Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Mailman, (Cemetery Dance), by Bentley Little

The mail.

Such an ordinary, everyday thing.  Something we often take for granted in today's digitized, electronic society, in which the daily mail is merely one of many ways to communicate, pay bills, arrange clandestine trysts, express sadness or remorse or comfort to loved ones and friends.  

Today, a person could conceivably cut the daily mail out of their lives entirely, preferring to communicate largely by email, or pay their bills via phone or the Internet.

But what about a mere twenty-years ago?  

A lifetime for those of the youngest generation, but for most of us, a time easily remembered when the mail was perhaps the biggest event of the day.  Especially in small towns, when the mailman was a familiar, comforting cornerstone of small town life.

So imagine a small town in Arizona.  Where the mail has been co-opted by an outsider, a strange-looking man with pale skin, a sick smile, and an eerie knowledge of everyone's fears and secrets.  Imagine how the mail changes, as townspeople receive strange letters from distant relatives and friends either long since passed from their lives...or long since dead, for that matter.  Imagine the threads of paranoia weaving through an isolated town cut-off from the outside world, as the mail itself seems to become a living, breathing, sentient thing.

Knowing everyone's secrets. Pushing their buttons, turning neighbors against each other.  While the new mailman sits in a slowly deteriorating post office, like a spider in its web, playing everyone like personal chess pieces, moving them here and there, back and forth...with the daily mail.

Bentley Little's The Mailman, reprinted in a deluxe, 20th Anniversary Edition by Cemetery Dance, is the best kind of horror: something comforting and familiar, twisted into a dark, shadowed version of itself.  On the outset, the concept may seem a little ridiculous - that an evil mailman could slowly corrupt and take over a town - but it works splendidly, because it plucks an age-old chord: that evil is usually invited. Usually welcomed and allowed to grow strong.  

And in this novel, reading a letter is more than just enjoying correspondence: it's invitation. Acceptance.  And once something dark and twisted is allowed entrance into our lives, it burrows and digs deep, refusing to let go without dreadful consequence.

Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He's currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he's currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at

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