‘Near Zennor’ by Elizabeth Hand

‘Near Zennor’ is a tale suffused with grief, and is the closest thing to a magician’s trick that you’ll find in fiction. Hand has written a note-perfect tale. The story is a gut-punch and out-Aickman’s Robert Aickman, the master of the weird tale. It concerns an American who finds a stash of letters left by his British wife, who has recently passed away. The letters reveal that she, along with two of her friends, when they were thirteen, visited an author called Richard Bennington, and the story goes down a very dark road.

The widower travels to Cornwall to solve the mystery and finds himself in a world that may not be our own. It’s a deeply disturbing tale – made all the more terrifying by the fact that the author says, “As my original author’s notes states, the inexplicable events that Evelyn experiences as a girl in fact happened to myself and two friends when we were 13. To this day, I have no explanation for them; I only know they actually occurred. For decades I’ve had that in the back of my mind as something to use in a story, and it finally all came together in ‘Near Zennor’”.

First published in A Book of Horrors, Jo Fletcher Books, 2011