A time machine to a possible future, “Dehiscent” is a short but powerful read to challenge your imagination and perception of your choices.
Have you ever wondered what life would be like in a world ravaged by climate change?
The upcoming novella Dehiscent from Ashley Deng (whose work Ahas appeared at Nightmare, Fireside, Augur, and more) takes us to a possible future where extreme temperatures, scarce resources, and social collapse are the new normal. However, the Zhu house is different. Food is abundant, and the family living there has everything they need. The Zhu house provides. But how?
Deng depicts life in a future period where the world has become a desolate landscape of extreme and dangerous temperature shifts, which cause food and resources to be scarce.
The haunting tale is told through the eyes of 12-year-old Yi, whose time is spent depending on the daily weather patterns. School may be in session or canceled. Sometimes children can attend school indoors with air conditioning, and sometimes it’s held outside in the sweltering heat.
When Yi is in contact with the outside world, she feels guilty for her family’s good fortune. She watches as people in the village are given meager rations. She wants to share her family’s food with everyone. However, her family lives in isolation to protect their secret. They want Yi to socialize with the other children. However, she feels she can’t answer their inevitable questions without revealing her family’s secret.
There’s a creepy aura of suspense around the Zhu home’s attic. It’s the only room in Yi’s ancestral home she’s never been in and told not to enter.
Deng draws vivid portraits with descriptive, poetic prose that brings Yi’s world to life in the reader’s mind.
She paints a landscape portrait of a desolate world in which our current fears of climate change are realized, with palpable descriptions of sweltering heat, frigid temperatures, and smog.
Accompanying Deng’s engaging prose, Dehiscent includes darkly magical illustrations by Ivy Teas that perfectly fit the tone of the story and help further draw us into Yi’s world.
Deng effectively conveys a sense of horror, especially with a description of corpses which are, I’ll just say, as vivid as her descriptions of the weather. At the same time, she creates a magical atmosphere with the Zhu house. “The house provides” is a phrase repeated throughout. But I don’t want to reveal too much.
Dehiscent is thought-provoking as Yi realizes how much she takes for granted, such as clean water for tea. And we quickly realize how much most of us take for granted every day. We can buy what we need easily at a supermarket or restaurant and even have a wide variety of food delivered to our door. We can get anything we want, and as much as we want, limited only by our personal budget. We even have the luxury of wasting what we want.
Besides an abundance of nourishment for our bodies, we have endless nourishment for the mind. We have so much information and entertainment available at the click of a button.
It all feels second nature — something we are simply entitled to that we can’t imagine living without — to the point where even a temporary interruption in our lifestyle (for example, if there is a power or internet outage or bad weather inhibits our ability to get fresh food) feels unbearable.
But what if none of what we consider essential was there tomorrow?
Dehiscent is a masterfully crafted story of compassion, conflict, and family secrets that will make us think about the world around us and the future that we’re creating.
I strongly encourage you to check out Dehiscent by Ashley Deng, available for preorder from Tenebrous Press (expected to ship on or around August 1, 2023).