“Down the Hatch” is the story offered by our next spotlight, A Darke Phantastique contributor Jonathan Thomas. It starts:
The house had no cellar. None in the development did, said the abrasively perky realtor. Back in the ’70s the builders apparently hadn’t considered cellars necessary or modern or worthwhile. Nate was about to bail then and there, till Barbara’s toxic look shut his mouth. After the walk-through they conferred out of earshot in the attached garage, though Nate wouldn’t put eavesdropping past anyone wearing frosted pink lipstick and mustard blazer with black trim.
Yes, he agreed, they’d already wasted three weeks househunting. No, he didn’t expect anyplace to be perfect. Yes, yes, he started at the Newport division of Raytheon in two weeks, leaving scant time to fast-track a cash sale, ransom their stuff from storage, and move in. Besides, Barb wasn’t the only one running out of patience. Their realtor’s corporate smile had become brittle enough to shatter if someone tapped it.
He writes about the inspiration:
Curiously, the more neighborhoods and countryside we demolish for the sake of rearing more McMansions and malls, the more we discover about a deeper American past, unsuspected beneath our visible, familiar, vanishing history. In the last few months, groundwork for further hotel-and-restaurant overkill in Miami revealed foundations of “one of the most significant prehistoric sites in North America” (as reported in the Miami Herald), a 2000-year old Tequesta town with two acres of houses, boardwalks, and ceremonial buildings.
In terms of precolonial Europeans in the “New World,” on the other hand, suspicions (and agendas) abound, and Rhode Island’s modest area holds more than its share of legends and speculation. One anomalous structure, the Round Tower in downtown Newport, has been attributed to medieval Scottish, Viking, Chinese, Templar, and Portuguese explorers. Carbon dating supports seventeenth-century English construction; the remnants of a cannon, a sword, and fortifications elsewhere in Newport are suggestive of sixteenth-century occupation.
Considering the Norse alone, circumstantial and written evidence in the wider Northeast (beyond the excavations at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland) is sparse but tantalizing (e.g., in Maine, a Norwegian silver penny of the late eleventh century; from Iceland, a record in 1347 of Greenlanders harvesting lumber in Labrador). Who’s to say whose unsung attempts at setting down stakes might not come to light in such early-developed (and overdeveloped) terrain as Newport and surrounding Aquidneck Island? By the same token, the who, when, and why of any isolated finds might remain forever mysterious, given the stubborn controversy over a substantial, well-researched monument like the Round Tower.
Providence, R.I., native Jonathan Thomas grew up in a haunted house on the edge of Woonsocket. After initial sales of scripts to B&W comics Eerie and Vampirella, he chalked up occasional small-press acceptances while making ends meet (or not) as a factory hand, artist’s model, postal clerk, library assistant, concert promoter, comedian, nonmusician, copyeditor, and worse. His collections include Stories from the Big Black House (Radio Void, 1992), Midnight Call (2008), Tempting Providence (2010), and Thirteen Conjurations (2013; all from Hippocampus Press). A novel, Color over Occam (2012), is available through DarkFuse. Magazine and anthology appearances have included PostScripts (PS Publishing), Black Wings I—IV (PS Publishing), A Mountain Walked (Centipede Press), Searchers After Horror (Fedogan & Bremer), and Nameless (Cycatrix Press). Other writings have included music reviews, liner notes for the bands Barnacled and Etron Fou, and lyrics for bands in New York and Stockholm and for his wife, the artist and country singer Angel Dean.