For #FromOneLine ☆ Friday Challenge ☆ 265 a very short story (vss) inspired by the grottos and limestone caves of Vietnam that I recently visited. They seem to be the perfect settings for tales of fantasy and I am sure they have inspired many writers.
They navigated by touch, the jagged edges – cold and piercing. Deep inside the moist cave, they grasped hands and took delicate steps, cushioned between the stalactites and stalagmites. Which way to go, they did not know.
The ground was flimsy, or was it their petrified mind concocting fearsome stories? Toxic fumes rose and subsided, with a hiss. The walls closed in and a thought appeared like a streak of lightning – “This is the belly of the dragon.”
Then, the walls moved away and in the brief sliver of moonlight, they saw a lava-spewing throat. The mouth of the cave shut in a loud gasp and a crunch resounded in the depths. The nightmare was coming true. This was no mistake.
Does a mysterious place with strange customs lift the weight of life and its worries off your shoulders? Do questions of the past become heavier with time? Do dreams spill over into the waking world? Are imaginary creatures more than real? Read a delightful collection by writer Ferran Plana that covers mystical and magical happenings in the lives of common people and uncommon creatures.
Simple stories, written with flair, offer some fodder for thought. The stories are brief. Not all of them are open-ended, but carry messages that will make you ponder. Stories like Lone or Hero will pull you back as you try to derive the background. Winter will keep you guessing and give you the shivers. The eclectic, the elusive, the unexplained, and even the apocalyptic fill pages of an exciting book. Suspense, humor, fear, sadness, loneliness – a gamut of emotions rush through the pages.
Plana has developed the characters with care and finesse. The stories play out in varied locations, from fantasy lands to a Brazilian parade. On this brilliant canvas, the writer’s imagination sketches wondrous tales. A couple of stories are a spin-off on popular fairytales. I liked the one about flying pigs, but the one with hunters did not appease me much.
The writing is rhythmic and even lyrical at places, akin to poetry. Sample this: “How deep do the teeth of human lust and greed bite that they can lose everything they have in the blink of an eye?” This book is a perfect collection for a quick weekend read or to have scary stories in your quiver to entertain around a bonfire. I always recommend quaint and quirky books like The Fabric Over the Moon. This one is a delight.
As a writer and reader, I often wonder if all the stories in the world have already been told. Then, I come across books like Midnight Tales by Raven Kamali and realize it is a storyteller that breathes life in a story. A story can be retold a million times if the storyteller offers it with elan and flair, and with a unique take. In one story, the character says, “ There are things in life that neither philosophy nor science can explain.” This is what Kamali attempts to bring to us in the Midnight Tales.
Raven has done a fantastic job of bringing to life ten stories, each with different flavors. She has used some old and new themes and opened portals to mythological worlds and spun unique tales around them. My favorite is The Butterfly Lane, but I also loved what she has done in the last story by telling a tale in verse. Don’t Scream has a neat little ending, and it almost seems like you are watching a movie or the beginning of a web series. Not all stories are scary; some are fantasy and mythology-based. Stories built around Atlantis and the Amazon women are lengthier than the others and build on her imagination.
This slim book is an enjoyable weekend read, especially on cold winter evenings when you want to be scared, a teeny-weeny bit. Written fluently, the stories spark interest and linger with you long after you have read them. I found some noteworthy lines, like, ” We never walk towards death, death walks towards us.” The book cover is interesting as it displays a raven and an open book. I think it references the author and her book of creepy stories. I would have liked all stories to be of similar length. However, I found Midnight Tales to be a satisfying reading with good writing and creativity.
The opening shot of Midnight Mass limited series on Netflix India is of a car crash with a policeman lifting a liquor bottle from the smashed vehicle. Shift to the court and prison scene we presume this to be a horror series in an urban setting. When an apparition appears to the accused, Riley, we have our first jump scare moment. These moments of modernity and scare are far and few. This is neither a haunting nor a prison narrative. This is an altogether different drama peppered with deep philosophy and enigma.
The plot soon shifts to Crockett island, a sleepy fishing village. It has a dwindling population reeling under the aftermath of an oil spill and disenchantment of youngsters, who are fast heading to the cities. The despondent and resigned-to-fate villagers are suddenly woken from slumber by the arrival of a young priest, Father Paul, who has replaced their old and ailing village priest. He bestows energy with enigmatic sermons and compassion, getting in touch with people, offering an ear and advice, and the Holy Communion.
Revelations in the middle of the series are preceded by a miracle, accompanied by confession, setting into motion a bizarre set of occurrences. A lot of time and attention goes into building up the primary characters. From anger to apathy, forgiveness, and sympathy, through trials and tribulations, and homecomings, we see an entire gamut of emotions build up a profound narrative. There is suspense, horror but mostly sadness and questions as people navigate their lives. Father Paul’s sermons can be heavy on those not acquainted with the Holy Bible.
Conversations between people are the most impactful. My favorite is in Episode 4, between Riley and Erin, where they take turns to describe“What happens when you die?” It is a discourse to be revisited and applauded, as one tackles the physical connotations of death, and the other expresses it at a metaphysical level. Both are achingly beautiful. Even if you do not watch the series, watch this discourse starting at 27:50 minutes. The discussions in the AA meetings between Riley and Father Paul are also insightful.
Another conversation that stands out is between the village doctor and the sheriff, a practicing Muslim. He tells the doctor how 9/11 transformed the lives of men like him and brought them down from positions of importance to men clinging to their endangered dignity. It is poignant – nothing that we do not know of – but necessary to remind us of the injustice and discrimination. The wheat and chaff are not always separated and end up with the same crushing fate.
Midnight Mass is heavy-duty and not binge-watch material. The shadow of life and beyond life falls heavy on Crockett island. Demons are lurking in the dark with ghosts from the past, but the most dangerous are the secrets and desires that hide within us. This limited series will engage viewers in a meaningful discussion on community, sacrifice, suffering, and of course the good and diabolic. It is a serious watch with the mysterious and mystic thrown into the human cauldron. It touches upon science and religion, atheism and faith, and even nonconforming relationships.
Dramatized by extremely talented artists, this series brings out the beauty of the Church and its rituals and the truly devout, who try not to yield to temptation till the end. It also invokes the ugly and ruthless. Not all who pray are free of malice, not all who profess the Holy Word interpret it in the best interest of the masses. This is a story of lust, faith, fanaticism, spirituality, metaphysics, and of some flawed, forsaken men and women.
Not all angels are divine and not all faithful are without evil. There is, however, goodness and divinity in most people, irrespective of religious leanings or life philosophies. The most devout can treat someone as a pariah and harbor hatred for others. While the simple-minded can cradle compassion. For me, this is the deeper meaning that the bold series attempts to explore.
It is one of the best series I have watched in a long time, worth the effort and patience, especially as it all makes sense in the last episode. I understand the series will have a limited audience. Not all can appreciate and comprehend the Biblical reference and the Catholic church rituals. It could have culminated in one episode less had it not been for the long passage recitations and monologues calling upon the faithful. I do see how these scenes help to build the passion and justify the flawed and seemingly faithful, as they drive the islanders to penultimate misery. Midnight Mass is not for mass entertainment but for a chosen few looking for an intelligent series that stays with them long after.