I have a new story in the most recent issue of The Missouri Review.
I’ve included an excerpt from the story below. If this short passage (combined with the title page of naked death-fighting shown above) doesn’t pique your curiosity enough to make you subscribe to TMR right now, then you need to get your curiosity muscle checked, mon frère.
The tyrant and rebels
Though the majority of his subjects have abandoned all hope of resisting him, every so often the tyrant will commit such an outrageous act that a young hero will attempt to organize a rebellion.
This is always an exciting time in Ten Kurk. Oh, what a privilege it is to be young and to have a castle to storm. To spend some hopeful night bivouacked in the woods to the north of the tyrant’s fortress. The stink of bonfires and the grave sound of pledges being made between comrades in the dark.
Though nothing will come of it. The tyrant will have planted a traitor among the rebels, and their camp will be ambushed in the night. If an assault is made on the fortress, the rebels will find its defenses too daunting. They will die pathetically beneath high spires in clouds of their own musket smoke. Even so, as they look up from the field of battle to his impenetrable defenses, the rebels will be grateful that they had a fortress to charge at in the first place, that behind all their woes was an entity unmistakably at fault.
The tyrant and nature
Occasionally a storm moves through Ten Kurk. In the calm that follows, citizens come up from their cellars to find trees uprooted by strong winds, wheel carts and chicken coops swept up and smashed in the street. Occasionally they will also see in the distance that the tyrant’s fortress is missing a turret or that one of its heavy walls has been damaged.
Even with his men hard at work making repairs—scaffolding visible over a breach, loads of stone making their way up—the sight of the fortress in such a state never fails to remind his subjects that the tyrant’s power is nothing compared to all the forces that operate beyond his authority.
The tyrant is usually so relentless in his rule that his will can seem all-encompassing. By committing atrocity after atrocity, he creates a world for his subjects that is defined solely by his disdain for them.
But these sudden acts of nature reveal the world to be something more complicated, a chaos of fates centered on nothing, directed at no one. A flash of lightning splits an oak tree, a river floods a town, a lion eats its cub, a star in the night sky extinguishes itself. When measured against nature’s raw, impersonal destruction, the tyrant’s crimes against his subjects begin to seem theatrical, ludicrous.
It is for this reason that natural disasters are very much to the tyrant’s advantage. After a storm has passed and his fortress has been repaired, he arranges to have any evidence of the damage dragged into one of Ten Kurk’s public squares. A massive rubble of dark stone. When his people look on it, there is a sudden air of acceptance and even approval of the tyrant’s authority, as if they have been reminded once more that beyond the illusion of his supremacy lies oblivion.