Short Story Review: 'These Things We Have Always Known' by Lynda E. Rucker


“These Things We Have Always Known” is a creepy, methodical Southern Gothic tale about a small town called Cold Rest. The casual style of the first-person narrative is interspersed with lyrical, poetic phrases that fit seamlessly within the story. It is featured in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #20, edited by Stephen Jones.

The narrator, Neil, goes into detail about how unusual the town is, how people are always waiting on some unnatural thing to make its presence fully know. And strange, wonderful and yet sinister things happen in Cold Rest. For instance, Neil is a sculptor – and the things he creates literally take on life of their own.

Living in a house with his wife, daughter and visiting brother, Neil begins to notice that things are heading to a place he's not sure he wants to go. He works on his normal art of birds and woodland creatures, but he also has a creepier project. Something dark and twisted, metal and glass. He can feel it stirring to life beneath his hands, but, despite his brother's protests, he won't stop working on it.

Soon his daughter leaves, sneaks off into the night with her boyfriend. And from there, things only get worse.

This was a great story, slow-paced but with a sinister nature that can hold the reader captive until the very end. And I enjoyed how lyrical the last line was: “We have obliged it with our reticent ways; we have nurtured it in our guarded, secret souls; we have made it potent with our lies; and now it is upon us all, all of us dreamers, whispering of promises we didn't mean to make, and cold as the stars.”

A well-written piece, perfect for reading on a stormy night.

Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.