Pacific Northwest Gothic: A Template

 

  1. We start with fear and end with the fantasy. First, there is a corpse on a riverbank. Later, she dances on a stage with red velvet curtains.
  2. The North decays just as well as the South, but in deceptive ways. You won’t smell the body rot coming from the forest over the scent of pine and rain. You won’t be able to tell if the seal is resting on the beach, or has washed up with eyes already eaten out. You won’t see our poverty under our technological gleam, but everything rusts in the rain.
  3. There is no difference between a monster and a predator besides literary conceit. A man need not be overly clever to kill hundreds, if no one is watching. A demon is a man until he is a demon. Until he cannot be explained. Until we do not want to explain him.
  4. You cannot trust the light. It will leave.
  5. Fantasy is a false denouement. The fantasy is the mouth of an ouroboros: a snare to bring you back to the fear. A predator can be caught, or killed, or imprisoned. A monster cannot. A monster lives where mirror meets glass, where mind meets sleep.
  6. Like monsters, we can survive only in the liminal. Horror we can handle, as long as the macabre is fantastic as well. Like the bullied children we once were, we dream up magic to glorify our wounds.

The Visionary

Her fingernails snip the stems of daisies and dandelions as she dreams of rings. Another flower crown, another fairy ring, another circle of friends, another playground game. “What if we were a spaceship?” she asks the other kids. “I saw in a show they can make them this way. We could spin through space.” The grass isn’t green, but these flowers are hardy things. If they can survive the playground, surely they could survive space.

Her parents watch early morning shows. More murders, more police killing children. The suburbs are vast and strangers are frightening, so they drive her to school every morning. In class she practices hiding in case of a mass shooting. Under her desk some former student drew a flower. Another drew a rocket. She traces over them with her own pencil carefully.

What if I could grow spaceships? she thinks. While the teacher talks about closing blinds and escape routes, she draws a tree around the rocket, making it into something living. “What do bullets do to trees?” she asks, hand raised. “If we had school in trees would we be safe? What if we wore trees, if they grew around us like clothing? Could trees be spacesuits?”

She loves what thrives despite everything. Not her momma’s orchids and lilies, but weeds growing unwanted in the driveway. She makes a chain of dandelions grown entirely from concrete. She isn’t sure what it means, but wears them as a crown above her pigtails long after they fade. They are a force field, unlike her age. She feels, even this early, the weight of history. An inheritance of violence and greed, already turning against her. She knows, in her soft child way, that evil things loom heavy over her family, but her dandelions weave golden armor around her, and she walks through a world capable of healing.

Everywhere, growing things.

“What if?” she asks. She wants to know what space is. What it’s made of. What grows there. If it might be safer than here. Sometimes teachers know the answers. Sometimes they just want her to stop questioning.

She doesn’t. She asks librarians, asks her phone, asks everyone she meets. The dandelions taught her all about thriving. About wiggling into places no one wants you to be, or dreaming up schemes no one wants you to think. Eventually, like them, she’ll get what she needs.

“A torus spaceship is like a somersault,” she tells her friends. “The outside is moving, but inside you feel safe.” They tumble down a grassy hill and into space.

How to be a successful manic pixie dream girl

Forget whatever you might know of your origins. Forget what you love, and especially forget what you hate. Shrink into toddlerhood – make sure your waist shrinks too. No one over 110 pounds could possibly be eccentric.

Fall in love eternally. Love the carpet, the table, the dogshit on the street. Don’t admit to loving any one person. Love everyone, but not faithfully. Your fickleness is your most charming feature. Kiss strangers. Ignore any flickering doubts of inappropriateness or unease.  Do somersaults in dangerous neighborhoods. Never feel alarmed. No one can be more eccentric than you, so no one could possibly cross your boundaries. Ignore financial, political, and civil rights concerns. Who needs rights when you have imagination?

Develop a unique giggle. Be sure to laugh more than you speak. Dye your hair, or at least cut it short. Only eat adorable food. Pickles. Popcorn. Cupcakes. Don’t shy away from adorning yourself in vegetables, trash, or clothing you find in the children’s section of Goodwill (you should be small enough to fit children’s clothes by now).

Remember, you have no boundaries, no needs, no past, no future. You are the moment. You have no concerns, and your only love is transformation. Take delight in your imaginings, but never write them down. That’s too permanent, too serious. You need to become a creature of light, as insubstantial as a cloud. Allow your insignificance to grow until you become significant though it. Walk down the street like it doesn’t exist. Only the moment exists, and you are the moment.

You’re almost ready! Go into the world with the sole intent of finding sad chaps and making them happy. Find the most mundane schmuck possible. Approach him unforgettably. Remember, your charm depends entirely on your ability to slink out of reality. Leave. Leave and don’t come back. You’re not a person. You’re an experience. Don’t be easy to find again. Never pursue. Introduce, enchant, and fall back. Let the world’s saddest schmucks come to you.

Steal their wallets, their cars, and their bank accounts. After all, your fickleness is your most charming feature.