Routes Best Left Untaken

by Nemma Wollenfang

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“A taste o’ oblivion,” is what the filthy vagrant promised. “Best way t’ hide forever.”

Baring yellowing teeth in a rictus grin, he shook the bottle with a coaxing leer.

The tear-streaked lady stood before him in the darkness of the alley: her gossamer gown stained with blood, her willowy body assailed with shakes, the shouts of peelers at her back. Their boots tramped ever closer. Like the tolling of a bell counting down to her doom.

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

And that amber glass glinted so enticingly in his callus-roughened hand. Limned with shards of moonlight. Innocuous temptation. Deliverance from her sin. Abject salvation.

Evanesky: the drink of those who wished to be lost.

“One sip an’ ye’ll be gone,” the vagrant wheezed, “one sip an’ they’ll never find ye.”

A whistle shrieked, hounds barked, footsteps neared…

She snatched the bottle and drank.

The liquor did not burn, it froze. Icy tendrils swept through her blood, crystallizing flesh and bone. She opened her mouth but birthed no cry as frost swept away her voice.

Numb sensations. Translucent fingers. The sound of his cackle fading fast…

It did not crack when it hit the ground. 

©️ 2021 by Nemma Wollenfang

“Routes Best Left Untaken,” by Nemma Wollenfang, was first published on July 15, 2021 in Love Letters to Poe and can be found in Love Letters to Poe, Volume I: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe.

Interview with Nemma Wollenfang, Author of “Routes Best Left Untaken”

What’s your favorite gothic story or poem and why?

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I adore the language in Victorian era classics, it’s something you don’t see a lot of these days. I’ve also been gifted with a lovely copy of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera… which I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t realise was an actual book until recently. I only knew of it as the play. So I’ll be delving into that soon. I can already see it becoming a favourite. 

How long have you been writing?

Professionally? Not so long. I received my first SFWA-qualifying sale in 2015 (a short story which morphed into the beginning of an in-progress steampunk novel, which may have… leant itself a little towards Frankenstein-esque themes). Unprofessionally, however… well, I suppose on and off since I was a child. My very first ‘book’ at the tender age of 5 was titled ‘the dirds’… I was a budding Hitchcock who had some trouble getting my b’s and d’s the right way around. It’s only in recent years that I’ve had more time to dedicate to it, though. 

Do you have a theme you return to time and again?

I like to explore the thin line between science and nature, how man likes to play God, and how this can go terribly wrong. This tends to be a recurring theme in my unpublished novels. Did I mention I like Frankenstein? I may have a fixation.

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

‘These violent delights have violent ends’ –Romeo & Juliet (You thought I was going to pick a Shelley one, didn’t you?)

What are you working on now?

I tend to jump between the realms of gothic fantasy and science-fiction. Currently, I’m occupying the latter while working on my latest novel – I, Phoenix – a sci-fi romance which is set in a near-future society and is largely based on the moon. Its first chapter won the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Working Class Writers Grant, and reached second place in the Ink & Insights Novel Award 2019. 

What else would you like people to know? Where can people find you online?

Nemma Wollenfang is an MSc Postgraduate and prize-winning writer who lives in the gloomy, windswept north of England. Generally she adheres to dark fantasy and science fiction—perhaps as a result of years in the laboratory cackling like a mad scientist—but she has been known to branch out, especially if there is a romantic twist to be had. Her stories have appeared in several venues, including: Beyond the Stars, Abyss & Apex, Cossmass Infinities, as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy series. She is also a recipient of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Working Class Writers Grant. For more information, she can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website: