“A Deal in Wheat” by Frank Norris

One of the greatest of the great stories. In masterful narrative form, juxtaposing world upon world, Norris delivers the quintessence of the American civilization.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Deal in Wheat”

Frank Norris

I. The Bear – Wheat at Sixty-Two

As Sam Lewiston backed the horse into the shafts of his buckboard and began hitching the tugs to the whiffletree, his wife came out from the kitchen door of the house and drew near, and stood for some time at the horse’s head, her arms folded and her apron rolled around them. For a long moment neither spoke. They had talked over the situation so long and so comprehensively the night before that there seemed to be nothing more to say.

The time was late in the summer, the place a ranch in southwestern Kansas, and Lewiston and his wife were two of a vast population of farmers, wheat growers, who at that moment were passing through a crisis—a crisis that at any moment might culminate in tragedy. Continue reading

“Grass” by Carl Sandburg

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
This poem is affecting and quiet. (Grass is abiding; battle is momentary.) This poem is recognized and anthologized. (Train riders are workaday, everyday, oblivious, all of us.) This poem feels to be one of the immortal poems that should live long beyond our current civilization. I thought I had a handle on it, but it is too complex. Is it a melancholic, uplifting poem about healing? Is it a bitter, rebuking poem about forgetting? The imagery of the grass seems serene, is set in contrast to the implied uproar of battle. The imagery of train riders has been archaic and therefore exotic for already fifty years, but continues to work, and should continue to continue to work. The five battles named are and should ever remain prominent in history, even when that history is far more distant and exotic than it already is today; in two thousand years and in ten thousand years, the slaughter of the battles should still be as comprehendible. Can any work of art imbue beauty to battle? This poem achieves something great… but what is that, exactly?
⁓The Voice before the Void


Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work–
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

“Lincoln’s ghost” from Wikipedia

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Special:
The spirit of Lincoln haunts the halls and paths of the United States, even if it doesn’t.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Lincoln’s ghost”


There have been several stories about ghosts of former Presidents revisiting the White House. However, the most common and popular is that of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s ghost, otherwise known as the White House Ghost, is said to have haunted the White House since his death.

Lincoln’s premonitions

It is believed that Lincoln anticipated his assassination. According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, Continue reading

“A Ghost Town Bike Tour” by Celeste Inez Mathilda

Exploring emptiness in the Canadian prairie, with adventure, and melancholy, and rhapsody; cemeteries of Norwegian and Icelandic immigrants; goats and a threatening dog; the lost town of Snowflake, Manitoba; and commentary on agriculture, agribusiness, memory, decay, and the whole of rurality.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Find “A Ghost Town Bike Tour” and other works by Celeste Inez Mathilda at ofcourseyoucandistro.com and ofcourseyoucan.etsy.com

“Final Train” by Jason Heeley

An ominous mood finely rendered in art and prose.
⁓The Voice before the Void

View other works by Jason Heeley at jasonheeley.deviantart.com

Final Train by Jason Heeley on deviantART ghost death spectre reaper spooky eerie platform station

“Final Train”

Jason Heeley

I was fascinated by diesel locos as a child, always impressed by the vague, terrifying notions of whatever I imagined was caged inside each of those grimy, rolling metal hulks – that which thundered and protested and shook concrete and stone as it passed. Their appearance seemed to me evocative of something unstoppable, otherworldly, cold, and immensely threatening. Throughout my adult life, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time on Britain’s crumbling rail network, but nothing I’ve seen since has seemed to match the power of those old childhood imprints, locked in memory. Trains are emotive things, as witnessed by the number of romances, thrillers, and chilling supernatural tales concerning them – perhaps the reason is that so many real journeys begin and end with them.

But what if there was always one final train to take? A service we all board at our own designated hour. You may find yourself on that strangely silent platform without warning. Soon, an immense, dark loco pulls in slowly with its train, crackling and shuddering as some unearthly energy courses angrily beneath its decaying metal skin. Of course, you are compelled to travel – whatever its destination may be…

“North Dakota, Devils Lake, 2013 October” by The Voice before the Void

Halloween Special:
The fanciful horror of supernaturalism confronted by the visceral horror of mortality.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“North Dakota, Devils Lake, 2013 October”

The Voice before the Void

I awoke unnaturally, suddenly, opening my eyes, looking straight up. At the left side of my field of vision was a disembodied face.

I had been sleeping on my back on the sofa in the front room, where I usually sleep. I swivelled my eyes to look fully at the face. It was black and white: the planes of the face shone with white light; the lines of the face were dread-black. The pupils of the eyes were black and too large, almost but not quite filling the eye-slits, so that but small triangles of white shone at either side of the pupils. The nose was large and sharp and jutting, almost like a snout. The teeth were black and pointed, and the interior of the throat shone white behind them. Continue reading

3 Stories of World War II Norway from Wikipedia

D-Day Anniversary Special:
In commemoration of World War II and the Holocaust
The complexities of the heroism, the horror, and the legacy of the Second World War, illustrated in three stories of Norway.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Carl Fredriksens Transport”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Carl Fredriksens Transport was the code name for an operation during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany to help Jews and other persecuted Norwegians escape persecution, deportation, and murder in death camps. The name of Carl Fredriksens Transport was based on the name of the exiled Norwegian king Haakon VII, who was Carl, son of Fredrik, but also sounded like a common Norwegian name. Continue reading

“At the Front in France” by Ring Lardner

ANZAC Day Special:
War tourism is odd. In this light piece, which includes his impressions of New Zealand Maori and Australian soldiers, the celebrated and worthy Ring Lardner recounts a day trip to the trenches of World War I as it is being fought, where he briefly stands on the brink of hell and blandly overlooks it. He also encounters runaway boy soldiers, sits with a wounded doctor, and spars with a condescending philanthropist.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“At the Front in France”

from My Four Weeks in France

Ring Lardner

edited by The Voice before the Void

We went into the aisle of the train car and found standing room among the Australians and Canadians returning from their leave. One of the former, a young, red-headed, scrappy-looking captain, smiled sympathetically and broke open a conversation. I was glad of it, for it gave me an opportunity of further study of the language. I am a glutton for languages, and the whole day has been a feast. We have listened to six different kinds — Australian, Canadian, British, French, Chinese and Harvard. I have acquired an almost perfect understanding of British, Australian and Canadian, which are somewhat similar, and of Harvard, which I studied a little back home. Continue reading