When Dr. Van Vierlans receives an invitation from Mrs. Elizabeth Van der Horst to give a lecture at her island mansion off the coast of South Carolina, he doesn't think twice. There’s a generous honorarium, and he relishes the chance to revisit the Sea Islands, where he once studied the Gullah language.
The lavish house he arrives at is strangely out of time. No other historians appear, nor does an audience, as he passes the time chatting in Gullah with the household servants. Just when his suspicions become difficult to ignore, Mrs. Van der Horst plies him with a sumptuous feast that distracts him from her true motives–which may prove more sinister than anything he’s prepared to imagine.
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.'s mosaic novel about growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, winner of the 2019 Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing, is now in its second printing. His follow up, Sacred City, was published November 2021, also by the University of New Mexico Press, who released his 2015 edited volume The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones. His writing and photography can be found in Southwest Review, The Rumpus, Red Earth Review, The Journal of Working-Class Studies, Apex Magazine, Electric Literature, Indian Country Today, and The Massachusetts Review, among others. You can find him on Twitter @TVAyyyy.