Boy meets girl at a college freshman mixer. They date, fall in love, graduate and marry. They move to his hometown and begin their lives together. The bliss fades. His career takes off, hers flounders. Resentment sets in. Things escalate when she takes an interest in the ominous woods surrounding their home.
Though told from the man’s perspective, Fracassi paints both characters as capable of emotional cruelty. This even-handed approach gives the story a welcome dose of cynicism.
I enjoyed it, despite this wince-inducing early line:
Julie’s parents were tragically killed when she was a baby.
Once he gets going, however, Fracassi delivers the goods in a nightmarish woodland sequence that leaves us as unsettled as the narrator. The story stumbles after, unsure how to link this sequence to the set-piece finale. Fracassi doesn’t quite stick the landing, but the whole entertains.
This was Fracassi’s first published story and first foray into horror. He’d revisit the themes of abuse and nature’s malevolence in “Coffin” and echoes of this story’s finale would surface in “Altar”.