Short Story Review – The Wemategunis by James Edward O’Brien
The Wemategunis is a story about a creature from Native American folklore (pronounced: weh-mah-teh-guh-neese) that struck me as being similar to the huldufólk from Icelandic folklore. Our main character, Otto, is desperate to be rid of a supernatural entity that has been lurking in his apartment at night. The story skips over the traditional horror trope of a modern intellectual denying the supernatural. Otto has accepted what is going on and is ready to do whatever it takes to rid himself of the entity. Fortunately for Otto, his landlord knows a guy who specializes in this sort of thing.
The story follows Otto over the course of the “extermination.” We learn that the wemategunis enters into the world through the “cracks in modernity.” I’m not really sure what that means. This is ironic, though, as Otto is a person who surrounds himself with modernity. He sleeps on high thread count sheets. He doesn’t own a single physical book. He seeks support for his situation on social media and is greeted with a dozen likes. I really enjoy O’Brien’s characterization of Otto. His writing flows well, and Otto instantly reminded me of several people I know. The story perfectly captures the vibe of a young professional who hasn’t quite made enough money yet to move out of the crappy apartment building.
The story gets a little strange for me with the first appearance of the wemategunis. Otto is terrified of the creature, but the description of it is kind of cute. It’s described as being a kind of catlike-walking-dust-bunny with glowing orange eyes. The creature also doesn’t do anything particularly threatening. It only approaches Otto as he hides under the covers. It’s described as snuggling up next to him like a cat, which bizarrely terrifies Otto. He runs from the room and spends the rest of the night in the kitchen.
I did a little googling after reading the story, and I was not surprised to learn that the wemategunis is not usually regarded as an evil spirit. Like many other legends of elves and faeries, the wemategunis can be mischievous, but when respected it can be beneficial. At this point you can probably guess the direction that the story will take. Otto does not respect the wemategunis, and incurs its wrath.
My only problem with the story is how abruptly it ends. Within the span of about 350 words the story moves from a slow exploration of the conflict between the old world and the new to violent horror. Maybe? It’s actually kind of unclear what happened. I have a pretty good idea, but I won’t spoil it. Overall it is very well written, but the last 350 words kind of come out of no where. I could have used a little bit more fleshing out of the wemategunis legend.
Would recommend. Would read more of James Edward O’Brien’s stuff.
7 arbitrary stars out of 10 arbitrary stars.
I found this story in Issue #15 of Unnerving Magazine.