Sometimes one feels the need to explore the darkness bubbling below the surface. From the Depths from Haunted Waters Press provides such an experience with poetry and prose that raises goosebumps. This issue features the winners and runners-up of the Haunted Waters Press Fiction & Poetry Open, and the Haunted Waters Press Short Shorts Competition for an added treat.
Steve Patterson’s “Quiet Neighbors,” winner of the Fiction & Poetry Open, is the first piece readers encounter (paired with some cool dandelion and beetle art), a quiet and unassuming piece on the surface. The main characters live in a house that overlooks a cemetery. They joke about their “neighbors” to lighten the mood as they settle into the house over the years and make it theirs: “‘The neighbors’ served as the punchline to the family joke. Why did no one come visit? The neighbors. What kept the assessment values so low? The neighbors.”
Patterson writes in fragments and whispers, never quite spelling everything out, leading readers to the precipice and letting them take the leap into conclusions. When we see “a scarf wrapped around her head, eyebrows coming back, translucent,” we can assume the woman in the main couple (both are nameless, another blank we’re allowed to fill in for ourselves) has undergone chemotherapy. The woman seems to haunt the house, treading the line between the living and dead beside the cemetery, and maybe, she finds, she’s not the only one to do so. Following this winning piece, readers can find a brief interview with Patterson about it.
Another winning story can be found in this issue: “Better Way” by Samantha Pilecki, winner of the 2017 Short Shorts Competition. This one-page story walks readers through a second person POV day, considering all the ways “you” could do differently—the ways you could be better. The ending sentence takes a twist that brings the story full circle while taking me aback with its sudden bluntness. Pilecki’s short-short is one to revel in, and readers can find her inspiration for the piece in the following interview.
Melanie Smith’s “Mines” is another short-short piece of fiction, this time taking readers below ground. A creepy piece that made my skin crawl by the end, some sort of creature speaks to us, telling their story: “We have lived here for a very long time. Beneath the rock and mud, we hear the arrhythmia of dripping water as we hear the beats of our own hearts: constantly.” Smith writes with rich detail, beautifully describing the minerals below ground that both the creatures and miners crave: “The hard white snowflakes of calcite; the dirty glimmer of pyrite; the delicious prickle of aragonite nestling within the wet rock.” Descriptions of a more macabre scene are written as richly and poetically, the piece ending: “when we put our bodies to the fluid that leaked from his fragile form at our touch, we found that we were chanting into the crush and crumble of the rocky throat, [ . . . ].” Smith’s writing is almost hypnotic as it draws readers down into the mines.
Rachel Tramonte, runner-up in the Fiction & Poetry Open, pens a piece that really resonated with me: “After the Funeral,” beginning “Half mad on dehydration and grief, / I wake up to, Your grandmother is dead.” The speaker bids good-bye to their grandmother who just passed away: “Good-bye beauty. Good-bye possibility.” Having just lost my own grandmother at the end of 2017, Tramonte’s piece was unexpectedly cathartic—I couldn’t help crying as I read it, a raw and relatable poem.
After making their way through the rest of the issue, readers can find two pages of “Penny Fiction,” little stories made of exactly fifteen words each, a fun, quick read.
From the Depths is a beautifully designed literary magazine with compelling works of poetry and prose, writers unafraid to dig below the surface to unearth their creativity. From bullet points made out of beetle silhouettes found in Patterson’s story, to the piano keys dripping down the pages accompanying Nicole Jean Turner’s poetry, each page promises something compelling to look at as well as read.