Presenting an Excerpt From Darrin Doyle’s “Let Gravity Seize the Dead”

"Let Gravity Seize the Dead"

We’re pleased to present an excerpt from Darrin Doyle’s new book Let Gravity Seize the Dead. This book follows a family who, in 2007, move into a secluded cabin and begin to detect evidence of another presence there — one with a connection to the cabin’s inhabitants a century earlier. Sara Lippman called the book “a moody, pitch dark novella that will linger in my nightmares for quite some time.” Read on for a glimpse inside.

Not enough English language to describe the shades of green. Lily pad, thunderstorm cloud. Jack pine like a bristled dragon tongue. Green as bruise, as cough syrup, as spinach boiled and raw. As opossum guts exposed to sun. Swamp water, baby waste, duck waste, Northern lights braiding a midnight sky.   


“Why would anybody choose to live out there?” Beck’s father had asked.

“I’m not anybody,” was Beck’s answer.

They sat in the living room, Beck with his father and mother.  

“You won’t find work,” his mother said. Her tone suggested fact not speculation.

“There are other things to find,” Beck said.

His father cracked open a pistachio, dropped the pale green nut into his mouth. Squat little man in a diamond-patterned sweater. Age had shrunk his body but not his intensity. Smacked his lips when he chewed, even a tiny nut. Beck wanted nothing from his father except this, and he wanted this to be nothing. His father, though, could never issue blessing without critique.  

The fireplace churned with flame, gas fire born from the turn of a switch. Everything in Beck’s childhood home was automatic, flipped off and on.

“Our son the hippie,” his dad said.

“We won’t see our granddaughters anymore.” Another fact from Mother’s frowning face, testing Beck’s guilt. She was a fusty woman with boney hands, lean as a flagpole, a fanatical homemaker twenty years her father’s junior. All Beck’s life they had enjoyed talking near one another. 

“You’ll see the girls when you choose to,” Beck assured her. His response was measured, determined not to get riled.

“He’s talking about pictures and phone calls,” his father said, acting like Beck wasn’t in the room. “He can’t expect us to drive out there.” His father’s eyes flickered in the light. His set lips bespoke an internal struggle. “Do you even know what happened at that place? I’m not selling it to you. Final answer.”

Beck squeezed the arms of the recliner. He felt like he was falling. He looked meaningfully at his father, then his mother. Then back again. He wanted his father to sense what he was thinking.  

“You sure?” Beck said. He held the trump card. Cards, plural. “You seem concerned about the past. About old forgotten shit.” 

Beck would not turn away when his father’s expression hardened. Mother was checking her phone. 


Bernie and Lucille play a game. A nighttime game. Bernie says it’s called Find the Whistle.  

Pa is snoring. The children hear saws all day every day. At night their pa becomes a saw in his dreams. The cabin is a skeleton without muscle or flesh. The family sleeps in wooden bones under wool blankets, breathing the detritus of timber. Window tarps flap like flightless birds in the night wind. On the table Pa’s whiskey bottle overshadows an empty glass.  

Flannel shirts pulled over flannel pajamas. Careful of the hinge that squeaks. The children step outside.  

Shock smell of humid sawdust and pine. Moths swarm Bernie’s light. Bernie grips Lucille’s hand, not letting go. She wants to hold on but wants to be free. Wants both. She’s not scared and has never been except when her pa grabbed Bernie by the throat. So long ago and far away that it feels like a dream.  

No wind. No stars. Just those perfect forest soldiers at the ready, black rows deeper than sight haunting beyond the lantern glow.

They tramp along no path. Even barefoot children snap branches, crunch needles. They are the loudest life. Lucille senses, all around, birds and chipmunks and squirrels and raccoons and opossum: in trees, in brush, cowering at the storm of their tread. Her blood rushes.  

“Where are we going?”

“Right here.” Bernie frees her damp hand.

Here is nowhere. Ground thick with knee-high ferns. Spring peepers chirping in the marsh, gray tree frog throating like a rattle. No breeze, waned moon. Bloom of yellowsoft lamp shine, mist on the air. 

“Close your eyes,” Bernie says.


“You’re in bed sleeping. Close your eyes.”

Bernie wouldn’t hurt her. Lucille knows. There’s light inside her brother, a dull spark like a black rock struck by sun. The lantern flame bends against the dark.  

She obeys. On her eyelids shadows dance. She hears Bernie padding through brush.  

“Walk sideways,” he whispers, now maybe fifteen feet off. Does fear quiver his words? “You have to go in sideways or the mouth thinks you’re food and swallows you. Here. Stop. Have you opened your eyes?”


“A little?”


“Crouch now. Hands and knees. You can’t see me, but I’m crawling too.”

“I don’t like this.” 

“It’s OK. Scared is part of it.”

She crawls blind. The ground is scrolling. She’s crawling but isn’t moving. Someone is behind her, at her heels. She can’t escape. She’s swimming a black world without eyes. Hands throttle her calves and she gasps. 

It’s Bernie. He says to stand up and keep her eyes closed.  

“Come out,” he whispers. He isn’t talking to Lucille. “It’s OK. Come out. I want you to meet my sister.”


Follow Vol. 1 Brooklyn on TwitterFacebook, and sign up for our mailing list.