Release Date: December 3rd, 2021 190 pages
It’s Christmas, and strange occurrences are plaguing the small town of Torrential Hill: a supernatural comet, undead insects, exploding streetlights, and a presence luring people into the woods.
But when the mother of Tristen—a wistful, fatherless sixteen-year-old boy—hears voices from the kitchen sink, all he can think of is running away.
Desperate to be freed of her sorrow, Tristen runs to the place holding his last childhood memory; beckoned by a voice in the woods, only to return to his father’s death site.
Are these woods the source of his mother’s despair and the town’s supernatural occurrences? Do these woods somehow contain the cure to his own spiraling sanity?
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If there was nothing else in these woods, he would manifest sorrow and use it to fill the damned silence.
The silence, immaculate. He recognized its unfathomable descent into itself. The purest forms often diluted his attention to the strongest hidden beauties. To follow these flawless silences might induce a cessation into a different yet similar lifetime. With one’s mouth agape, there is always more to swallow. And Tristen always wished to be filtered, chewed, and spit out bodiless as a dream, to be the raindrop plunging into white sea, to not shatter and spread wide the body, to pour out like the hungriest wound and demand to be filled at once. Happiness is to be loved to death. No matter how strange, the leap into silence demanded a sacrifice of the highest order. He came to relinquish his life for a different one.
His muddied shoes stepped through the brightly lit division in the trees. A hillside not far ahead oversaw the great abyss which nurtured the lowest regions of the wood, where the city limits were eaten alive by pine and lichen, where the meteorite fell just days before.
Canine laughter sprawled out against the void, just near enough to hear. Then, spoken slowly and dully like a voice from the sink, in the middle of the raspy sunrise, his name seemed to hum within an acute ringing: “Trist-en.”
The ringing grew and took hold of his arms and pulled him to the ground. The sky pealed his name unto him as he bowed over the whitening earth. He coughed into his chest. Frostbite and blood covered his skin from wrists to elbows. Curling his fingers into the snow, his knuckles cut deep; using them, he lifted his body and swung forward.
He moved with determination, each spring forward going farther than the last. Everything was a cry to continue moving. It even echoed from fractures in the bark. Eternity was waiting for Tristen. His ankles were set in a motion too hypnotic to break.
Torn trunks pointed their roots toward the hillside where old snow whistled with old wind. At the hillside’s ledge, deformed trees met the capsizing sky, longing back to the morning’s jaw. Mist peeled back to reveal the ledge.
Tristen walked to it slowly.
The sound bawled from everywhere, two drawn-out torrents of energy. They droned the essence of shared solitude, unmasked arousal of vulnerability and, at the center of the sound, consonants proudly shattered and burst. “Tri-sten.” A cry so lowly, lovingly, morbidly exasperated—stretched open and crackling. All around him coursed a magnitude of feeling. Catching a deformed tree’s lowered branch, he waited at the ridge. These—these long waves, this sheer density—this heavy slowness were the years of his life that hadn’t happened yet.
Then, pushing down on the branch, it snapped halfway, and Tristen tumbled fast into a scar in the earth.
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Jonathan Koven grew up on Long Island, NY, embraced by tree-speak, tide’s rush, and the love and support of his family.
He holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor and workshop coordinator.
He lives in Philadelphia with his best friend and future wife Delana, and cats Peanut Butter and Keebler.
Read Jonathan’s debut chapbook Palm Lines, now available from Toho Publishing.
His award-winning novella Below Torrential Hill is expected winter 2021 from Electric Eclectic Books.