‘A Horror Story’ by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado is the big deal she is for a reason and I could have chosen almost any story from Her Body and Other Parties to illustrate this. ‘A Horror Story’ isn’t included in the collection, but I picked it because of the amount it manages to do in a tremendously small number of words. A couple move into a house and find themselves haunted, though the possible reasons why seem to be ripped from the plots of a hundred horror movies: It turned out there had been a graveyard for criminals on the property where our home now stood. Also, a woman had been strangled by her lover in our bedroom just after the house was built. Also, a man had hanged himself in the attic during the Great Depression. Also, a teenage girl had been kidnapped and held in the basement for a year in the seventies before the kidnapper, who had never bothered offering a ransom, sent pieces of her body to her family in sets of Russian nesting dolls and then burned what remained of her on the front lawn.Taking the haunted house trope and turning it into an exploration of queer relationships, guilt and trust, the story manages to be deeply affecting and eerie whilst always keeping its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.

Published in Granta, October 2015, and available to read online here

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