Published out of Dublin, Ireland, Into the Void pushes the boundaries of comfort and vulnerability. Nothing is safe or simple. Through fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art, this issue doesn’t try to clean up the rough edges of literature. Into the Void refuses to apologize for the imperfections, and vulnerabilities.
Daniel M. Jaffe opens the issue with his short story “The Niña,” where an elementary school principal rescues a six-year-old girl from drowning in Puerto Rico. But the principal’s actions are not as heroic as it might seem. Utilizing second person, Jaffe pulls readers into the mind and body of the narrator: a pedophile. The discovery of his predilections is shocking but delicately revealed. As the narrator, ‘you’ describe the child as “[t]he damp little pussy cat” before “[y]ou picture them kicking and beating you, dragging you down the beach [ . . . ] hauling you off to jail.” The horror of Jaffe’s piece comes from the reader’s involvement and participation in the narrator’s thoughts and actions. The horror comes from the narrator’s normalcy and ability to exculpate himself: a reputable, well-respected man. “You surprise yourself [ . . . ] you couldn’t possibly ever think such nasty nasty things, not you.” A disturbing story of guilt and discomfort, Jaffe makes us question our own vices and motivations.
Peter Ryan’s short story “First Apartment” follows Julie as she writes letters to an unnamed professor. Told entirely through Julie’s letters, this simple framing and linear plot conceals incredible emotional depth as Julie will never apologize for being herself. She is guided by her Christian faith, communicating with God throughout the piece. Ryan relays all dialogue in italics, establishing that Julie views her conversation with the super of her apartment with the same reality she views her conversation with God. “[T]he Spirit keeps telling me, Don’t ignore this. Don’t ignore this, Julie. This is important.” Throughout the story, Julie remains unapologetically herself, even when no one listens to her. Ryan tells a coming-of-age story of loneliness and the vulnerability of seeking purpose in life.
Matan Gold’s flash fiction “The Sidewalk Angel” brings light and hope to the journal. His narrator lovingly describes the Sidewalk Angel: “She was young and Haitian with soft eyes and a songbird throat.” Her life is hers by choice: she lives in a tent and sells figurines made from trash and scraps. She dances about in the streets with the children and will not take the neighbor’s charity or goodwill. Gold refuses to apologize for his hopeful depiction of a Haitian woman and the community of color she inspires.
In his poem “Johnny,” Seth Thill takes readers through the rebellious lives of the narrator and his friend Johnny, in this eulogy of Johnny’s death. From the age of fourteen and spray painting graffiti, to getting high or sipping from a flask, Thill lays out the lives of the narrator and his friend in all their faults and imperfections. But it is their liveliness and inseparable nature that makes Johnny’s death such a blow. Thill depicts this separation with his use of singular and plural pronouns: “when we were 17, / and we’d drive around” to the loneliness of you and I: “I still get stoned” and “when you were 19.” Death doesn’t turn Johnny into a saint and Thill doesn’t attempt to redeem the narrator or the friend. There are no apologies. This poem is lively and heartbreaking all at once.
In her poem “Knife Work,” Alexis Klemetson investigates death in a different way. The narrator is under suspicion of having killed her father with his knife. Klemetson infuses her poem with the danger of the murder and the tension of whether the narrator is as guilty as portrayed.
In Into the Void, the uncomfortable is paired with the vulnerable. This issue is a journal where characters are unapologetically themselves and where disturbing pieces can co-exist with stories of light. Every piece pulses with vitality and reminds readers that going into the void is neither a journey of darkness or light, but the unknowable and uncomfortable grey of the in-between.