Come December, I will bake many cookies–hundreds, I suppose. I try to call these Holiday Cookies, not Christmas Cookies because I am an atheist, though I wasn’t always. Many years ago, I adopted the yearly cookie-baking to which my mother-in-law introduced me. My own mother had never baked, so I reveled in this new endeavor, creating scrumptious, contained, individual biteables from seemingly the air–eggs in this icebox over here, flour from that cupboard over there.
As the years passed, and I mastered the art of cookie-making, and I smeared the symbolic blood of my firstborn above the front door of my home, barring entry of any form of religiosity, I made some changes to the annual baking ritual, one of those being listening to ghost stories. I rise early and pad downstairs, plugging in my laptop and locating the ghost story narrations I found on YouTube a few years back. I’ve grown quite fond of one reader’s voice in particular–and can summon it in my mind at any moment–as she tells the grim tales of E. Nesbit. I listen to Nesbit’s tales over and over (with an occasional break–a search–for other tales I may also love) for two-to-three days. Portraits come to life as does “man-size” marble, as do dark shadows. They come to life, and they kill. A jolly good time I have, chopping almonds with a heavy blade, dropping black cherry preserves into the eyes of pale dough. I anticipate those ghostly hours as I push my cart in the weeks that precede them, gathering singular, special jars, scooping flakes and chips that only exist for me during these dark-nighted weeks.
I have created my own holiday ritual, hung with words penned by a woman in 1893. Her strange tales waft through my kitchen; they sound through the still, warm air, not scaring me at all but comforting me as I stir, press, and ponder life and death as we close another year.
In this year’s Literary Horror Issue of Club Plum, many strange and wondrous forms ignite this fall season. Horrors abound, and I hope like me, you nod at the imaginings of today’s authors and visual artists, who add their works to the world, surely puncturing the mundane with the otherworldly, surely creating something beautiful from the odd.
Please pause your work and step inside.
Yours in words and art,
Thea Swanson is a feminist atheist who holds an MFA in Writing from Pacific University in Oregon. She is the Founding Editor of Club Plum Literary Journal, and her poetry, fiction, essays and reviews are published in places such as World Literature Today, Mid-American Review and Northwest Review.