Love is a Cosmic Telephone Booth

Review: We Can Never Go Back

Daron Kappauff, 30 pages

I don’t read much horror.

I commute on the train to and from downtown L.A., so I already know about hell and how dark, scary, and violent the world can be.

If I need to side-step troubled individuals talking to themselves on the subway, just to pay my bills, why should I seek out fictional stories involving characters possessed by demons that do the same?

I think the answer, in part, is that horror presents an opportunity to explore that side of life which life itself tries to prevent us from exploring. When I see two people arguing in the street, for example, I take another street to avoid them: I don’t entangle myself in the conflict. No such luck in fiction.

With a definitive move toward shadows and despair, there are plenty of chances for an adrenaline rush. That’s what I experienced, anyway, reading Daron Kappauff’s “We Can Never Go Back,” won in a random giveaway.

The story is a thoughtful ride into an exhilarating abyss. The plot involves an abandoned telephone booth in the woods and a young woman, Cass, frustrated with her romantic relationship with Gavin. Worse yet, she soon has reason to believe she will be the next victim in a spat of neighborhood killings.

Daron’s prose is precise and vivid, his storytelling inhabited with characters who seem as real and visceral as you and me (except maybe his swear more). The tale contains elements of fantasy that flexes the imagination, but it is anchored in day-to-day reality in a way that makes for a disturbing plunge:

“You thought I’d been mind-fucked by some ridiculous creature stuck in the 80s.” He sat up, reached for me to help him to his feet.

“Go fuck yourself, Gavin.” I slapped his hand away and stomped down the trail. “‘Cause I sure as hell won’t be doing it.”

“What the hell, Cass?”

While I’m not sure how much I could stomach only reading horror, like many of my friends do, I did enjoy allowing Daron’s tale to deliver me to those nightmarish realms that are easier to shy away from.

In the end, “We Can Never Go Back” is an excellent reminder of the insanity that can fester in unsatisfying relationships.

Ryan Hyatt, July 29, 2022

Categories: Reviews

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