Review: “Only Unity Saves the Damned” by Nadia Bulkin

2 of 5 stars.

This modern folktale , like many, is a cautionary tale blending local myth with distorted truth, albeit in this case a supernatural truth.

Three have-nots and drop-outs, self-dubbed the LunaTicks, achieve local notoriety after distributing a staged video of a local legend that they purport as found footage. Bay shot a video of Roz and Lark skipping rocks on Goose Lake when they point out the looming oak on the far bank that fits the local lullaby of The Witching Tree in which historic abortionist [and witch] “Raggedy Annie” was hung. The video catches sight of a female spirit beneath the tree raising its arms–Raggedy Annie in the flesh. Together, the LunaTicks along with Bay’s girlfriend, Jessica, that acted the part of Raggedy Annie, conspire to ride the wave of hysteric fame.

Jessica disappears, leaving a bedroom full of terrariums, each of just a single oak bonzai. Roz sees visions of her dead mother garbed as Annie accompanied by frenzied scratchings of the silver maple at her bedroom window. She soon breaks, confessing the staged video driving a wedge into the trio. Lark takes to hiding from the others, family and trees. Bay continues to defend the video despite the mounting contradictions . . .

Like in many stories, the unseen psychological trauma is greater than the definable. As the supernatural elements come into focus, this folktale loses its grip.

“Only Unity Saves the Damned” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Letters to Lovecraft: Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness, ed. Jesse Bullington (Stone Skin Press).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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