Ana and Eric are moving to Jutland with their two young children. Eric intends to concentrate on his art, while Ana is struggling to revive her writing: “Baby brain, they’d called it.” The story is threaded with perfect, pointed details: the tiny village “with nothing but a narrow road and a low stone wall to keep the sea at bay”; the “cold, lucid light” which they have come for (or which, tripping in over the North Sea, is coming for them); the church Ana “knows that she will visit”. The story begins with the grace of birds, the hollow bones that allow them to fly. “It also makes their bones more fragile and susceptible to damage. You can’t have it all, she thinks.” The contrasting heaviness in the final image is truly nightmarish.
First published as a chapbook, Nightjar Press, spring 2019. Collected in Dead Relatives, Dead Ink, 2021
This is a restrained story – we follow a woman biting her tongue as she copes with uprooting her life (along with her new baby and mute child) in order to support her husband’s artistry. But in the gothic tradition, what is repressed finds a way out, and we are invited into the woman’s internal thoughts – “the port is nothing like she’d expected”, “it starts to bawl again, a screech that causes her skin to prickle,” and the glorious brutal honesty of “He paints shit. He paints like shit. He is shit.”
Tension continually builds throughout the story, both through the strained relationships and through a supernatural (or perhaps not) element. It has been said that short stories should leave us with more questions than answers, and in ‘Jutland’, McKnight Hardy leaves us in no doubt of this. The final piece of dialogue is a brutal, haunting, question repeated with a clarity and simplicity that belies the horror behind the words.
first published by NightJar Press, March 2019