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The Language of the World by Raven McAllister


Aisha knows her father has been slowly fading into the grip of Parkinson’s Disease. But when he beckons her home during finals to see what he calls ‘the horse head tree’ for herself, she begins to question if something else isn’t at play.



Late spring in Tolliver, Texas, and Aisha has left college to visit her increasingly frail father, worried by his talk of the ‘horse head tree’ in his yard… but when she arrives, there’s far more waiting for her than she could possibly have imagined.


In this stunningly beautiful short story, Raven McAllister explores the nuances of family relationships and the creeping terror of mortality, while spinning a tale of ghosts and gothic tension.

“The Language of the World” also features in “Restless: an anthology“, available soon from Frith Books.  

Raven’s Author Page



Additional information


Raven McAllister


Short Fiction (5000-9000 words), 8,273 words


.epub, .pdf

Cover Design

Anna Reith

Read an excerpt


© Raven McAllister. All rights reserved.

You’re going to hit a fork in a road that was never a fork at all, baby boy.  

It’s a decision parading around to be something it isn’t, a ‘choice’ that’s really just going through the motions. They’re decisions we made a long time back. It just takes something out of the bubble to happen to see them for what they are: calculated, done, and already a part of our cores. Sometimes, though, it may take more than that. It may take something completely estranged from our understanding of what this world really is. 

You know I didn’t finish college, but I need you to know—and I need you to believe—that you weren’t the reason for that. Your grandpa, who you’ve never known, wasn’t the reason either, but I think he would have understood why better than anyone. I’m going to try to give you the real reason, baby boy, in this next entry. You may not believe what you read here—your father never believed it—but all I ask is that you consider it. That you try to hear it, and know that it’s there. I’m talking about the language. 

I need you to know how to answer it. You don’t know this yet, but that nice team of doctors who have been helping me had to let me know that… well, I won’t be there to speak for you. 

When your grandpa first called to tell me about that horse head tree, he forced some fast decisions on me. I could have chalked it up to harmless foolishness and finished out the week at school, or I could have seen it as harmful foolishness and got on the next bus back down to Tolliver to see if he was okay. I think it was the nature of what he was telling me that swayed me to go check on him. A horse head tree? I wasn’t sure what to make of that one. Your grandpa. He could be a spooky one, even before the Parkinson’s. 

The call came on a Tuesday evening, after my phlebotomy class. I was following up on some other homework in the library when my phone rang… and it was still pretty cutting edge to have a cell phone in 2000, I’ll have you know. Your grandpa was hyped up about whatever he’d seen.  

“Aisha! You gotta come home, now! There’s a horse head tree in the front yard now! It’s talkin’ the language to me, real loud!” 

I asked my father what exactly he meant and what language that was, but he could only focus on the last bit.  

“It’s speakin’ the language of the world, Aisha! You need to come home!” 

Now, I had come home from college before for these ‘urgent’ matters. Two semesters before this, he’d heard the neighbors running around outside while he was in bed, then coming up to his living room window and banging on it. He said they had been doing it almost every night for a week. I came, I stayed a few days, and heard nothing of the sort. I asked him why he didn’t call the police about this.  

“Oh, Aisha,” he’d said, “they ain’t gonna come out to the country to help no old black man hearin’ some noises.”  

I think part of him doubted that the banging was actually happening.

The next time Dad contacted me, it was the very start of finals that same semester. He called in the middle of me taking one, and I almost got an automatic fail for forgetting to silence my ringer.  

“Aisha!” he told me this time, “they’re movin’ in! There’s ghosts in this house now!”  

Naturally, I was more than a little skeptical, and it was the end of the semester. I made him promise me not to do anything stupid for three days, until my finals were over, and I told him I’d be there as soon after that as I could. If your grandpa hadn’t lived alone, maybe I wouldn’t have been so worried, and maybe I wouldn’t have failed the finite math final the next day. 


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