The Golden Key is a brand new speculative online journal, then name coming from the Grimm’s fairy tale with the same title. The Grimm’s story ends with a boy who lifts the lid of an iron chest without revealing what’s inside. Co-Editor Susan Anspach says, “The Grimms chose to end their collection of fairy tales with this story as a reminder that there exists an endless reserve of stories still yet untold. In the same spirit, our journal seeks to publish work that is open to strange and marvelous possibilities.”
Their first issue, themed “The Sharp Things,” contains a selection of poetry and prose, starting with Cat Richardson’s “Let’s Hurt”:
I want to be a lovely monster
my teeth could sink apple-quick
into your shoulder you
could pull my hair out the
oil could burn my skin
to ripples the ripples of
the drowned I would
come back from it with
riverweed hair . . .
My favorite tale was “Duplicator” by James D. Reed in which a character named Angie lives out in the country with her boyfriend, a man obsessed with his experiments of duplicating objects, both small and large. But there is one problem with his experiments, they always turn out backwards and skewed, and, in the beginning of the story, he duplicates his house . . . making it land right on top of his barn.
It was as if it had been dropped by a giant crane from the turrets of low cumulus clouds in the spring sky above. A ball of dust and displaced pollen, mushrooming from the impact, enveloped the lower half of the house for a second and then drifted into the oblivion of a soybean field beyond. The duplication, aside from the sputtering transformer behind Angie, had been swift and silent as usual.
Angie’s friends want to visit and are unsure of her boyfriend, but Angie doesn’t listen to them claiming that she loves him. And like “The Golden Key,” this story is left somewhat open ended.
“The Wooden Frame” by Alexander Gifford Howard contains a story within a story. The narrator, supposedly at a funeral, tells a tale that has been told and retold within the town of Knox: “You could come to our village and listen to this story told a thousand different ways, now that Knox’s version doesn’t hold water. Four people can share seven different versions between them. That’s just the way things seem to happen these days.” The tale comes as some sort of legend or fable, but it doesn’t seem to offer wisdom or guidance: “It seems wrong, doesn’t it? It seems like I shouldn’t have told you this story, not now. It’s meaningless.” But both the fiction piece and the story within it are captivating, and you can still find meaning in the meaningless.
Just as “The Golden Key” story ends “as a reminder there is always more to come,” the stories within this issue feel unresolved, as if the story can continue, as if we can imagine what might happen next.