By John Urbancik (Bad Moon Books; 2009)
An extended prose poem masquerading as a horror novella, this is a wondrously strange, occasionally gruesome tale, somewhat reminiscent of the poetic horror fests of T.M. Wright but very much the product of the extremely gifted John Urbanicik (whose other publications include the novels BREATH OF THE MOON and SINS OF BLOOD AND STONE).
In the midst of a vast cemetery, where “gravestones and mausoleums seem to go on forever in every direction,” several eccentric individuals are caught up in a drama involving murder, sacrifice, capture and escape. It all takes place over the course of a single night that leaves everyone involved irretrievably altered (in every possible sense of the word).
There’s Kelli, a photographer lured into the cemetery by an unseen flute player; Kevin and Jill, a couple in search of a wishing well; another couple, Anna and Darren, who are looking to perform a magical incantation. There’s also a ghostly individual named Auguste and a malevolent entity known as the Spider-Queen–who’s looking for her next meal! Auguste and the Spider-Queen dwell in the cemetery, while the others can’t seem to escape the place.
The overall nature of these peoples’ shared predicament isn’t exactly hard to figure out, although John Urbanicik’s aims aren’t as cut and dried as you might think. As one character comments, “Death comes in layers…you cross one just by being at the cemetery.” Hence the increasingly surreal exploits of Kelli, Kevin, Jill, Anna and Darren.
NECROPOLIS contains some good creepy-crawly stuff–a woman trapped in a crypt, a bloody stabbing, at least one mass spider attack–but its real virtues are in the dreamlike atmosphere and thoughtful narrative, which is packed with literary allusions (“The Raven” and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” being the most blatant). The prose is engagingly frank and down-to-Earth; together with the fast 82-page count, this ensures a one-sitting read for those unafraid of fine writing that demands much and rewards more.