It Worked for Jonah

In which a certain devil meets a certain whale

Sara Benincasa


Author’s Note: This story blends horror, folklore, and fantasy. It includes depictions of violence, addiction, suicide, and other difficult elements. It also includes happiness, humor, and healing. A few of the photos are probably NSFW, unless your boss is cool.

Please take good care. I hope you enjoy the story.




I: Shatterbelt

It’s exhausting to be imaginary.

First of all, you’ve got to pretend to be real. My family went all in on that. Mom and Dad made sure I performed every requisite ritual in our tiny New Jersey town: baptism, ballet, tap, catechism, First Holy Confession, soccer, First Holy Communion, Girl Scouts, Confirmation, 4-H Club, Beach Cleanup Volunteer Association, junior prom, senior prom, and the famed Pine Barrens Regional High School graduation cruise from Sandy Hook State Park to the Statue of Liberty and back.

You would never know we were creatures from a very old, very local nightmare.

Before I was born, Mom and Dad had a proper wedding ceremony at St. Catherine’s, with a priest and our family and all their regular customers from their restaurant. Afterwards, there was a beautiful reception at the Pine Barrens Grange.

New Jersey calls itself the Garden State. We produce delicious corn, tomatoes, peaches, and more. Our part of the state is called the Pine Barrens. Across these 800,000 acres of coastal forest and small towns, the acidic soil isn’t hospitable to growing much but cranberries and blueberries.

But on the fringe of the Pine Barrens, called the “shatterbelt,” the land starts to…



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.