No, we didn’t forget, we’ve just been REALLY busy. Let’s continue our Author Spotlight series with Nicole Cushing whose story, “The Squatters” is a strong entry in A Darke Phantastique.
Nicole’s story begins with a creepy account of an overgrown private “island”:
“I have every right to get rid of the squatters.
I’m the sheriff of Conowingo County, Indiana. Just that, in and of itself, should be enough to grant me the authority to do the job. But if that’s not enough, I’m also the man who owns the particular tract of land in question: the ugly, vine-smothered place called Orescular Island. It’s not an actual island. Just a mile-long stretch of land jutting out into the Ohio River, about forty-five minutes southwest of Cincinnati. A peninsula. But folks around these parts don’t know a peninsula from penicillin, so they call it an island. It’s a fucked up place to find squatters. There’s not even a house on Orescular Island to squat in. Just an old barn, left over from God-knows-when. And even that has a collapsed roof. Even that has succumbed to the vines.
I’m no horticulturalist. I can’t tell you what the fuck that vine is. I know it’s not kudzu because A) I don’t think kudzu has quite worked its way this far north yet, and B) I Googled ‘kudzu’ and the picture doesn’t match. But whatever it is, it’s aggressive. Creepy, too. Green-and-gray-and-brown. Grows all over the ground and all over the trees and then all over itself in tufts and mounds. I always tell myself I’m going to make a clearing, but Mother Nature works at Orescular Island year round and I’m only there a few weekends during the summer. Whenever I try to cut some of it out, it grows back within a month. I’m no glutton for punishment, so I leave it as is.”
The genesis of the story is explained by Cushing:
The central fantasy element of “The Squatters” came to me as I drifted in and out of a nap. It originated as an experience of thought, imagery, and feeling, somewhere between dream and daydream. On awakening, I found that the story’s three interdependent characters demanded my immediate attention. I hadn’t planned on writing a short story after my nap, but that’s what I did: The story idea wouldn’t go away until I addressed it. It was every bit as persistent as Orescular Island’s vines and the squatters themselves. The whole thing was finished in a matter of days.
Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing has written multiple stand-alone novellas and dozens of short stories. Her work has been praised by the pop culture websites Ain’t It Cool News and Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as by Thomas Ligotti, Jack Ketchum, and Black Static magazine’s Peter Tennant. Three of her short stories were selected as honorable mentions (long list) for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Volume Five. One of her stories was selected for the Tangent Online 2013 Recommended Reading List. Her essay on the racism of H. P. Lovecraft has been referenced by The Guardian and The Atlantic. She has recently completed her first novel.
A native of Maryland, she now lives with her husband in Indiana.
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