I’m not sure how popular flash fiction is (or micro fiction, short shorts, or whatever we’re calling them these days), but I’ve always been a fan along with vignettes. Small impressions can be quite powerful. Many writers find the constraint difficult, but often with these miniature stories, stronger tone and detail crafting come across with starker strokes than longer stories. I find the best flash fiction pieces try to unsettle the reader or take an idea, mix it up like puzzle pieces, and reassembles itself all within the span of about 500 words (I’m one of those who tend to not consider anything of 1000 words or more flash fiction).
I have always enjoyed the selections of Helen McClory’s work that I’ve been steered towards over the past few years. She has a new piece up on Literary Orphans, which I’ve read three times! I think with each new reading, I find something new or my focus is captivated with a different section of the story.
In “Coral-red,” we are introduced to Miriam’s house, which is often featured in stylish home magazines that reach readers all over the world. Yet, at the present moment the house is haunted. The children haunting the house are raucous and ever-present as they sing songs and walk between the walls.
Of course, when houses–especially, the haunted sort–are featured in fiction, there is usually a reason. What had once been introduced as a stylish home worthy enough to be photographed for magazines, has a deeper, more disturbing core. Houses in literature are structured to hold characters’ hidden histories, they are built to elicit fears and anxieties, and sometimes, they are crafted to hold the characters in from the rest of the world, leading them to brew inside without the infiltration of foreign touches. The house in “Coral-red” is not what we expect, nor, is Miriam.
“[S]he rarely leaves the house. In fact, she never leaves unless compelled. There is something terribly wrong with Miriam, and there has been for a long time, but she has no friends to gently tell her this, and the housekeeper Ofelia doesn’t see it’s any business of hers.”
McClory’s language is layered and pays special attention to the senses. She is able to entrance the surroundings by offering a mist of lulling prose to only lay out blunt more horrifying moments.
Lately, Helen has been writing about her consumption of horror shows and films, which no doubt are influencing her current writing. I hope to see more, because she is keenly able to capture gossamer places that keep the menacing tightly wound into it.
The journal, Literary Orphans, has the story available for free. Besides, this story, take a look at the whole site. I’m pretty impressed by the entire scheme.