We have original short fiction from A.T. Greenblatt (“Family in the Adit”) and Marc Laidlaw (“Paradise Retouched”). Our Horror Lab originals include a flash story (“When the Snowshoe Hare Turns White”) from Eileen Gunnell Lee and “Step on a Crack,”a creative nonfiction piece from Paul Crenshaw. We also have Nightmare alum Stephanie Malia Morris writing about her family’s supernatural stories in “The H Word.” Plus we have author spotlights with our authors, and a book review from Terence Taylor.
Apr. 2021 (Issue 103)
Welcome to issue 103 of Nightmare! I don’t set out to create a theme for each issue, but as I read submissions and compare new pieces to stories I’ve bought along the way, I find that stories tend to have a distinct “taste” that compels me to group them together. Sometimes I’m not even sure what that flavor is until I’ve put together the issue and sat down at my desk to write the editorial—and then the flavor leaps out at me, as obvious as the blood on a murderer’s hands.
My reasons were selfish, but I hoped the dinner guest would succeed. She had made an effort to be presentable, even though that only amounted to plaiting her hair into a few coarse braids and shaking some of the filth from her clothes before she stepped out of the lightless passageway and into our home. But small actions carry great weight in the Mine. Husband didn’t agree. “You won’t survive this,” he said. “I can tell.” The dinner guest’s determined expression didn’t waver.
I grew up at the southern edge of Ontario’s “near north,” and as winters got warmer and shorter, we’d hear stories of people going through the ice. As a kid, I worried about losing family members that way. This story is a response to the loss of northern ecosystems to climate change and how that loss is reshaping families who live in and love the cold.
As a kid, I found my mother’s childhood home both exhilarating and terrifying. Mysterious humps bulged beneath the kitchen tile. Doors along the shotgun hallway opened reluctantly or not at all. My grandmother’s mirrored closet reflected her skirt suits, floral scarves, and Sunday hats in a strange, bluish light. But nothing delighted me more than the room at the shotgun’s barrel, where my youngest aunt, Eunice, had slept as a girl. This room, my mother said, had been haunted once.
To mark the first day of vacation, Jeff Caldwell, extremely jet lagged after a day of travel and two nights of little sleep, took a surfing lesson and broke his big toe by jumping off the board straight onto shallow reef. Rather than spend hours in a waiting room, he returned to their rental house, found an emergency medical kit, taped his big toe to the one next to it, and crammed his foot into a shoe as if it were a cast. He had hoped to be done with shoes for the week, but flip-flops were now out of the question.
As sometimes happen, this essay started with a snippet, a small memory of walking back to my second or third or fourth grade classroom singing that old song about stepping on cracks. How some of us avoided them, already instilled with superstition, and how some, to tempt the gods or fate, did not. I had also been thinking about our collective American nightmare of school shootings, how even with all the awfulness of growing up in the ’80s, we never dreamed what we would face as adults.
This month, Terence Taylor reviews two works that tap in our era’s mixed feelings about science: new novel Bela Lugosi’s Dead (by Robert Guffey) and the serialized story Spider King, by Justin C. Key. If you ever wanted to be a mad scientist, these reads are for you!