You’re looking through the hole in your father’s shoulder like it’s a spyglass. Or a kaleidoscope. Except, it isn’t either of those things. It’s a long, dark tunnel, and the other side isn’t magnified or broken into crystal fragments.…
I work primarily in the genre of strange fiction, but several elements of “The Sluagh” also represent trademarks of my personal writing style. These include the use of folklore, experimental anatomy, ambiguous language, second-person point of view, and of course, monsters.
According to Scottish Gaelic folklore, the Sluagh, or Sluagh na marbh, are the hosts of the unforgiven dead. The Sluagh have been depicted as having a likeness to angels, faeries, or a great wind full of flapping wings and shadow. Stories of the Sluagh tell of their ruthlessness when descending upon villages and kidnapping those who dared to sleep with their windows open. Some of the legends are more specific: the Sluagh are a scourge upon the unforgiven, a horde of mythical creatures that swoops down from the sky to abduct any person whose wrongs are still begrudged by another. The Sluagh then carry the unforgiven dead up into the night to dangle them from their talons for all eternity. I absolutely love this idea, and it had a huge influence on this piece.
Experimental anatomy is a theme that I enjoy revisiting whenever I am able, and in “The Sluagh” it plays out through the father character becoming less and less human and more and more birdlike. It is difficult for me to put into words how much I love this sort of dichotomy between what is real and what is not.
For me, the purposeful use of ambiguous language enhances this dichotomy, as I didn’t want to explain the character’s transformation too much. The holes that appear and change throughout the piece can symbolize a myriad of things, but what is important about them is that they mount the tension and demonstrate how the Sluagh can begin taking someone before actually hauling them up into the sky.
Second person felt like the natural choice for this piece. It gave me the opportunity to go deeper into the story than third person would have allowed, as well as maintain a distance that first person simply doesn’t have. Writing in the second person has always enabled me to feel as though I am experiencing the story firsthand, while also being outside of it, a characteristic of the second-person narrative that I deeply enjoy.
In true millennial fashion, I once saw a meme that read: “Children’s books are about monsters under the bed, Young Adult books are about monsters in the bed, and Adult Fiction books are about the monsters inside your head.” It was a joke, but also, the accuracy stuck with me. I love monsters and the truths they can reveal about human nature. The Sluagh reveals how withholding forgiveness can hollow people out and turn them into something else.
KENDRA MARIE (CRAIGHEAD) PINTOR is an emerging author of strange fiction, with poetry appearing in Sagebrush Review, The Offbeat, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and others. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, Kendra’s writing style favors eerie, atmospheric language that seeks to combine the mundane with the magical until both worlds are irrevocably intertwined. “The Sluagh” is Kendra’s second work of fiction to be published, following her short story, “The Mahanas,” currently available via the “Amuse-Bouche” series from Lunch Ticket.