“I was somewhere else. I thought I was someplace but now I didn’t know that place. I seemed to be inside foreign worlds where there was some kind of troubling camaraderie—as if a haunting joke was known to everyone but me and yet faintly I knew it too. I couldn’t pull away—it was all like a magnet and there was beauty in it. Human creatures with the feeling of being turned strange and open to falling and glee—they seemed to have a glee for somehow stitching a laugh to darkness.”
“A community is gathered for the ancient ritual of masking and unveiling. Hallowe’en: a druids’ feast of welcoming and banishing, a ceremony that clutches in its claws, and behind its no-eyes, and in the beat of its wizened pumpkin heart, the seeds of its own undoing. These are preparations for a confrontation with the dread inhabitants of the cellar, the dark woods, the wet caves, the impenetrable other-lands beyond the stockade. With the mocking hybrid phantoms that followed flight across the sea and land, like Nosferatu’s rats, malign revenants nourished on the lore of the Old Country and leeching off the dark blood of the New, hissing guilt and loss as they come. Decaying hope.
Phantoms sink in shadow pools, and rise anew, from reason’s sleep, through a growing, dinning murmur of blood. Reborn as avatars of a homespun lore, of resonant myths and fragments of myth, torn from hard earth, dug from leaf mould, read from bark and animal pelt and black-bound bibles, they are alive behind their masks. Spirits have entered, overwhelmed and run rampant. No longer good townsfolk but revenant interlopers enacting mad, murderous parodies of small-town life and small-town death. Killers, runaways, phantoms, corpses, captured, gathered, disinterred and jolted alive, gulping haunted air.
They hold and refuse to relinquish us, these fetish images, and the longer we look, the more insistently their poised stillness whispers deceit. Watching and waiting, endlessly waiting, their haunted-house presence distinguishing another, blacker mirth, nightmare face folding in upon nightmare face, each summoning the next, each leaving its trace of pock, wen, warp, snarl. Burl-browed and root-nosed, all fissure and swell and hole and tear, a rotting palimpsest.
These are pictures of the dead: family portraits, mementoes of the treasured, the held-dear-in-heart, now unrecognizable, other. Torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers. Frayed by forgetting, they are homeless ghosts: summoned and stranded, double-fleshed by corrosion. Acted upon by chemical rot and paper’s fray, by sun and mould and jam-stained fingers, their surfaces penetrated, moth-eaten, worm-bored, worn away. Time-spots, black-fleck swarms, mimic the hypnagogic eye’s gaze. Silvered grains work loose on the image like sands in an hourglass, sliding and re-gathering. Age becomes them as it undoes them. Vanitas, vanitas…”