Friday, January 29, 2021

Family Solstice by Kate Maruyama


Release date: January 30, 2021
Subgenre: Horror

About Family Solstice:


 The Massey family loves their house. It's been in the family for generations, and the land on which it sits has been with them even longer. In the summer everyone comes through to visit and the house is alive with family friends, barbecues and lobster boils. But come fall, the mood shifts as all of the kids start training for their turn in the basement.

Shea, the youngest Massey is training extra hard. She's thirteen and that means this is her year to battle on Solstice. Her older siblings won't tell her exactly what's in the basement, you don't know until you're fighting it. She's excited finally to be in the know.

She does know that whatever happens in the basement every December 21 makes it possible for the Masseys to spend the rest of the year enjoying their home and all that it brings. It is her family duty.

But something about this year is different. Mama's extra quiet this fall, and the house is breathing early.

Maruyama explores the dangers of tradition, inheritance, and the sins of the father in this horror novella.




Shea is thirteen, which means it’s her turn to fight for the family on Winter Solstice. She sneaks out at night to practice.

In the daytime, it’s a warm, friendly space with colored sunlight filtering through the stained-glass window at the head of the stairs. At night, it’s dark as crazy and the stairwell looks like a giant black mouth you have to walk down into, slowly and around. But this is my year. I’ve got to be braver than that. And I definitely can’t be afraid of this completely harmless part of the house during this completely harmless time of year.

I grab the bannister and follow it down, stepping softly to avoid the squeak on the left at the top, the squeak in the middle halfway down.

The kitchen is lit by the light from the stove and I open the back door, squeaking the back screen door open slooowly so as to keep it quiet. I step out onto the porch and survey the back yard. It’s one of those funny overcast orange-tinged nights where the light pollution means it’s never really going to get that dark. It’s cooler than my room, so that part is good, but I realize there is no way I’m going to find a stick in this light.

I sneak back in trying like hell not to squeak, and find my way in the dark, down through the pantry, through the living room and into the den, where I feel along the mantel to the right hand side of the fireplace and down. My hand hits the fireplace tools stand too quickly and there is a rattle. Shit. I stop for a second listening in the dark. I hear nothing until the house sighs.

 Our house breathes. You can’t hear it in the summer what with people coming and going and the din of the crickets outside. It’s most obvious in winter, but in the summer, once in a while, when things get really quiet, you can tell it’s still there.

I’ll really freak myself out if I listen too closely. Before I can hear beyond the next inhale, I clamp the poker in my hand and hustle it out the back door.

I follow the stepping stones carefully down to the part of the yard where Gainsly can’t reach. I don’t need to add dog shit to this exercise. Poker gripped in the right hand, pepper shaker in the left.

It’s two swishes to the left with the light, then stab right with the poker, advance.

Two swishes to the right with the poker, left with the light, advance.

Then three stabs straight forward with the poker and make sure not to look.

Don’t look. No matter what you hear or think you see, do not look directly at it. This is very important.

A few rotations, steps forward and it is no longer cool outside, it is sweaty. I try to remind myself it will be cold when I do this for real. Jeffrey says it gets so cold you don’t even want to hold the poker. That you get so tired you don’t think you can even swipe again. That’s why the training. You have to be able to do this all night.



About Kate Maruyama:

Kate Maruyama's first novel was Harrowgate (47North, 2013). Her short works have appeared in Asimov's, Arcadia, and Entropy among other journals; as well as in numerous anthologies, including Winter Horror Days (Omnium Gatherum Media, 2015) and Halloween Carnival 3 (Hydra, 2017). She writes, teaches, cooks, and eats in Los Angeles where she lives with her family.


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