This is a portion of a Virgil Finlay illustration included in to-day’s new Sirenia Digest. Also included is a new story by Caitlin R. Kiernan, “WISTERIA”, another intriguing dialogue between the two characters.
What relationship it bears to the illustration isn’t immediately clear. The first person narrator and a woman significantly younger than the narrator meet on a porch on a very hot evening and discuss a ghost story. The young woman tells the story but qualifies it as merely a strange experience from her past not necessarily involving a ghost.
Much of the story is focused on language and meaning—the young woman explains she uses the term “ghost story” to mean any story of the unexplained while the narrator finds the young woman’s compulsive use of the word “anyway” to be inappropriate. It’s a very realistic, subtle clash between people of different generations or backgrounds anyone would be familiar with and so it lends a credibility to the dialogue.
The story the young woman tells is effective for its understated nature. It’s filled with suggestive sensory detail about a cheap apartment and the side of a mountain where it’s located before an inexplicable scent and a sinister wind become involved. The framing of the story in two characters whose perspectives compel them to disagree on fundamental aspects of words and meaning adds another level of eeriness to the inscrutability of the supernatural occurrence—there’s a sense of being basically unsure of the utility of communication or of significant things being understood. The urgency in the illustration of the woman jumping out of the window helps to add a sense of desperation. A very nice, subtle tale, with great mood.