This story won first place in Zeroflash‘s July 2018 flash fiction competition. The theme was pulp horror. Word count: 300. Bon appétit!
by I. E. Kneverday
My Dearest Elizabeth,
As promised, I am writing to inform you of my safe arrival in Grotte-de-Noyade. So the village exists after all! My journey, while fraught with danger (I nearly lost a toe to frostbite) has not been in vain, for the mere existence of this place suggests that the old man’s map was no mere tourist trinket or forgery, but the genuine item (as had been my conviction from the start). The “village,” if such a term can be applied to what I have encountered here, consists of a series of caverns, the majority of which are inhabited not by people, but by massive cast iron vats. My translator Damien tells me that the villagers use these vats to soak their cheese in a peculiar type of brine, the recipe for which has been passed down among their kind for centuries. This brine is said to allow for the cultivation of a rare bacterium, which gives the cheese a rare taste—and perhaps other properties rarer still. So you see, my dear, how more of the old man’s story has been proven true! I promise I will deliver some of this famous fromage to you upon my return. For now, I must bid you adieu, for it seems the villagers wish to give me a first-hand lesson in their craft. What an extraordinary honor!
With all my love,
It is with great sadness that I must inform you of your fiancé Jonathan’s passing. I discovered his remains in a brine vat on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, on account of the brine’s bacterial content, it was impossible to recover the body. As a token of their sympathy, the villagers of Grotte-de-Noyade would like you to accept this wheel of cheese, which was crafted with Jonathan’s input.
“It’s like The Devil in the White City meets Hocus Pocus”
I like my town with a little drop of poison
Nobody knows, they’re lining up to go insane
☝️ Those are the opening lines of “Little Drop of Poison” by Tom Waits, which is a song that perfectly encapsulates the vibe/mood/ambiance/atmosphere I was trying to create with my debut book, The Woburn Chronicles: A Trio of Supernatural Tales Set in New England’s Most Mysterious City.
Ultimately, over the course of several months, I would encounter several songs that would help inspire (and serve as background music for) the writing of the three short stories that comprise Chronicles.
So without further ado, here is the official Spotify Playlist for The Woburn Chronicles:
- “Little Drop of Poison” by Tom Waits
- “The Parting Glass” by James Elkington
- “Gene Takes a Drink” by Michael Gordon, Bang on a Can All-Stars
- “The Hall of Mirrors” by Kraftwerk
- “Villains of Circumstance” by Queens of the Stone Age
- “No Quarter” by Led Zeppelin
- “There, There” by Radiohead
- “Bloom (Harmonic 313 Rmx)” by Radiohead
- “Chemical World (Including ‘Intermission’)” by Blur
- “Threshold” by Steve Miller Band
- “Angel” by Massive Attack
- “Immigrant Song” by SOAK (Led Zeppelin cover)
- “I Am the Changer” by Cotton Jones
For the past several years, I’ve had a healthy(?) obsession with New England history and folktales. And while a lot of what you’ll find inside The Woburn Chronicles stems directly from my twisted imagination, you’ll also find that the three supernatural tales that comprise Chronicles are littered with historical and mythological references.
Without a doubt, doing the research for this book took longer than the writing, and it’s hard for me to say which activity I found more enjoyable: the former or the latter. What I can say for sure is that I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the place I call home and have developed a newfound respect for all those peoples, native and immigrant alike, who’ve inhabited this land over the centuries.
For those of you who also have an unquenchable thirst for stories, factual and fictional, set in and around Woburn, and Boston, and New England at large, I’ve put together a condensed list of works that inspired The Woburn Chronicles.
Like all writers, I stand on the shoulders of giants.
A List of Works That Inspired the Woburn Chronicles