The narrator is mourning his wife, who died in childbirth. Two earlier pregnancies ended in stillbirths. While there was still hope, he whispered to his wife’s belly, “Can you come out and play?”
Now, months later, the narrator is making himself some tea. He sees something moving in his yard but doesn’t want to think about what it might be.
The narrator blames himself for his wife’s death. He believes his words, an invitation to their son to come into the world, imbued him with magic to live and come out to wreak the havoc he did in their lives. Is any of this true? It is true enough for the narrator.
The reader feels the narrator’s sense of mourning as a heavy weight. His feelings of guilt, as if he were responsible for his wife’s death, also weighs him down.
Unfortunately, the impact of this is diminished by opening with the narrator’s guilt and remorse. I could picture him in his kitchen, weeping and wailing and pulling his hair out while he was waiting for the water to heat for his tea.
He’s thinking of the invitation he offered to his son, then the reader is told, “Little did I know that now, many months later, how they would come back to haunt me.”
I found the line heavy-handed.
The narrator’s sorrow and longing are credible, not to mention his guilt. This sort of thing adds a layer of pathos, in my opinion, that diminishes the story and the ultimate horror.
Just my two cents’ worth.
According to his blurb, Rick McQuiston is a fifty-one-year-old father of two who loves anything horror-related. He’s had over 400 publications so far, and written five novels, ten anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors. He’s also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School. Currently, he’s working on a new novel.
I wish him the best of luck with that novel.
The story can be read here.
Title: “Can you come out and play?”
Author: Rick McQuiston
First published: October 16, 2020, Theme of Absence