Review: What We Left Behind in Jacksonville

What We Left Behind in Jacksonville by Colleen Mondor (of Chasing Ray). Short story at Strange Horizons, October 25 2010.

The Plot: Bridget, the narrator, is on her way to the Jaycee Annual Haunted House with the rest of her friends. As the high school students giggle and flirt, as cool guy Jack has his hand on her knee, they laugh at haunted houses. Until Bridget says, “I lived in a haunted house.” Quiet descends as Bridget shares about the house her family lived in when she was three.

The Good: Do not read this story at night, alone in your house.

Bridget is telling the story, a story from when she was three, so we realize that she is telling a Family Story. A story she knows because it has been told in a way that it is also her story. But even this is a story; in the first paragraph, as Jack is described, Bridget adds “Jack was some kind of zombie version of Sinatra. It worked on him the way everything did, because he was always the coolest one in the group no matter where we were or what we were doing. I had a mad crush on him that Halloween; it still makes me smile to remember that.” Bridget is telling a story about telling a story; and telling a story about the power of story and belief.

A radio that turns itself on. An odd stain on the wall. Strange voices in the hallway. The events escalate, the tension builds. Is the house haunted? What will the family do? What does it mean?

A story, within a story. Maybe I loved this story because Colleen, who I have never met in person, is a good online friend. Maybe it’s because this is the type of horror I like: not the gorefests of Saw, but rather the type of suspense where shadows creep outside the the edge of vision. lurking on the edge of possibility, and things can be good or bad because we believe it to be so. Maybe because the timeframe of this story tells me Bridget is my age and so this is the story of my childhood, without the Florida setting, the time of possibilities and endings.

Anyway. Go, read. Come back, let me know what you think. And, after you’ve read, read Colleen’s post about the backstory at Chasing Ray.

Photo: I thought this post looked bland. So while this is not a photo of a ranch house in Florida, it is an empty, ghost-like house in South Carolina that I thought fit the story.


3 thoughts on “Review: What We Left Behind in Jacksonville

  1. Tanita, I also love how it was both a real haunting but also how we are haunted by our past, by our childhood.

    Not to be demanding, but I REALLY want this to be the start of a book.


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