A darkened tunnel is a powerful horror image– anything can be waiting on the other side, or lurking inside to make sure you never get there. It can easily play upon fears of the dark, claustrophobia, and the creepiness of urban decay, and monsters from the classic troll-under-the-bridge to modern legends like the Bunny Man have been known to live in similar locations.
The slow, moody Absentia adds a new reason to fear this common form of architecture. Seven years after the unexplained disappearance of her husband Daniel, Tricia Riley is preparing to get some closure by declaring him dead in absentia. She’s very pregnant, has a potential new man in the picture (the detective who originally worked on Daniel’s case), and is doing her best to move on with her life. Her sister Callie, a recovering drug addict who is also trying to turn her life around, moves in to help her through the process of letting go.
I know you’re thinking this sounds like a Lifetime movie. Would it help if I added that Tricia’s having disturbing visions of something that may or may not be an angry, vengeful Daniel, while Callie stumbles across a disheveled, bleeding man in the tunnel near their house who is shocked that she can see him and informs her that “it’s sleeping”?
Liminal States (and earlier works), Zack Parsons
Citadel Press, 2012
Of all the places in the whole wide internet, you wouldn’t expect the comedy website Something Awful to host some of the best Web-original horror out there. Do a little digging into their archives, though, and you’ll come across the bizarre, surreal, genre-bending and brilliant serial fiction of Zack Parsons.
It’s hard to explain any of his works without spoiling the enjoyment of reading them, because much of their impact comes from piecing together the setting and plot from the clues you’re given. For instance, my favorite piece, Instruction for a Help, begins as a series of how-to guides (the first simply explains how to grow fruit) written in bizarrely broken English, accompanied by odd, distorted images. Going in blind, you’d probably read it as surreal humor– but as you continue through the subsequent guides, it becomes clear that the strangeness has a context, and you begin to get an unsettling picture of the world these guides are describing and the perspective from which they are written.
The Keeper, Sarah Langan
Did the world of horror need another story about the dark secrets of a little town in Maine? Probably not, but this was still a decent read.
Picture our setting: Bedford is a dying town, its economy dependent on the nearby failed paper mill and its streets (and dreams) haunted by the local weirdo– the silent, skeletal, and sexually inappropriate Susan Marley. Susan’s younger sister Liz, still in high school, struggles with unpopularity due to her sister’s insanity, as well as her cold, distant relationship with her mother, who pretends Susan doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, Susan’s former lover Paul Martin, an alcoholic high-school teacher, sinks deeper into the bottle to escape his failures, while the rest of the town sinks into poverty and despair.
You are probably getting the impression that this is not a happy book.
Hi. My name is Keri. I’m a librarian with a slight obsession with the darker side of fiction and media. I’m also a former English major, which means I have constant, frustrating urges to wax critical on things that I can no longer channel into writing 10-page papers on water imagery in T.S. Eliot’s poetry. So I’ve decided to combine the two and start a horror review blog.
I love short horror fiction. I own a huge collection of horror anthologies (my entire apartment is seriously covered in them, except maybe the bathroom, and even that’s questionable), and the release of a new Stephen Jones- or Ellen Datlow-edited collection makes my day. While longer horror novels can often be very worthwhile, I find that the short-story format lends itself best to delivering a quick, memorable scare. After all, the best horror often leaves something to the imagination, which is much harder to do over 250 pages than 25– short stories can be as surreal, ambiguous and haunting as the author desires, and that’s why they’re great.
So I’ve decided to kick this off with a list of some of my favorite short horror stories I’ve read over the past few years. A few are even available to read for free online! Read on for my list of 13 Short Horror Stories that Blew My Mind.