I fell asleep.
I woke up this morning from a dream of a kind of monastery in a snowy wood. I think a monastery is a place where monks live, but this place had Catholic priests living in it. Lynn and I came to it after slogging through swamps and through a snow-covered forest. We were totally lost. The place was built from the most marvelous-smelling rosewood, and it seemed to have been carved from enormous blocks of it rather than put together with nails and screws. The trees came right up to the sides of the walls as if the monastery had been there for a very long time and they had grown up next to where it was built. There were a number of larger buildings linked to each other by screened hallways. Some of these buildings were more than one story and were decorated with gargoyles in the shapes of demons and angels.
We were met by a priest out in the yard behind the open gates at sundown. We were weary and hungry. He told us to hurry if we wanted to eat. We followed him through the winding, dark hallways of the place. The shadows were kept at bay only by lit candles. We were led to a small kitchen and given a piece of stale bread and a bowl of onion soup. The priest introduced himself as Father Heems. He was a very downtrodden-looking fellow, his face filled with worry lines and his hands shaking slightly. He told us the place was haunted by the Holy Ghost, and that the spirit was angry. Just the night before we arrived it had strangled the caretaker, whose body he pointed out to us lying next to the stove wrapped in black plastic and tied at the feet and head. "You've got to keep moving. You can't sleep till dawn. If you doze off, the Ghost will strangle you through your dreams. A breeze will pass over you, and you will feel it tightening its fingers around your throat."
We got up from the table and started walking. "That's it," cried Heems, "keep moving." Three other priests, two very old ones and a slow heavy one, and Lynn and I, along with Heems, moved through the corridors of the place--up stairs, down stairs, through catacombs, along balconies. When we passed through the dungeon, there was a cell with straw on the floor with about a dozen young children milling about behind the bars. The heavy priest told us that the children were safe from the Ghost at night behind the bars. I asked, "Why don't we go in there too?" And Heems yelled, "Pipe down and keep moving." Every time I'd begin to feel tired and slow down, I'd hear the wind blow outside and feel a breeze creeping down the hallway.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, Father Heems called out to one of the other old priests, as we made our way along, "Where is Father Shaw?" This almost made me stop in my tracks, because Father Shaw was the head priest at the church I went to as a kid. He was stern to the verge of cruelty and looked like an emaciated Samuel Beckett. We all hated him. Even the parents hated him. When we kids went to the church for any kind of instruction, like before First Communion or for confirmation training, he'd appear and spew rants about how we were a bunch of little sinners and he wished we could feel Christ's pain from the crucifixion. Any time I ever went to confession and that little door in the dark confessional would slam back and I'd see his profile through the grating, I'd nearly crap my pants. The prayers he'd give you to say for even some minor infraction of disobedience would be an onerous weight.
Soon after the mention of Father Shaw, daylight came and we could finally stop walking. In some kind of weird chain of events and reasoning, Heems made me the new caretaker for the time Lynn and I would stay there, which if I had my preference was not going to be very long. First, though, we had to figure out where we were. Once the other priests left us alone for a few minutes, Lynn asked me, "What's with the kids in the dungeon?" "That's not cool," I said. But then Heems was back with a canvas bag for me with a shoulder strap on it and a long stick with a nail poking out the end. I got the idea that I was meant to police the grounds. So I started around the outside of the building, poking candy wrappers (there were a lot of candy wrappers for some reason). When I made my way around half the building, I came to a little alcove, and lying in the middle of it on the snow was Father Shaw--dead. He was leaking from somewhere onto the snow, and the snow had turned the color of Mountain Dew. His flesh was rotted and yellow. The second I saw him I started breathing through my mouth as to avoid smelling him. I thought to myself, "Do I have to clean this shit up all by myself?" Time skipped here, and I was tying a string around the plastic that covered his legs. I woke up.
While eating breakfast, I realized why Father Shaw had appeared in this dream. I'd mentioned him to Lynn not two days earlier. We were at a wedding in South Jersey, staying in a place called the Seaview in Absecon. It's a really old hotel and golf resort. That's where the wedding reception was being held. Lynn had stayed there once for a conference she was participating in, and she told me that the hallways of the place reminded her of the hotel in The Shining.
After the reception was over, we went and got our room, hung out for a while, and then headed downstairs to the bar to have a drink. On the way, we passed a room like a study, with wooden paneling and stuffed chairs and glassed bookcases with a plaque over the door on the outside that read "Shaw." I immediately thought of Father Shaw and told Lynn about him. The memory of his face prompted me to recall that my father was in the hospital to have a cyst removed once when we were kids, and when he returned from his stay, I'd overheard him say to my mother that Shaw had been in there at the same time, dying of cancer. "All of his great solace in God went right out the window," my father said. "Shaw wailed just as loud as the rest of the sinners." At the moment he said this, he was eating a cracker with a sardine on it. He gulped down the cracker in one bite, licked his forefinger, his thumb, and then smiled, giving the advantage to either Heaven or Hell. I'm still not sure which.