“Gary Johnson” (short story) by Daniel I. Dutra
English Publication History: Solarpunk (World Weaver Press, 2018)
Original: Portuguese (Gary Johnson), 2012
Translated by Fábio Fernandes, 2018
Synopsis: In one summer evening in 1909, a spectacular yet unexplained event occurs: a church seems to melt without the touch of flame: no smoke or char, only shapeless slag. Giuseppe Gagliardi is an Italian immigrant and groundskeeper for the same church in the basement of which he catches glimpses of a nefarious experiment with a bizarre contraption. At odd hours of the night, the pastor and his American cohort tinker away, resulting in a dazzling display of light and an eerie chorus of screams. This all leads up to the church’s melting, which is detailed by Giuseppe’s journal. Years later, one of his descendants begs the question: What was that infernal source of energy in the church’s basement?
Analysis: When it comes to renewable resources of energy, we look at what’s plentiful and energetic then try to exploit that resource in order to make that same energy beneficial for everyone: the wind always blows, the waves always crash, the sun always shines. Though the fixed elements of nature are few, there’s another ubiquitous feature of the earth that seems to appear in every nook and cranny, something which numbers in the billions that all have something that the Catholic church recognizes. Is the ultimate renewable resource within us all?
Review: Just two months ago, I read H. P. Lovecraft’s short story collection entitled The Whisper in Darkness, so the prose and style are fresh in my mind. In the style of Lovecraft, this story lacks lengths of dialogue while relaying on the interpretation of various documents; in addition, it builds on the sense of horror but lacks the Chthulu elements of typically Lovecraftian writing. The author does a great job of evoking Lovecraftian elements to impart that same eerie feeling that so many of Lovecraft’s stories do. If you’re looking to evoke that same feeling, this story is unique in delivering that promise.