Andrew Forrest Baker
he | him
Southern gothic storyteller.
My new novel, The House That Wasn't There, is out now from April Gloaming Publishing.
Let Yourself Through
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own. The lips, fuller and washed over with a deep shade of crimson, twisted effortlessly into a smirk beneath the slimmer nose, the ice-blue eyes. Gone were the worry lines between them, the bags beneath the irises which seemed to pack heavier and darker with each passing day. The creases, hard-earned from the stresses of too much work and too little pay, were absent from my cheeks; and the thinning at my temples I had only just started to notice was replaced with thick, lush strands of hair. Too, the skin in my reflection was clear and dewy and glistened there on the glass as if it were forever-kissed by the faint light of morning.
- Runner-Up in Tall Tail Challenge
A Song of NightRunner-Up in Tall Tail Challenge
We noticed the sow had disappeared long before we heard the whispers, but, looking back, we figure they may have been there all along. Low, at first, and subtle, like wind whistling through the moss that sagged from the branches, telling tales of things long dead and buried, promising hopes and sorrows yet to come. Whispers that lifted through the night air like lullabies. Like hawks. But the night was always filled with sounds like that, at least around here, so we paid it no mind.
Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. As a child, I’d always wake, just before midnight—just as the tendrils of the bougainvillea along the trellises began stretching outward to watch the dance—and listen as the music they created with their winds lulled the rest of the village into exotic dreams and righteous slumber. Come morning, the town awoke refreshed and invigorated while I slalomed along through my daily rituals—the milking and the washing, or the drying and collecting—before I headed off to school.
She Could See
The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. At least she thought she could. Yes, she was certain she’d be able to if she could just get in there. But he was a stubborn man, at least in her imagination, and he’d never deem someone like her worthy of access. The truth was, in all her twenty-eight years, Cassie had only seen The Savior once, passing stoically through the mess hall as she and her sister rambled down the pathways already late for class. She’d frozen when she saw him. The crimson robes hanging like pendants from his broad shoulders were in such stark contrast to the burlap brown of everyone else’s garb; his gray eyes were vacant and trained on something it seemed he had lost ages ago, like no matter how gone it was, he still couldn’t take his eyes off it. It wasn’t until her sister Katarina ran back and grabbed her arm that Cassie broke from her trance. The Savior was gone as if he had never been there to begin with. She was barely a teenager then, and though it was over half her lifetime ago, she could still sometimes see the sharp line of his cheek when she closed her eyes.
The weight of air—it’s solidity—is never more evident than when it pounds against the whole of your self in its relentless struggle to remain unmoved. It claws at your face, using your own body against you as it whips your hair into your eyes, across your cheeks until they are a watery mess of burst capillaries: red and burning. It rips at your clothing and fights to leave your lungs unfilled in its refusal to be contained until you are gasping, and crying, and closer to death than you’ve ever felt before. It can be exhilarating under the right circumstances. When you’re, say, at the crest of the first big drop on a roller coaster and the momentum finally catches up to you to send you hurdling faster and faster toward the earth. Or when the land goes flat, and the road stretches out toward the horizon, and you and your best friend have chips and candy and energy drinks spilling from the central console, and you stick your head out of the passenger side window to howl at the sky. But when you’ve pulled yourself up through the ceiling hatch of a speeding train, like I have; when you’re staring out into a bleak, and desolate landscape you don’t recognize from even the depths of your wildest nightmares, like I am; when you, like me, can’t remember how you came to be here in the first place, any sense of hope or joy or exhilaration is replaced only with the dread of choice: leap or return.
The Kiss of Aesmodai
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. I know; I know. You’ve heard this one before. The one where the untamed malevolence of night unleashes itself upon a sleepy, idyllic little piece of the world. The one were the suburban and rural horrors of all the things that go bump in the night, all the creatures that claw at your skin with their razor-sharp talons, every entity that inhabits the darker recesses of this land make you feel happy you get to leave here, say goodbye to this campground and this fire, roll up your sleeping bag, and go back to your homes far far away where it’s safe, and it’s civilized, and you have no worries of abandoned cabins or ghosts or demons.
He spoke in subtitles, garbled and a little too late or too soon, grabbing attention away from the action in desperate attempts to understand the language before the activity. He spoke in desperation, an innocent depression of vowels; a game of roulette, in wait and hopeful for the right letters to appear. Too many fictitious words, there, in the air with nothing underneath them but a faint history of too much time lost, too many lights extinguished, and nothing said of those who would live on in the dark. He spoke in the manner he lived.
Our shadows grew so long that day. They stretched across the eastern field and slapped against the horizon with wriggling fingers like the pods on the wisteria vines, reached beyond everything we thought we knew, and grabbed at something brilliant just on the other side. It was beautiful and majestic, and I knew you were leaving.
The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. The O’Conners reported it first. They had been camping down by Lake Hudson when the flame ignited through the trees. Little Siggy saw it as soon as it lit, transfixed and pointing through the dense forest to the tiny little beacon. His parents, Fran and Martin, thought it was just a firefly or maybe even some swamp gas ignited, but when it didn’t extinguish, when Little Siggy sat there staring straight into it for hours until they had to haul him into the tent and zip it tight, they grew worried. Fran called the cops as Martin started the engine and hauled the family back into town.