This is pretty real-world horror for Evenson, who often strays into more supernatural territory. People who’ve been around hospitals a bit might get a familiar tingle. Evenson is a master of unease. Read his whole collection A Collapse of Horses to see how he can use the most innocuous thing, the slightest speck, to open the door a crack to terror.
First published in Unsaid. Collected in A Collapse of Horses, Coffee House Press, 2016. Read online at The Center for Fiction here
The story begins: “The black square on the table is meant to represent Gahern’s estranged wife; it is presented as such at Gahern’s request. The gray square beside it stands in for the black square’s new husband, also presented as such at Gahern’s request. Though Hauser has offered him the full gamut of shapes and colors, Gahern insists upon remaining unrepresented. Nothing stands in for him.”
I can’t even begin to describe where it goes from there: it’s absurd and philosophical at the same time, a murder-mystery reduced to two-dimensional shapes. It both destroys and reaffirms any faith that you have in fiction’s ability to have purpose. I missed a train because I was so engrossed in this book, costing me over $80 to catch the next one. It was worth it.
First published in Post Road Magazine, F/W 2001. Collected in The Wavering Knife, University of Alabama Press, 2004. Can be read online here.