“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.” ― Ray Bradbury
It’s Halloween night, and the spirits of the graveyard are running riot through the trees as the Dryad of the ancient oak steps down into the world. It is the one night a year when his form will not alarm the residents of the small town, and thus he ventures out to be among the living. The Dryad finds Marlon, a lonely man, sitting by a grave and reading to a lost friend, and together the two lost souls find a connection in a haunted house under the watchful eyes of the ghosts that time forgot.
So now that’s out of the way, I can get on with reviewing the story. I’m a Torquere Press virgin I’m afraid, and I have to be honest, I never really found myself attracted to their publications, choosing instead to favour the glossy frontrunners of the genre from DSP and Riptide. The usual loss of virginity can be a bit uncomfortable, but lucky for me I was with a lover so gentle it just eased me right in there. Okay, I’ll dispense with the butt-sex metaphors and starting talking about the topic at hand; Katalinya Palokova’s short piece A Story in the Dark with a Graveyard Tree.
The tone of this story was beautifully delivered, an aged voice used in an effort to translate the ancient power of Halloween night into a dark romance in the wrought iron fencing of the Graveyard. It put to mind the classic black prose of Poe’s The Raven, which had me lingering in a cloud of burning cinnamon, the taste of Halloween candy lingering on the tongue. I was transported in my Pumpkin outfit right into the heart of the story as the writer guided me to the midnight hour. The character of the Dryad himself was a tragic protagonist, a lonely soul with a longing that translated perfectly into the tale. After my aforementioned Googling efforts, and with the help of Palokova, it is noted in mythology that Dryad’s are all female, so making this character male was a wonderful twist; he was special right from the get-go so the reader couldn’t help but root for the guy (no pun intended – ha, root!). The world through the eyes of the Dryad was romantic and dark and the observations were so relevant it was impossible not to walk the silent yard by his side.
Marlon, a man sitting by the grave of a friend lost to illness was like a foil for the Dryad, a living counterpart of his own lonely desperation. Together, the two embarked (he did it again) on a slow burning connection that warmed the heart. It was pure joy as I got to read a timid story of the two men as they reached out into a world they knew nothing about, not simply the feelings towards someone outside their realm of understanding, but indeed the entire world of falling in love. In the darkness of the haunted house, bathed in candlelight, the two connected both spiritually and carnally and it was a treat to read.
In hindsight, I should have been concerned about Marlon’s apparent dendrophilic tendencies. I should probably have wondered that if the Dryad bleeds sap, what comes out when he reaches climax? I might possibly have paused over the thoughts of splinters when dry humping something that just stepped out of an oak tree. But that’s just me. As I read the story, it all seemed irrelevant. And now I can’t wait for Halloween. Katalinya Palokova’s Halloween romp brought me right to the heart of the holiday, and I for one was completely enamoured with the tale of these two lost and lonely lovers. Better yet, it had a nice open ending, alluding to the possibility of an HEA. This was no trick, it was all treat, and for it I give four festive black stars to an author that I will be looking out for in the future.