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When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead

PART OF THE The Beauty That Surrounds Us ISSUE

‘She wandered onto the balcony, where she could peek over the trees and see ravines ravaging the landscape, just as the guidebook said. Drawing in a deep breath, a smile slipped across her lips unbidden; she felt she could fly.’

When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead, edited by Lauren T. Davila, is an anthology of dark, unsettling writing from some of the most exciting contemporary BIPOC writers. Blending Gothic, horror, folklore, fantasy and fairy-tale, these eerie short stories will disturb, move and humour you. Death is ever-present, blending with notions of home, memory, grief and belonging, as well as gentrification, white supremacy and colonisation. You can read the start of one story, ‘The Mountain Air’, below.

 

Extract taken from When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead
Published by Haunt Publishing

 

The Mountain Air
By Nisha Addleman

 

Eva was, by all accounts, adorable. Her small build and curly brown hair so often laced with flowers were only complemented by large, brown eyes and a soft voice.

Leon – her lover, as she called him – was a perfect pairing for her, standing a whole head taller, with a dazzling smile that turned heads everywhere they went.

They were inseparable, and for the best possible reason: being utterly and completely perfect for each other. When Eva wanted quiet, Leon wanted quiet. When Eva was bored, Leon was bored. When Eva was feeling handsy, Leon was also feeling handsy.

Eva leaned out the car window, catching snowflakes in her hair and lashes, as they rambled up the quiet mountain road to their long-overdue vacation.

‘Careful.’ Leon rested a hand on her thigh and gave a gentle squeeze.

‘You’re not going fast.’ She grinned at him.

With a soft chuckle, he replied: ‘Because you’re leaning out, love.’

She ducked back in and gave him a peck on the cheek, then rolled up the window and snuggled beneath his heavy wool coat.

Urging the car faster now Eva was safe inside, he smiled at her. ‘You wouldn’t be so cold if you weren’t leaning out all the time.’

She stuck her tongue out. ‘I like leaning out. And I like stealing your jackets. I don’t see a problem with either.’

‘Neither do I, so long as your head doesn’t get taken off by a tree.’ As he spoke, they sped past a branch that certainly would have taken her head off.

She slipped her hand around his and leaned her head against the window. Catching snowflakes on her tongue could wait until they were at the cabin.

Their vacation abode was atop a steep mountain. According to Eva’s guidebook, ravines cut through the landscape, but she couldn’t see them through the thicket of pines weighed down by blankets of snow. It was beautiful regardless, and the air was supposed to be better. Visitors always came out feeling happier and lighter. Leon said it was altitude sickness, but Eva liked to believe it was something else.

Something special.

She inhaled, feeling like she could get out and dance in the snow. That wasn’t particular to the air – snow always made her feel like that.

‘Look!’ Leon pointed down the road, where the wooden building was coming into view.

Two cabins sat near each other, their dirt driveways forking apart for privacy. Their own rental loomed in front of them, while the other only peeked through the trees.

‘Do you think there’s anyone there?’ She pressed her hands to the glass.

‘I don’t know.’ Leon slowed as he reached the driveway and peered up the other. ‘Maybe we’ll find out.’

Eva nodded back at him and he turned onto the driveway, winding up the hillside to their cabin tucked in the thicket.

 

* * *

 

The cabin’s interior was massive and gorgeous – an open floor plan bookended by large staircases. In the middle was a large sitting room, trapped in a forgotten era with floral couches, a fireplace and an old radio, which Leon was busy trying to understand while Eva explored.

‘Do you think there’s a phone?’ Eva walked up the stairs, trailing her fingers along wooden railings.

Leon only let out a hum, too absorbed in the radio, which Eva was beginning to suspect was broken.

She went through the first door, finding a master bedroom with a spacious balcony overlooking the front door. Attached to the bedroom was a large bathroom. Eva giggled with delight at the huge bathtub – big enough for two, she noted. Leon would surely enjoy that after the long drive.

She wandered onto the balcony, where she could peek over the trees and see ravines ravaging the landscape, just as the guidebook said. Drawing in a deep breath, a smile slipped across her lips unbidden; she felt she could fly.

Apart from the lone road cutting through the trees – and the other cabin barely in sight – there was nothing for miles.

‘Hello!’ a man called.

She looked down the driveway to see a couple walking up, about the same age as her and Leon.

‘Hello!’ She waved to him, leaning over the railing. ‘Are you staying over there?’ She pointed toward the other cabin.

‘We are!’ The man grinned. ‘I’m Victor. This is Hannah!’ He motioned to the smiling woman beside him.

‘I’m Eva!’ Eva held up a finger, motioning for them to wait. ‘Let me get Leon and we’ll come out front.’

Leon was about to head out the front door when Eva skipped down the stairs. ‘Who is it?’ He reached for the doorknob.

‘Our neighbours!’ Eva caught his elbow and followed him out.

‘You must be Leon!’ Victor held out his hand and introduced himself and Hannah.

‘Are you two on vacation?’ Eva squeezed Leon’s arm and leaned in, curious of her new neighbours.

‘Yes! We’ve been here a week. It’s wonderful.’ Hannah let out a delighted giggle.

Victor nodded down at her, letting out his own laugh. Their eyes were wide and their cheeks flushed. Eva wondered if they were drunk, though she couldn’t blame them. This was the perfect place to drink too much and get too cosy.

Leon flashed his dazzling grin. ‘Great! We should get dinner together one day.’

‘Oh yes!’ Hannah caught Victor’s arm. ‘Wouldn’t that be nice?’

‘Lovely!’ Victor nodded.

The couple giggled again, and this time Eva was certain they weren’t sober.

Victor squeezed Hannah’s hand. ‘Why don’t we let you two settle in. Wander over whenever you’d like! There’s a path there linking our cabins.’

Eva saw the narrow clearing between the trees and clapped. ‘Wonderful! We’ll stop by soon, then, won’t we?’

‘Yes, we will!’ Leon agreed.

Victor’s smile widened, giving away his excitement. ‘Don’t hesitate. We only have each other out here, so if you need anything, we’re just next door.’

With that, Victor turned, tugging Hannah along as she waved goodbye. The two fell into a fit of laughter again, clutching each other and trying to stifle their joy as they disappeared between

the trees.

‘Drunk?’ Eva looked up at Leon.

‘Most certainly.’ He closed his eyes and heaved a breath. ‘Or it’s just something in the mountain air.’

 

When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead edited by Lauren T. Davila is published by Haunt Publishing, priced £9.99. 

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