Short Story Sunday: ‘The Fog’ by Freya McClements

I know it’s technically Monday but I haven’t gone to bed yet so it still feels like Sunday. That means short story Sunday ahoy! This week’s story is ‘The Fog’ by Freya McClements, whose debut collection of short stories is published by Guildhall Press. ‘The Fog’ can be read on Darker Times Fiction.  They run a monthly competition for short stories, flash fiction and poetry. The Fog won the June edition of the competition.

It is written in the second person as if the narrator is instructing the reader, inviting them into an incredibly atmospheric world. Unfortunately the atmosphere sort of takes precedence from the very beginning and other plot moments aren’t as strong as they could have been.

Perhaps it’s because of the fabulous summer weather we’ve been having recently but some of the images in the story fell quite flat and seemed too melodramatic.

we live our lives in the light. We draw sustenance from it, worship it, work in it. From its dark companion we shy away

While this image could have something to say in other circumstances I don’t know any characters, an plot or action, event the set-up remains a mystery to me so it’s kind of hard to get into mood of the story. The whole thing comes across as a little bit overwrought. This is a shame because when they plot does appear it’s very interesting. It’s about Jack the Ripper and the narrator leads you through the streets of Whitechapel looking for a murderer and in doing so prompts the reader to question their own motivations in following and indeed the motivations of anyone who is fascinated by true crime and gawks along at stories of murders, glued to television coverage of death and destruction.

The much-maligned second person perspective is handled deftly and is appropriate to the story and the atmosphere. There’s a tendency for writers to belabour the point when using second person but McClements  doesn’t beat us about the head with it, using it sparingly to engage the reader and to restablish her excellent atmosphere and letting it slide into the background when not needed. I’d recommend this story to anyone who would like to see an example of well crafted second person narrative (even if it is technically a first person addressing a second) and for fans of horror and drama.

The story takes an interesting turn at the end and McClements handles her theme, message and techniques well, I just feel that it was a bit heavy on melodrama without enough details or character building. However, I would like to read more of McClements’ work.

Notable Lines: I wonder… Forgive my forwardness, but what nightmares have you fashioned just now from out of my words?

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