Gus Moreno’s novel, Us Between Thing This, is a horror novel of a kind that makes you uncomfortable in the best possible way; it explores grief and how it can be a strong and transformative force. Some of the discomfort comes from the book’s unrelenting creepiness, with mysterious rituals, a resurrected dog, and unsettling apparitions. But it also comes from the way Moreno interprets reality, showing us just how shattered and full of teeth the mouth of change can be.
Music plays randomly and there isn’t anyone to talk to. At odd times, the speaker turns on by itself and there isn’t anyone to talk to. It starts showing industrial strength sex toys from packages nobody ordered, making things worse. When Vera buys a smart speaker, they take it all in stride. However, they can hear scratching on the walls and experience cold spots at night. They hear footsteps throughout the house at night. Thiago and Vera move into the house and continue to hear cold spots and footsteps throughout.
Moving to an isolated cabin in the cold Colorado wilderness, devastated Thiago manages to escape the intense public scrutiny and media attention following Vera’s death, particularly since he was an undocumented immigrant, by using the life insurance money he received. Unfortunately, Vera falls into a coma and ultimately passes away when a young man accidentally pushes her down a flight of stairs while fleeing from the scene of a crime he unintentionally committed. Prior to their departure, they engage in a disturbing ritual forced upon them when they were compelled to leave their previous residence, which, as it turns out, was previously inhabited by a witch. They decide to further delve into this matter, but before they can do so, the situation worsens significantly.
The ongoing discussion about undocumented migrants puts him in the center of the epicenter, playing a huge role in society. Additionally, Vera’s death affects his relationship with his mother, who believes that her daughter deserves better. While recognizing him as her son, Thiago’s father also doesn’t think he deserves recognition. Furthermore, their history follows him from Mexico, where they crossed the border. Moreover, Thiago’s struggles with his identity, migration, culture, and inability to speak Spanish are all depicted in this political book about his family’s history. This book is more of a horror novel about grief and loss than a novel about migration and culture.
The dreams in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cycle of Dream are tinged with the same cosmic horror and dreadfulness. Thiago also spends a lot of time in Colorado driving, where he meets a cook who has the ability to shape-shift, reminiscent of the dark series of dreams in the third and last novel of Lovecraft. Similarly, in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and Cujo, Thiago experiences shades of horror when a dog attacks him outside his car and his house, and after Thiago buries the dog, he dies. Thiago then moves to Colorado and adopts a dog named Bernard, who turns out to be a Saint Bernard. In the example of Thiago, he uses some well-known tips and clichés of the genre, such as the trope of killing off the final girl (pun intended) in the novel Girl Between Us kicks off The Final Thing. Sometimes you can see them as a unique person, but you can also see them as their parents see them – sometimes you can see a kid’s face in their parents’ face.
Despite echoing those pastiche horror novels, “Us Between Thing This” is not a mere tribute to the genre. Moreno proves here that he understands the DNA of the horror genre, as he morphs recognizable features from new monsters into something that can be understood. It’s a fresh take on the genre, celebrating its elements while also diverging from the cerebral stuff and gore that horror loves.
Thiago’s descent into a nightmare is understandable because death haunts all, and his case is unique. Almost on every page, his narrative drives home the constant addressing of Vera, written with heartache and remorse. The emotional grittiness of this novel is what makes it impactful, while the scary parts are fun to read.