Written by Douglas Clegg
Published by: Vanguard Press
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Black / White – 128 pages
The Egyptian goddess Isis was known as the goddess of simplicity, protector of the dead and goddess of children from whom all beginnings arose. Later Egyptian myths told of the Nile River flooding annually as a result of the tears shed by Isis over the death of her husband, Osiris. The occurrence of Osiris’ death and rebirth was relived by the Egyptians each year through rituals.
The upcoming novella by novelist Douglas Clegg entitled ISIS is a classic supernatural tale that follows the Egyptian Isis legend while also involving a story of family, beauty, youth, love, death and resurrection. Young Iris Villiers is uprooted with her family — parents and three older brothers (two of them being identical twins) — from their home on the Long Island Sound to Belerion Hall, the home of Iris’ Grandfather along the rocky cliffs of Cornwall, England.
With Mr. Villiers being called away to service in Burma for the British government, Mrs. Villiers is left to raise her children alone. The oldest son, Lewis, is rarely home as he has left to begin college. The twins — Harvey and Spencer — remain at Belerion Hall with their young sister, Iris. Iris is a highly imaginative and intelligent young girl whose deepest relationship is with her older brother, Harvey. They make the most of life in Cornwall as Iris and Harvey engage themselves in imaginary games including those where they pretend to be famous trapeze artists on their backyard swing. Of particular curiosity to them is Old Marsh, the gardener at Belerion Hall. He warns them of the old ruins found along the sea cliffs called the Tombs. These Tombs are actually old burial grounds in the form of a mausoleum consisting of underground burial chambers.
Old Marsh recounts age-old tales of those who sought to make pacts at this sight whereby the dead could be returned to them. However, he sternly warns that this does not come without a price. The Villiers family, in an effort to keep them active and amused, participated in local charity theatrical performances for the Ladies’ Club. This particular summer-time performance finds Iris playing the role of the Goddess, Isis, and her brother Harvey cast as the legendary, Osiris. Harvey finds it difficult to overcome his fear of being entombed in a casket during the performance — but Iris and his mother get him through it.
Iris’ mostly care-free existence takes a turn for the worse when she loses her Governess and tutor to marriage and gains a replacement in the form of Edyth Bright (or Edyth Blight, as Harvey referred to her). Edyth’s tactics with Iris are often cruel and she resents her for this. To make matters worse, Iris discovers that Edyth has begun a secret love affair with her brother, Spencer. The most crucial moment of this story finds Iris walking in on the young lovers and eventually getting into a confrontation with Edyth in an upper hallway of Belerion Hall. During the altercation, Iris falls backwards through an open window and is saved only when Edyth grabs hold of her leg. Quickly losing her grip and screaming for help, Harvey and Spencer come to Iris’ rescue. Harvey gets a firm grip on Iris and tells her to close her eyes and re-enact their imaginary trapeze act. Unfortunately, Harvey loses his balance and he and Iris plummet to the hard courtyard below. Since Harvey wrapped himself around his young sister, he took the blunt of the impact.
This tragic accident will cause Iris to walk with a permanent limp. More importantly, she must live with the fact that her brother and rescuer, Harvey, perished in the fall. Iris tries to move on with her life but cannot find any joy without Harvey. She finds herself returning to the Tombs along the cliff-side and recalling the legends Old Marsh had shared. Like many other characters from classic horror fiction who are dealing with death and loss (Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” and Stephen King’s “Pet Semetary”, to name a few) — Iris finds herself filled with so much grief that the possibility of defying nature and resurrecting her lost brother, Harvey, seems to be the only thing she can do to find happiness again. Alas, as Old Marsh has warned her, this act does not come without a price.
What Douglas Clegg has accomplished with the writing of ISIS is to create a supernatural tale that is emotionally involving while at the same time giving the reader a story that pays great homage to many of the most classic horror stories ever created. Accompanied by terrific and haunting illustrations by artist, Glenn Chadbourne, ISIS is a story that will resonate for those readers of gothic romance tales as well as sating the appetite for fans of horror & supernatural literature right in time for the Halloween season.
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Available at Vanguard Press