Rhiannon Wood - Editor in Chief
This issue, the forest’s voices are preoccupied with death. A strange coincidence that all the stories involve it somehow or other.
Death is a universal human experience with the potential to bring us together. We all die. We all lose people we love. And indeed, in some cultures, death is seen as a transition, a passing through, a path to somewhere else, a change in being. The person is gone but not completely. They exist, just in a way we cannot conceive. Other cultures, though, especially western culture, treat death as something to be feared. We avoid acknowledging it lest it comes for us in the night with its sharpened scythe and flowing black garments. Don’t tempt fate. Don’t court death. Yet we also have a strange fascination with it. True crime documentaries reveal the gruesome details of the victim’s final moments. Horror films glorify and explore the macabre. Crime is one of the most popular genres for novels and TV shows. We love to look at death, read about it, and write about it, but when it comes to deaths close to us, we hide and shrink in denial.
I’ve always found this strange. Death can be celebratory because it is a reflection of a person’s life. We should celebrate the person who has departed, be glad they existed despite the billion odds against it. We forget the odds of life and how they are stacked against us; we shouldn’t, by all logic, exist. Yet here we are, living, breathing and dying. Ask a physicist about death, and they will tell you energy and matter do not stop. We keep going, just not in the way we were.
Of course, death is happening all the time, all around us, and much of it is utterly needless. Bombs going off, lunatics with guns, murder, suicide, addiction, homelessness – the list goes on and on. This kind of death makes us furious; we shake our fists at the sky and those who can prevent it. This kind of death should not be celebrated but learnt from and given meaning. The world at the moment is a terrifying place. We are on the brink and past the brink of so much death. War, famine, conquest and death, all the horsemen and their beasts seem to have set up shop around the globe and are busier than ever. This scares us, making death terrifying and unnatural to us. So, in many ways, it’s not surprising at all that death is on our minds.
It certainly is on our writers’ minds, each of their stories touched by themes of death. Missing those who are absent, wishing you’d had more of a grasp of what they meant to you – ‘lover’ too reductive, ‘friend’ not nearly large enough to hold the complexities of a soul-deep bond. A loss so profound it makes even the most excruciating pain you’ve ever felt seem like a feather kissing your skin. Running from death in the past, knowing there is no escape as you sense it in the future. Walking in and out of a dream – what is real, what isn’t – as death looms at the edges. A post-apocalyptic landscape where death and a dog are your only companions. Your own body disappears on you, disintegrating around you. Even our cover has a desolate feel, a searching question, and a lonely road to an unknown destination.
As you step into the forest this issue, please be reminded that even though death comes to us all – death comes to us all – we are in this life together. Grief, sadness, loss and aching absences are things we all have in common. So reach out, take a hand and follow a soft, feathered wing to the centre of our forest; we will be waiting there with outstretched arms, even as the end comes…