“I reach for my baby . . . But my hands are melting.”
A young, pregnant woman, fraught with nightmares, rides a train through a destroyed wasteland towards an uncertain future.
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by John Bergin
by John Bergin (art)
Kitchen Sink Press
Graphic Novel (collection), Horror, Apocalyptic Horror
End of the World, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Sickness, Radiation Poisoning, Trains, Tunnels, Death, Survival, Fear, Nightmares, Survivor’s Guilt, Children, Wives and Husbands, Ghosts
Cee, a pregnant woman, rides a train full of survivors, many who are sick and injured. They search for a safe place to settle, for food and supplies of various sorts. Most of the passengers have been heavily traumatized, as has Cee, herself, who narrates the story. She seems to exist within herself looking out at others but not talking to anyone.
To Cee, the other passengers are scary and threatening. There is a heavily bandaged man who adopts a faceless dog and calls it Hobbs. Is he watching her? Is he a threat? Why did she not notice before that he has a bunk next to hers? Who is leaving her small gifts of a book on pregnancy and food rations?
She lost her husband when the world was destroyed in a fiery holocaust. She survived relatively unscathed but with child. Cee is fearful about the prospect of giving birth to her child in a dying world. What is left for the child? What kind of existence can it have?
But there are deeper fears. Will the child be healthy or born sick and deformed? Will it survive outside of her body and can she let it go?
Cee is caught between a nightmarish world and her own nightmares as the time for her delivery draws nearer.
This powerful comic has stayed with me for several years. Every so often when I put my children to bed, I remember scenes from this story.
Having become the father to two children, I found myself sucked into Cee’s world of fear. The fear of a sick, even grotesquely sick baby hit home for me and made this a compelling, if uncomfortable reading.
The pacing was steady and fast. The dialog was sparse, letting the illustrations do most of the work. Mostly told in pictures and captions.
The stories are told 1st person point of view, told by Cee. Most of her dialog is to the reader and put in captions which are usually blue or black. Dialog from other characters or her to other characters is in circular, usually white captions.
The images are powerful, sometimes surreal. Bergin depicts hopelessness and fear and loss in brutally stark and surreal ways with his art. The paintings are, admittedly, sometimes overpowering, but it fits in the framework of a destroyed world.
This is a mature comic in words and pictures
In his acknowledgments, John Bergin thanks his best friend James O’Barr who seemed to have guided John’s development of this project.
In the story, Cee reads a child’s book called “The Little Fire Engine” which was written by Jawn Henry, which in the acknowledgments was said to be illustrated by Carolyn Bergin and written by John Henry Bergin.
In the last paragraph of the acknowledgments, John Bergin lists music that you could listen to while reading this graphic novel.
The Crow by J. O’Barr immediately comes to mind. Both are artistic meditations on love and loss. The Crow is evocative in the narration — often poetic at times — while From Inside is sparse in narration but evocative in powerful dark paintings. Both can take a long time to read.
This post originally appeared in a slightly altered form on Horror Books with the Undead Rat