The Ghost of a Flea

Priya Sharma, "The Ghost of a Flea" in Screams From the Dark, ed. Ellen Datlow (Tor Publishing Group: 2022).

Not only set in the early 19th century, the story reads like gothic fiction of the period, which very much adds to the story’s atmosphere of dread and horror. Chock full of historical characters (and even offers up a Jack the Ripper theory by way of his origin story), the protagonist is the Romanticist William Blake, who, along with his wife Catherine and the painter/astrologer John Varley, face down a terrible monster. Arguably, the monster they must face is the original monster—original on two different levels. And given the end, you cannot help but wonder if Blake must now suffer the curse sevenfold.

Given that one recurring theme of these murmurs is the horrifying nature of paradox, it is interesting to note that the characters become entangled in something similar to the contradiction in which Oedipus finds himself. John, Kate, and Varley believe in the prophetic accuracy of the astrological messages written in the stars. What is written in the stars cannot be undone; however, our characters act in ways to try to thwart the realization of what the prophecy portends. In so doing, they undermine their own belief in the signs of the heavens.


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