Dark Regions Press
Trade Paper, 139 pages, $16.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
To everything: Burn! Burn! Burn! There is a season: Burn! Burn! Burn! And a time to every purpose, not in heaven. From Ecclesiastes to Pete Seeger’s music, popularized by the Byrds, the words here are adjusted to conform to Gabrielle Faust’s novella, Regret. In the tale, a wicked twisting and tweaking of Biblical conventions takes place. Told from the point of view of the doomed and demonic, “time” and “purpose” are rationalizations for unholy actions. Souls are for taking; religious rules are for breaking, as Faust addresses Mephistophelean machinations. The author has a gift for words that evoke vibrant images. She gives her plot drive and substance.
Her book’s protagonist, Marcus, is emotionally tormented. He becomes increasingly inwardly oriented; denying, and then withdrawing from, acceptable social interaction. His girlfriend Brenda sees the symptoms of mental breakdown, and urges him to seek help. The Demon of Regret, however, has already invaded Marcus’ sad life; lulling him into suicidal mode. The attempt renders Marcus comatose from the self inflicted gunshot wound; which allows for some significant chat with the evil entitiy. All of this leads to a usurping of the devilish being’s role as a harvester for the unholy. Marcus’ earthly psychosis is deftly dissected: “There was something about the physical world that drained him like a psychic vampire; distantly he remembered being plagued by this throughout his mortal life, a residual impression of depression drifting across his mind like a wisp of distant campfire smoke. His awareness of the weakness was acute and he erected steel walls around his identity to keep the sensation at bay, but he could still hear it sniffing and scratching on the other side searching for that one tiny fissure to break through.”
His new role as a demon has peculiar perks, but also unveils a cycle of never-ending dissatisfaction and confrontations with rivals in a hellish hierarchy. Mind games are played to wear down and seduce the unwary damned: “Staring into her eyes he prodded the periphery of the armor around her soul searching for the weak spots like a crow pecking at an injured turtle.” Hell is indeed hell for all concerned.
The beauty of the narrative is Faust’s prose. Her word choice is intense and precise; it snaps the storyline into an emotive, organic whole. Marcus is a loser in life, and lost in the afterlife. Immersed in regret, he is the perfect vessel to embody it. He still hungers to suckle at Brenda’s potential guilt for his suicide: “A Mona Lisa of destruction, her pain was the work of a true master.”
As adroit as she is at distilling the interworkings of the mind, the author also does a superior job of conveying atmosphere: “The autumn wind was crisp with the clean scent of ice and subtle perfume of decaying cottonwood leaves. It ebbed and flowed through the branches of the trees, humming a gentle lullaby to the spirits nestled in the rough-hewn cradle crooks that spoke of slumber and dreams and the promise of an eventual spring. The wind carried a residual loneliness upon its currents, poignant at times as a harsh reprimand, soft and consoling at times like a mother’s sympathetic caress.”
Regret reminds that we all have a few. They subconsciously nag and randomly surface to toy with our lives. Gabrielle Faust is sagacious about such demons of the soul. The reader will not regret experiencing this tale.