From the Lower Deep was originally published in Whispers II edited by Stuart David Schiff. By the time this story was published in the Year’s Best, Wagner already had a healthy publishing relationship with Mr. Cave. In 1977 as part of Carcosa Press, Wagner’s publishing company with David Drake, he had published a collection by Cave title Murgunstrumm & Others. The art for this collection was done by Lee Brown Coye (for all you Sticks fans).
The way the story goes is that Cave, who had a healthy career early in life in the pulps, had been spending his time writing for the ‘respectable’ glossy trades. After Wagner published the collection of Cave’s older horror work, and it was received well, Cave began writing horror again! Which leads us to the gem included in Year’s Best Horror Stories Series VIII. I had been itching to read a story by Cave and From the Lower Deep is my first.
Four stories into the collection and Wagner gives us the first monster story. We’ve had two psychological tales, a ghost tale-now our first monster. The Lower Deep felt particularly relatable due to all the recent flooding and disaster we’ve had in Eastern North America and the Carribean. I wonder how familiar Cave was with that type of weather having lived in Haiti and Jamaica at various points of his life. The story starts with a photographer coming back from an assignment to check on his Island lake house. An earthquake has rocked the area and a cave on the island has begun spewing out water flooding the small community. Most of the residents have evacuated, and among the small number who haven’t rumors are flying about dark shadows and screams in the night.
Particularly haunting to me, was when he first arrives on the island and has to paddle his makeshift skiff through the devastation of the flooded town. At one point he even makes a wrong turn because the familiar has been rendered unfamiliar. While finishing the story I also thought about the immediacy of our present culture and how it’s a real tension breaker. For the last 15 years? horror films have had to make an excuse for why the cell phones don’t work. It’s an annoying bit of exposition that inevitably comes up. It almost feels like the artistry in those cases is coming up with the phones not working in a new and unique way. The last terrifying moment of From the Lower Deep has to do with the anticipation and delay of processing film in a lab. It’s a beautiful moment that would be lost on the smart phone.