Posts Tagged ‘short story’

New Voices: “When You Lived Inside the Walls” by Krishan Coupland

In Krishan Coupland’s New Voices story “When You Lived Inside the Walls,” a man’s daughter forms an unnatural bond with a swarm of otherworldly rats that is slowly taking over their house. His wife is distant, watching an endless loop of disasters on the news. Within this surreal world, Coupland depicts the love a father has for his child, and the horror he feels as she matures and begins to keep her own secrets.

Silhouette of a gray rat

There are few at first. You hear them scuttling under the floorboards, pinpoint claws clicking wood. At night you think you can discern their squeaking—so high-pitched it is almost inaudible. It is a month before you actually see one. You come into the kitchen one night, empty glass in hand, and flick on the light. A brown body—larger than you had imagined—streaks for the gap beneath the fridge.

On instinct, you throw the glass. It shatters so loud that it pierces your ears. Fragments skitter across the tiles, but the rat is already gone.

You tell Dinah about it while she sits up in bed reading the paper. On the cover are pictures of bombs detonating over foreign cities, smoke curdling into fist-shaped clouds. “We’ll have to get some traps,” you say. “Traps and poison. We have to deal with this quickly.”

“That sounds like your department, Dear,” says Dinah. “Do you want to take the car tomorrow?”

You nod. You think of your daughter Millie tucked up in bed. The rat was the size of her tiny arm. Bigger maybe. “Yes,” you say. “Yes, I will. I’ll take care of it.”

*     *     *

Millie’s school has a teacher-training day, so you take her with you to the hardware store. She likes it there—begs to come whenever you need a new lightbulb or a screw for the kitchen shelf. While you look at traps, she browses the reels of cord and chain and wiring, touching each as though she longs to unwind them.

“The ones with jaws are best,” says the man behind the counter. He’s old enough to be your father, and so you trust his wisdom. Twice he’s duplicated keys for you on the squeaky machine in the back room. You’ve always found it a marvel that a man with hands as big and broad as his can do such delicate work.

“Aren’t they dangerous?” you say. “I’ve got a little girl.”

The hardware man looks past you to where Millie is rattling a rack of graded screwdrivers like wind chimes.

Vermin are dangerous. Traps are just traps.” But he disappears into the back room and emerges with two bulky corridors of wire—humane traps. Used, he tells you, but in working condition. It isn’t until you come to load them into the back of the car that you notice the wire is stained with blood.

To read the rest of “When You Lived Inside the Walls,” click here.

New Voices – Kiik AK

Congratulations to Kiik AK for his story, “whiskey over barbed wire” which is the first in a series of connected shorts he is currently at work on. We loved this story for its sense of whimsy, even though it hovers — and often flies near —  a difficult topic: a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII.

For more information on our New Voices category, visit our submissions page.

19th century engraving of a wooly mammoth

whiskey over barbed wire

By Kiik AK

The doctor told Kane Araki it happened that sometimes, in extreme circumstances of weather or diet, a Japanese man or woman might spontaneously sprout a set of wings. He had heard of three or four cases from his colleagues in Japan. A woman from west Osaka had saved her village from drought when she’d seeded the clouds, by hand, with silver iodide and pellets of dry carbon dioxide. A man from Kumamoto, that had eaten nothing but sweet potatoes for five years, awoke with wings and began supplementing his diet with tall-hanging fruit and birds’ eggs. Research was being gathered, but what with the war, frivolous projects like these were shelved for greater concerns. The doctor was unsure what could have triggered such a large, severe pair of wings amidst Arizona desert. An allergic reaction? Had Kane been eating a lot of peanuts lately? Too many uncooked radishes?

In any case the doctor told Kane not to worry. He would contact a surgeon the next day and arrange to have the wings removed sometime in the following months. It would be costly to fly an anesthesiologist to camp during wartime. But reserve funding existed precisely for these types of situations. In the meantime it was important for Kane to push hot clear fluids. To pick his plumes clean of burs and mites. And to take an aspirin at night to amend any discomfort. The doctor handed Kane a tiny glass bottle of tablets and gave his wings a little pat.

Although they were mostly an inconvenience, Kane found his new appendages did afford him a unique opportunity. Because his feathers were a raven’s black, flight after dusk was nearly undetectable. When the wind favored him he was over the fence and into the nearest Chinatown in under an hour. There he could walk freely through the streets, in restaurants, in shops. He was guarded from police that couldn’t comprehend the differences between their local foul chicken-coop Chinamen and the sinister yellow-menace Japs being battled abroad. On the one occasion he’d been stopped by a policeman for jaywalking, he eluded capture by asserting a disoriented Chinese gibberish. In Chinatown he could buy whiskey and cigarettes to share back at camp. Kane, who had never garnered much consideration, was everyday meeting new friends that stuffed bills and whiskey orders into his shirt pockets. Pretty girls that had previously ignored him showered him with pity. Some stroked his ugly wings tenderly and promised to knit them a decorative covering.

To read the rest of “whiskey over barbed wire” click here.