What does it mean to be haunted?
Most people think of houses. Most people think of creaking stairs, apparitions, and babies crying in empty cribs.
I think hauntings are relationships, an interplay of two forces. On the one hand, there is the paranormal element. Someone or something which is compelled to remain. On other hand, there someone reaching out and pulling the past into the present. Like the proverbial tree falling unheard in the forest, without the haunted, the haunting cannot exist.
In Garden of Darkness, Anne Frasier continues the story of Tuonela, Wisconsin, where 100 years ago, mass hysteria and murders swirled around a dark leader suspected of being a vampire. The victims still move through the present day town on a whispering wind. Perhaps that's why the residents can never leave. Like growing up with the sound of the ocean or the wind through mountain trees, the voices imprint on the townspeople. To leave would be to miss an integral part of themselves.
Rachel Burton hears the Tuonela dead more strongly than most. She is the town's medical examiner, and the murders have begun again. Here, as she performs an autopsy on the latest body, she listens to the undercurrents beneath the hum of the exhaust fan:
She hated the fan.
Sometimes when it ran she heard voices buried below the din. Like a roomful of people talking and mumbling, their words indistinct. Just an audio illusion that had to do with the unnatural harmonics and white noise.
You let us in.
That's what the people seemed to be saying. Or had those faraway voices always existed, and the continuous roar and hum of the fan somehow opened a door?
Sh, sh, sh.
Rachel forced her thoughts away from the fan and the murmur.
She heard a movement behind her, but when she looked nothing was there.
Anne Frasier writes haunted characters, but they are not passive, running from fright to fright. They play a vital role in the threats against them. Just as your shadow is part of you, the evil tip-toeing behind Anne's characters must be there. Darkness is an essential energy of their existence.
That's what the soul of Garden of Darkness is to me. A bridge between tragedies. The living and the dead thrust out their hands to grasp each other. They all may be destroyed, or they may be saved. The only thing we know is that they will do so together.
Anne has been in the process of moving into an old, renovated church and has not been around the internet much, but you can still stop by her blog, Static, and wish her well on her new release. And the next time you're in a book store, be sure to pick up a copy!