Continuing our Darke spotlight, we next find Wendy Rathbone. Her beautiful story, “I Keep the Dark That Is Your Pain”, begins:
Rumor had it the man in the old house at the edge of the woods was the greatest hunter the town had ever known. Stories told that he’d taken down rogue bears, the most rabid and fiercest of wolves, man-eating cats . . . all with precise, painless precision. All with a bow and arrow. One story told of the hunt of a creature some said had six legs, others said had strange mandibles and seven-inch fangs. However, there were no real facts to support the tale.
All this, of course, was before the man went blind.
Meri wasn’t sure she believed it. She delivered his groceries. There was never any meat. Why would a vegetarian be a hunter?
She says about it:
After publishing over forty stories and 500 poems in the 1980s and 1990s, I took a long break from writing. Many of my friends kept urging me to write again. Kelly Dunn is one of those who encouraged me the most, and it was for her that I sat down and decided to write “a new story.” I had no idea in particular. But of course it would have to be something I love, and maybe it would be about love, and most certainly I was going to find a way to indulge my obsession with all things autumn. Instead, I wrote a poem. It really had nothing to do with the story except for phrases like “air of coriander” and “jasper leaves set fires,” which I selfishly wanted to expand on.
The origin of this story is difficult to pinpoint because I started with an image from my poem: the winterlord kisses his dying twin and overtakes the throne of dead leaves, which
has nothing to do with the story, but it started me looking up myths about beginnings, darkness, love, etc. There was something about Darkness/Love entwining to create the
universe, just one line that I read somewhere, maybe on Wiki . . . can’t recall, but it was lovely and poetic and all that. After that, I just stared at words associated with autumn,
one of which is Scorpio. Somehow I decided a guy got bit by a poisonous scorpion, and it sent him on a journey past death and into darkness to the beginning of the universe where he became its co-creator for reasons that are intrinsic to who he is. It all sounds too crazy for any serious story, but my brain latched onto it, and I really didn’t care if it was crazy or not. I just wanted to play with some pretty words. I am a pantser and I let my subconscious mind go. As a poet, I’ve sort of programmed it to latch onto themes and then it knows what it wants to do.
Kelly Dunn (a wonderful writer and editor herself) was first reader on this story. To my utter astonishment, she fell in love with it so much she insisted on helping me sell it. She
knew Jason was looking for stories for a new anthology and wanted to show it to him. I did not know Jason (or Sunni), but I said, “Hell, go ahead.” Next thing I know I’m getting
an email saying, “We want to buy this.” In all my years of writing and writerly frustrations, I don’t think it’s ever been that easy. So really, this one is for Kelly, and I couldn’t thank her more for getting me back into the writing scene after ten long years away. Now I can’t stop writing.
Wendy Rathbone has had stories published in anthologies such as Hot Blood, Writers of the Future, Bending the Landscape, Mutation Nation, and more. Over 500 of her poems have been published in anthologies and magazines including Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Mythic Delirium, Strange Horizons, and too many more to name. She won first place in the Anamnesis Press poetry chapbook contest with “Scrying the River Styx.”
Her recent books include Pale Zenith, a science fiction novel, Unearthly, an omnibus collection of seven out-of-print poetry books, as well as several romance and erotica books. She also has two “The Vampire Diaries” novellas on Kindle Worlds. Her current projects include the novel Letters to an Android as well as upcoming short story collections Risqué Science Fiction and The Red Fountain, Where Vampires Come to Drink. She lives in Yucca Valley, California, with her partner of thirty-three years, Della Van Hise.