I saw him resting under a tree, my tree. Or at least everyone called it my tree since the incident. But since it was being called my tree, however spitefully, I would claim it as such. So I’d say my bit and I’d kick him out from under my tree. Then, I’d watch him lumber off and I’d take a nice nap. It was a good day for a nap too, balmy and quiet. Much like the day that ruined my life. Just thinking of it made me bristle with anger. But I called upon that to fuel my speech and I scampered on over to him.
“I need to talk to you.” He slowly craned his neck to look up at me. He blinked his beady little eyes at me, and slowly, ever so slowly, opened his mouth. His mouth hung open for a few seconds before it closed with a click. Then he opened it again. And closed it. And opened it. This time, a tongue slid out and tasted the air. Then, back in. And he shut his mouth again. God, I knew he was always a mouth-breather but he could at least give me the courtesy of a response.…
Anyone who saw me reading Things We Lost in the Fire in public must have thought I was suffering and in deep pain. Every story in Mariana Enriquez’s debut collection had me grimacing and squirming, shifting uncomfortably in my seat. But her stories are so thoroughly transporting that I lacked the self-awareness to care. I was far away in Argentina, worried about the news of the decapitated child flashing across the television screen, and the one-armed girl who went missing in a haunted house, and on a murder tour of Buenos Aires. Enriquez’s stories all center around life in Argentina, often detailing the lives of disadvantaged youth. These stories are dark and unsettling, written so beautifully that the whole experience of reading them leaves you in a macabre trance.
Argentina is a country that lends itself to ghost stories. Its past is a violent, dark one. For decades, the country was under a military dictatorship, and tens of thousands of people were killed or went missing during that time. Children were kidnapped and their mothers were taken by the regime. The shadow of the nation’s grim and relatively recent history looms heavily over the psyche of the stories in this collection.…
With a gravitational sense of exhaustion, Heather puts her machine to sleep and wheels herself back from the white desk in the grey cubical. She sits shut-eyed for a moment, feels crazed, resists an urge to slam her coffee mug through the black screen.
9:11 p.m. as her head rises above the partitions separating the other cubicles, most of which are still occupied with foreheads reflecting the shine of monitors. Maree is in the adjacent box and she doesn’t notice as Heather stares down at her. Maree’s eyes are bloodshot and her mousy hair frayed and dry from the air conditioning. Her face seems barely held together by thick makeup.
“You nearly done?” says Heather.
Maree starts a little and looks up with a horrible unchanged expression of emptiness, and then her eyes blink a few times, registering the human form.
“Oh.” She turns back to her screen. “Probably half an hour. An hour at most.”
“You don’t want to come out?”
Maree doesn’t bother saying no. She never comes out, and Heather only asks out of perverse routine. “I don’t know how you do it,” Maree says. “It’s all I can do to heat up some food when I get home and then flop into bed.”…