Our birthday is coming soon: the end of the month, to be exact. During that first year, THE DARK SIRE literary magazine has been privileged to present our readers what we feel are the best stories poems, and pieces of art in Psychological Realism to be enjoyed either on the internet or in print. Our Psychological Realism authors do more than just tell a story. They delve into the chaos of the mind. They examine the inner thoughts of the characters as those characters try to rationalize their actions to make those amoral/immoral actions acceptable and justifiable to themselves. This is a realm in which no cut and dry final answer exists. The readers themselves must make up their own minds whether or not a character is justified in what they do.
In Lifetime Guarantee by Andrea Goyan (Issue 3), the reader is confronted with an unusual conundrum: if you had the chance to do it over again, life that is, would you? Ms. Goyan’s narrator is the victim of an automobile accident which he survived but suffered extreme brain trauma. He has quite literally forgotten who he was. Not that he doesn’t remember who he is. But he has forgotten the little puzzle pieces that made up his former self. Ms. Goyan takes us into his mind as he not only rediscovers his past persona, but realizes that he didn’t like that persona despite the people who want his old self back.
“For eight months she’s been saying the same thing, and it makes me crazy. There isn’t a reverence point inside for me to compare. It’s not like I lost a limb, there aren’t any phantom feelings to draw upon. When I look at my reflection, it’s me looking back. Inside and out. How can I fix something that doesn’t seem broken?”
She has a wonderful joke about halfway into her story that sums up the whole problem:
See, you don’t remember either.”
The reader is present in the mind of the narrator when he is offered a kind of salvation. When presented with the 100% guaranteed option of getting his old self back, our narrator must decide whether or not to fix something he doesn’t consider broken.
Then we have Pigeon by Darlene Eliot (Issue 4). If you enjoyed the Psychological Realism novel The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, you will love Pigeon. Ms. Eliot’s narrator, the victim of a serial killer, gets into the mind of that killer as she plots her revenge in the afterlife.
“I know you have no fear. Not even getting caught. If the thought intrudes, it’s smothered before it surfaces, disappearing with a toss or your hair, a change of contacts, and two coats of mascara...”
The narrator gets inside the killer’s head. But does she? By trying to think like the person who killed her, does our victim suddenly become an unreliable narrator by assuming that the killer thinks this way. Are we actually privy to the killer’s fears or merely the projection of the victim’s fears if she were the killer? In one sense, she has to become like her victim (the killer) in order to plot her revenge. An afterlife role reversal.
C. Christine Fair takes a similar approach in her poem, A Brother’s Revenge (Issue 2). The narrator, the victim of a murder, consoles her brother who has avenged her death.
The song you play driving to buy the gun...
The voice that guides you to a place you have never been...
The exhilaration you feel as you walk up to him...
The poem goes into the mind of the narrator who has gone into the mind of the brother. In this poem, the reader is not only looking into the mind of the first victim, but also into the mind of the revenging brother.
But, perhaps, the most intriguing piece of Psychological Realism that THE DARK SIRE presented in its first year was In Service by Jeremy Zentner (Issue 4). In it, we confront the mental state of a woman who has lost her husband to war and her unborn child to a automobile accident. She tells us, right up front, that she believes that the Lord “would want me to have another child” which is why she feels that it was “divine intervention” that led her to having an affair with Father Williams at the convent.
Mr. Zentner meticulously takes us on a journey in his narrator’s mind as she chronicles the death of her husband, her child, her best friend, the rise of her religious feelings and the final sexual conjunction with Father Williams. The narrator has us in the palm of her hand both sympathetically and empathically right up until the last lines of the story:
“Now, I truly cannot tell if a demon has given me these thoughts or if they are my own.
And I don’t care.”
With these words, she reveals herself to be an unreliable narrator. The brilliance of Mr. Zentner’s story is that he takes us in the whole way only to reveal at the last moment that virtually everything she has told us is a lie. We have been caught up in her hallucination, accepted it as real until the last lines of the story reveal her deception. This is a masterful piece of Psychological Realism in which the author has played hardball with the reader’s mind and forces him or her to reread the story from a new and different perspective.
All the Psychological Realism works published in THE DARK SIRE play out in real world circumstances. The characters are driven by need, revenge, and emotional loss. They beg the question of how the reader would react if confronted by the same circumstances. What is the mental state of someone who has lost a loved one? What is the mental state of someone who has been deprived of Life? How do you go about justifying what you know to be wrong?
These stories are dark and, well, we are THE DARK SIRE after all. In the coming year, we are committed to brining you this kind of dark, satisfying fiction, poetry, and art. If this is your cup of tea, then consider subscribing so as not to miss a single issue.
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