Story Title: Trompette De La Mort
Collection/Anthology?: Not applicable. Available for free download (PDF format) from the Costa Short Story Award website.
Briefly: The narrator talks to her child about her husband Bernard, his obsession with mushrooms, and her own insecurities about being overweight.
Afterthoughts: One could describe the author of this story as a female Edgar Allen Poe because this story is dark and disturbing, and wholly memorable for these very reasons. To say too much would be to give the story away and I don’t want to do that because this is the kind of tale that needs to be read blind, without any prior knowledge of what lies within. Suffice it to say that most readers will become greatly unsettled reading Trompette De La Mort, and as graphic as it is it’s perhaps not suitable for the weak of heart. I certainly found the whole story disturbing, but something about it compelled me to follow it through to the end. Perhaps it’s the thin strand of sympathetic feeling that runs through the story that kept me reading because I did feel empathy, or perhaps, like those who can’t tear their eyes away from a car crash, I was simply fuelled by morbid curiosity. Fans of Poe will undoubtedly love this one.
Notable quote: At first my squinting eyes mistook them for petals, but then I realised the ground was
bursting with oddly shaped growths, grotesque yet erotic at the same time. From Dalmatianed puffballs to brick-hued eruptions that resembled diseased members, cream, beige, mushroom coloured mushrooms, shaped like arrows, like sponges, entrails even. Bernard regaled them all while I could only shudder at the protrusions that clung to tree stumps. Cancers that had attached themselves to the moist soil and mutated into blackened masses; mouldy, cumin-coloured displays that my love’s eyes
scanned as eagerly as he did my body before his fingers, assessed, caressed and gathered.
This story was read as preparation for casting a vote for the 2012 Costa Short Story Award. In all, six stories were selected by the award panel before being put to the public vote. All stories were presented without note of the author, so that each story would be judged on merit alone. For further details, please visit the Costa Short Story Award website.