I love books that make me feel uncomfortable. I love books that crawl into the invisible space beneath my ribs and stand there like a trembling parasite. Rachel Eva Moulton Butterfly Rachel Eva Moulton Butterfly did both. I don't know what her writing process looked like, but if it looks like the way I read it, I can imagine her bending over a desk in a dimly lit room, squealing fiercely as she breathes short, stormy breaths of a frightened animal.
Emma hitchhiking on her way to the Badlands. She has a fresh abdominal scar and her system is full of pain medication. She's in a van with a man named Lowell, and things seem to be going well, but then she wakes up to another reality. Lowell is not the pretty man he looks, and soon Emma runs away after stealing a gun and a van and leaving Lowell on the sidewalk, bleeding from a bullet wound.
A gas van is leaking into an abandoned city somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It's cold outside and Emma seeks refuge in a ruined dining room before she returns. When she wakes up, she meets Earl, a young boy wearing a gun mask who stole her pistols and pills – and who knows her name. Before Emma can handle the wild stories that Earl tells her, she follows him to the house , where he asks her for help in burying the body of his father, whom he killed using her pills. But the man is not dead. And Earl is not a boy. These two facts are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The following is a brutal, incredibly bizarre exploration of madness, guilt, love and darkness within all of us.
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alone while listening to William Bazinsky Seriously This novel is a hybrid monster that is part of Lovecraftian's nightmare and part of literary research of evil, all this is set in a city reminiscent of you The atmosphere is as dark as fresh asphalt, and the conversations between Emma and Earl are as strange as anything Joe Lansdale has ever written, and so are Emma's memories:
My father's thought is evil does not take people by surprise. To be able to really receive you, a tiny piece of you must ask for it. He really wanted it, my father. He drank it while lying on the train tracks, where he was left to kill him. Literally split it in half. And that's what I tried to do, didn't I? This is what I'm still trying to do. I split in half.
At 18, Emma realized she had cancer; she thought the tightness in her belly was a baby. After the diagnosis, she tried to overdose and then cut the tumor herself with an X-Acto knife, but survived. Earl's story is no happier. Nor is his discourse:
"I am very scientific," he says. "I like experiments. Every time I meet a new person, I try to decide how long they will live if I bleach them." Earl stops on the hill and turns to me. His voice is low and serious. If he wasn't so light he could barely reach my chest and too thin, I would be scared. "It's fun to figure out which parts to take down first," Earl continues. "Leg. The hand. With some people, I make sure to take their head off at once so they don't scream.
Blood and violence are strong here, but poetry is just as powerful. It's a debut novel, but Moulton writes with the power and confidence of an experienced writer:
The persistence of the fact that my body is emptied, however, never fails to make me feel as if there is a dark, empty spot in me . A hollow place. All my other organs shrink from that dark, empty space, nothing moving to warm or replace what was or might have been.
Butterfly from butterfly is ominous, atmospheric and almost unbearably sad. Every time you think it can't get worse, Moulton makes another hit, another grim revelation, another nervous vision. She is fully committed to the strangeness of the place and never deviates from above. The most important thing in this terrifying read is that you don't need monsters to scare you – just cancer, heart attacks, abuse and cocaine, all of which are normal things in our world. Now do yourself a favor and let the darkness of Moulton invade your blood.
Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias .