'The Gothic Turn' by Oz Hardwick
From Enid Blyton to Edgar Allan Poe, everyone has secret
passages, so I strip the books from the back room shelves and
slide the panel I always imagined was there. I find myself in a
tight corridor of damp stone, with candles guttering in sconces
shaped like upturned palms, and although it’s the connecting wall
of an Edwardian terrace, the darkness appears endless. In spite of
the lessons of Hammer horror, I step into flickering shadow, and
I’d know that the panel had closed even without the echoing creak
and thud. Truth to tell, everything is inevitable, from the guttering
red light in the distance to the ruffed linen shirt I don’t remember
owning, much less putting on, and every stone is a cinematic
trope tinged with Kensington gore. The ghost of Enid Blyton puts
her hand on my shoulder, whispering that it doesn’t have to be
like this – there could be an innocent explanation, scones and jam,
ginger beer – but the rhythmic chanting is getting louder and I can
hear the sinister pulse of a giant clock. There are a few clichés
still to come – the elderly librarian turned cult leader, the goat’s
head on a black-draped altar, the overt BDSM imagery – but it’s
only a matter of time; and it strikes me that even mainstream
gothic eroticism has its acronyms, so when cowls are thrown back
to reveal a CEO, a local MP, a prominent QC, and members of the
PTA, I feel the leather straps cutting into my wrists and ankles,
my fake blood chills, and I realise that I won’t be home for tea.
Copyright. Oz Hardwick.
Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer and musician, who has been published extensively worldwide, and has read everywhere from Glastonbury Festival to New York, via countless back rooms of pubs. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) was the winning poetry collection in the 2019 Rubery International Book Awards. His latest collections are the chapbook The Lithium Codex (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019), and the experimental prose poetry micro-novella Wolf Planet (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020).
He is Professor of English and Programme Leader for Postgraduate Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.