We have original fiction from Adam-Troy Castro (“Pitcher Plant”) and Emma Osborne (“Don’t Pack Hope”), along with reprints by Lee Thomas (“Fine in the Fire”) and Carmen Maria Machado (“Horror Story”). Author Desirina Boskovich turns her attention to Midwestern horror in the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word.” We also have author spotlights with our authors and a feature interview with nonfiction writer Chris Kullstroem.
In This Issue: Apr. 2018 (Issue 67)
Be sure to check out the Editorial for a rundown of this month’s nightmarish content and to get all our latest updates.
The mansion is a study in architecture at war with itself. It’s not just the windows that don’t match and the turrets that don’t overlook anything and the roof that sits flat here while looming at impossible angles there. Nor is it just the exterior walls that, seen from one angle, seem rotted and decrepit and about to collapse, and seen from another, gleam like jewels. Nor is it the gnarled skin of the columns that support the overhang at the front entrance, or the glistening scarlet door that seems poised to open until you see that it’s not a real door at all.
I didn’t answer the phone when my brother, Toby, called. His name appeared on the screen of my cell like a bad biopsy result, and instead of answering, I threw back another slug of beer and returned my attention to the television set. The sitcom wasn’t particularly interesting, nor was the company of my wife, who’d already decided our marriage was unsalvageable, though it would be another month before she let me in on the fact. She sat on the sofa, frowning. I didn’t bother to ask what was wrong.
Two years ago I moved to a rural town of 8,000 people, twenty miles from the border between Kansas and Missouri. It’s the kind of place most people only pass by on the way to someplace else. Unless you live here, the most you’ll ever see of it is the truck stop by the freeway, where you might stop to fill up your gas tank and take a leak. It’s the last outpost of civilization you’ll see for a while. Twenty minutes or so outside of town, there’s a long stretch of highway where cell phones don’t work. We drive it often, and I still haven’t quite accepted the concept of this dead zone.
The horde is attracted to bright colours, so when you put together your bug-out bag, you pack the drab outfits you’d sworn never to wear again once you’d finally, breathlessly, emerged as your true, radiant self. You pack a heavy hunting knife, because what you carry looks valuable. You’re glad that your arms are gym-strong and intimidating, because the idea of hurting someone, even in self-defense, makes you want to vomit. You leave behind your old name. You try not to wonder if you’re the only one left who remembers it. You don’t know how you’d feel if that were true.
It started so small: a mysteriously clogged drain; a crack in the bedroom window. We’d just moved into the place, but the drain had been working and the glass had been intact, and then one morning they weren’t. My wife tapped her fingernail lightly on the crack in the pane and it sounded like something was knocking, asking to be let in. Then the spices went missing. The sea salt, the marjoram, the rosemary, even our custom poultry blend. Finally, the saffron—forty dollars’ worth—and I asked my wife if she’d been reorganizing the kitchen. She said she hadn’t.
Before her 2017 book Drawn to the Dark: Explorations in Scare Tourism Around the World, author Chris Kullstroem had written books about Halloween celebrations and how to throw great murder mystery parties, and had blogged about Halloween haunts (and the haunters who stage them). But then she decided to try something completely different: she quit her job, gave up her apartment, stashed her possessions, and traveled the world for a year to see how other cultures celebrate monsters and the art of the playful scare.