A shadow stained the surface of the placid pool, blotching out the stars as its shape realized itself. The thing rose from below with soft watery sounds, stepping onto the asperous terrain of the archipelago with slapping feet. Gertrude and the thing regarded each other. Her brother made an uneasy sound over her shoulder.
The September wind picked up. Seawater spit on their heels as it dashed against the rocky shoreline. Everything was freezing and wet and obscured under the unmitigated darkness of a moonless night in Innsmouth. It reminded Gertrude of certain evenings she dreamed of each night and wished each morning to have ripped from her memory forever.
A hand was on her face, wet and slippery. It touched her cheek, just grazing the bottom…
Taking a pen in her spasming hand, Dorothea dipped it in the inkwell. It was uncomfortable to hold such a slender object, but she took it upon herself a couple of times a week to record what deserved saving. The task was done with great care and over an enduring stretch of time.
Black splattered in great gory drops across the desk and paper as she extracted the pen from the inkwell. Sighing raspily, she set her wrist down on the leather ink blotter and closed her eyes. She focused on steadying her increasingly uncontrollable limbs, and loosening her grip on the slipping pen.
Moments, later, her eyes opened again. Squinting in the low light, she placed nib to paper and began spelling out an entry in…
Delilah had remarried ten years ago, after being widowed by the hypothermic colds that occasionally took non-Innsmouth fishing folk. Clement had been a whaler from Boston who moved to New Bedford for work when the fleet was shut down. She met him outside the wharves in one of the bothies, temporary shelters that popped up in those days along the brick and wood rowhouses that otherwise stood empty. They had been married months after.
As a younger woman, Delilah had been desperate to get out of Essex County by any means. Somehow, getting a ride with the fishermen and whalers that stopped on their way to New Bedford or farther up the coast seemed a better option to simply fleeing over land. Arkham, Ipswich, and Newburyport were…
Betta’s usual table had been reserved for two at Ridgemont’s. It was at her normal position in the center of the room. She had also insisted tea be on her credit. This was in spite of the fact that Birdie had a more than sufficient allowance herself, compounded by successful investments made in her name by a brother in Arkham. Betta had taken care of all the arrangements. Birdie tried not to be annoyed.
The young Mrs. Bridgeford had insisted. She must feel treated, Betta had explained. We’ve got to vamp her, she had informed Birdie in her obnoxiously hip style. It was clear Betta thought she knew the girl. Birdie was not so sure.
None of their group except the Uxor twins had met…
It had been years since Beulah had spent any meaningful amount of time in front of her mirror. When the last of her line had left five years ago, she had decided it was time to put the brushes and combs and gowns dyed in costly hues to rest. This was done with some relief.
She had never been a woman with extravagant taste. Her uncle had called her matronly when she was in her early teens. It made her miss her father. Those days were relics she chose on most mornings to ignore.
Yet, she had understood her appearance was an extension of her duty into middle age. Even as an older woman, long past earning the respect of the members of lesser families, she had…
Betta said a little prayer with her hand on the door knob. She was not sure she said all the words right, but she also was not sure it mattered.
The Shepards had stopped going to a proper church for anything but Christmas and Easter long before she was born. Around the time she turned twelve, they stopped going altogether. Instead, the men spent hours each week at the reclaimed Masonic Hall on the green.
The six siblings that had been hers before she was a Bridgeford had not been taught to read their Bible of anything else, before or after the books were burned with the crosses. She was the same. All her prayers were made up from half-remembered phrases the…
The weather over Innsmouth took a queer turn in the afternoon, as it was known to do. Out of the clear blue morning, clouds formed like a drop of blood in water. They rolled and bubbled from an invisible axis, striating the sky in gray. Lightning appeared before thunder, rumbling like some old, forgotten beast. Then rain dripped faster and faster in fat drops on the heads of those less dexterous citizens out on post lunch errands. The sluicing sky opened into flat slate and its slow drip became slicing sheets.
Birdie Dwyer tapped through the streets in her new Oxford heels. She was soaked to the core, and sorely wishing she had allowed time to stretch the shoes before wearing them out of doors. After a half-dozen sighs that filled…
J.M. Yales is a queer identifying female writer currently living in Chicago, IL, but originally from Milwaukee, WI. Her start in feminist commentary came from personal blogging, but was expanded by FemPop Magazine between 2012 and 2014. Her writing and research interests include the representation of minority populations in Science Fiction genres and the Arts.
Yales refers to A Coven in Essex County as “Horror Fantasy,” and “Historical Feminist Science Fiction,” describing it as “a feminist revision of Lovecraftian horror that explores the personal pain and experiences of women in the fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts.” Thirteen women in shadowy Innsmouth, brides of arranged marriages to the inhuman denizens of the neighboring reef, are bound by the will of their male relatives, until they pursue revenge. In 1926, 60 years after the first girl was married to keep a tense peace between those living on land and in the bay, her grandniece is forced…
My novel, A Coven in Essex County, is continuing to be published whether or not I blog about it. Monthly, my editors reminds me to looks at the edits they have carefully completed weeks previously. I usually do this the day before.
I am truly grateful to my fantastic editors. Since last blogging about it, “Birdie” and, most recently, “Delilah” was published.
Back when Coven was a short story about a nefarious tea party, Birdie was the main character. At some point, it became clear that 13 characters were a few too many for a short story. It evolved into the novella it is today.
Birdie is the only character I would call an archetypal female protagonist. (We have not been properly introduced to Cora, yet, but she is certainly a “strong” female character, another archetype.) She’s plucky, and goes through a brief evolution in the story. While her timidity makes her nickname fit well, Birdie over comes this to get closer to the Coven’s goals (she also names them)… sort of.
Delilah is a smart girl grown into a defeated woman. Plus there’s an alley sex scene.
My dad is currently the biggest fan of my novel. The other day he asked if I had seen that show “Twin Peaks”, because the tone reminded him of it. (I have seen the series twice.)
I was invited to read at Chicago Lady Lit Live event Miss Spoken on the subject of Gossip. It was a scary one for me, as I spoke more openly about sexual assault than I ever have before. It was also one of the easiest, funniest events I have ever been a part of.
I’m hoping to read at more events, and have been hard at work submitting poetry and essays again. I will be publishing my essay here at some point, but until then, attend the upcoming show on “Rites of Passage” in Chicago if you can!
(Photo from the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.)