It’s back! The blog advent calendar. I enjoyed last year’s blog theme last year—re-reading twenty-four books of my youth—so much, so this year I’m applying the same approach to short stories, trawling through a myriad bunch of collections and anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.
Midnight at the Foot of the Caryatides by Cory Skerry
Tell me about your first time: The Wilde Stories 2014 collection is a particularly fine entry in the series, and I was quite taken with a number of stories. It closes off with two of my absolute favourites, the penultimate being this story, a retelling of Poe’s Hopfrog (though I’ve never read the story it riffs on, so that element goes a bit over my head. I remember most distinctly a sense of cinematic imagery. When reading I tend to gravitate towards thing that resonate emotionally, but what’s I remembered about ‘Midnight…’ was the conjuring of vivid visuals; I imagined early Tim Burton (back when he was good) and as such, this story was one of the first I thought of when I conceived of returning to my twenty-four stories for this advent calendar.
Sum it up: Meatfeet is a dwarf who climbs the treacherous outsides of the Towers to clean and maintain them. He is terrorised by the Court—a set of privileged bullies—to which he cravenly gives in, until they threaten the life of the library boy with whom Meatfeet is infatuated…
Give me a quote: “There was no way to tell how she had died, whether it had been inflicted by a cruel classmate or a bad decision. He knew she hadn’t jumped or fallen: no one ever did that way on school grounds. There were dark rumours of past students and even Lectors who had tried, each of them saved by a sudden wind. Saved from death—but not necessarily from paralysis.”
Second reading: I still love this story; I would kill to see it adapted into a short film, with visuals to match the imagery it evokes. Second time around though, what I paid attention to was the world-building, which a mixture of covert but specific detail, and broader allusion that conjures the sense of a gothic fantasia not quite seen. I’d love to explore more of it; maybe a feature film, instead?
Where can I read it: The story appeared in Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe, but you can also find it in the year’s best Wilde Stories 2014, both from Lethe Press.