The new issue of New Gothic Review is now online and features my short story 'Passengers': a gothic tale set on the banks of the River Severn. This is the first short story I've finished in about seven years, so I'm thrilled that it found a home with New Gothic Review. Thanks so much to the editors for working on it with me, and also to Zuzanna Kwiecień for the incredible accompanying illustration.
To celebrate its publication, yesterday I took a trip the place on the River Severn where the story is set. For centuries, Black Rock was an important ferry crossing point on the tidal river that divides Wales and England.
I began writing this story after a train journey on the line near the River Severn a few years ago. When I decided to finally complete it earlier this year we were in the midst of a national lockdown, so Black Rock as a setting came from researching the area online.
The towering Second Severn Crossing road bridge (1996) makes an appearance in the story, though elsewhere I’ve slightly altered the Severn estuary’s geography – making some places closer to each other, and creating a disused station called ‘Porthsgiwed Halt’ (named after the nearby village of Portskewett).
Portskewett did once have a station that served the Black Rock ferry: Portskewett Pier. It's definitely the most unusual train station I’ve ever heard of. Trains would stop on a wooden pier and passengers would descend to a ferry. After making the crossing by boat they’d then be met by a new train on the English side. Opened in 1863, Portskewett Pier was demolished once the Severn Railway Tunnel (1886) had been carved beneath the estuary. It’s such an interesting station, but I decided it was too complicated to include it in the story and so created a disused Halt on the main line instead.
Wales has begun to open back up now after our winter lockdown, and yesterday’s trip to Black Rock marks the furthest I’ve been from my home in Swansea since March 2020. It was so odd to arrive at a place that I’d extensively explored, but only via photos and Google Street View. Yesterday was stormy, and Black Rock was exactly as I’d imagined it: bleak, moody, ethereal. However, in the picnic area and along the path there are statues, sculptures and information boards, and on a brighter day I imagine it’s a very welcoming place. This seems to be down to the hard work of a project called Living Levels.
I know I'll return to Black Rock many times, in person and on the page. To that rusted lighthouse floating above the water, the rock it sits on only exposed as the tide moves out. There’s so much hidden beneath the surface there.
You can read 'Passengers' and the other five stories in the issue for free on the New Gothic Review website: newgothicreview.com
New Gothic Review are open for submissions twice a year, with the next submissions window opening in a few months' time. If you'd like to submit a story then take a look at their submission guidelines and keep an eye on their social media channels for announcements.