We have original short fiction (“Break the Skin if You Have To”) from Emma Osborne, Cadwell Turnbull, and Jess Essey—a terrific trio of authors—as well as “Wallers” from Mari Ness. Our Horror Lab originals include a poem (“Three Symptoms of a Disaster”) from Angela Liu and a creative nonfiction piece (“Still Breathing”) from Chris DiLeo. We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, and review from Adam-Troy Castro. Our ebook readers will also enjoy an excerpt from Erika T. Wurth’s novel, White Horse.
Dec. 2022 (Issue 123)
It’s issue #123 and our last one of 2022. But now it’s time to take a cue from the weather and bunker down under our blankets. Winter calls for inward reflection and turning our attention to home and hearth, and that’s just what we’re doing in this issue. It’s our Home Issue, and we’re hoping it’s just the blend of hygge and creep that you need.
The base of my skull buzzes as I pick up some bleach and a new scouring pad from the market. I’ve been away from my house for too long. When I get back, I must remember to clean the oven, clean the stovetop, clean the sink. In the checkout queue, I drop my basket onto the counter, and then I see her again. The new girl. So many have come and gone through the years that I barely remember them. Their polite gazes always slip off of me when I come through their checkouts.
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s run in the family—both paternal grandparents had it, now my father, and it often feels like a neurological heirloom waiting for me. I wrote this poem after accompanying my father for his monthly Parkinson’s checkup and wanted to convey how surreal a doctor’s diagnosis can feel when it’s essentially telling you your body will eventually feel like a stranger.
You’re gonna love this band. They’re fucking terrifying. Horror fans often talk about disturbing books and movies, but music rarely enters this conversation. It’s a shame, given how some of my most terrifying experiences have come from a flimsy CD. Heavy metal, more than any other genre, scares me the most. Metal has no shortage of horror tributes. Legendary death metal band Cannibal Corpse has spent their thirty-plus-year career writing songs about serial killers, zombies, and torture chambers, with gory album covers to match.
The day her mother brought Mr. Nelson home, Martha faded into the wallpaper. It seemed the safest thing to do. Martha had never met Mr. Nelson, but she had met the others, and she knew what they could do to her. Had done to her. And her mother. It was possible that this one was different, but Martha did not want to take that chance. “Martha?” called out her mother. She was clinging to Mr. Nelson’s arm, Martha saw, and swaying a little. Just as she had with the others. “Martha?”
It’s difficult to make sense of death. Intellectually we understand it, but emotionally there is uncertainty and fear and grief and anger. This essay was an attempt to process those feelings. Since writing this essay, we lost two more cats, one to old age, the other to lymphoma. Both were euthanized because that’s how you show mercy to animals in pain. One of them suffered an allergic reaction to the sedative and in his final moments he was dizzy and vomiting, yet the other nestled in his cat bed and drifted off. Two more deaths, two more dead who continue breathing.
Of late I have gravitated to reviewing one book and one movie, a mixture that is more or less appropriate even if it also leaves me feeling apologetic toward those publishers who have left my shelves groaning with works that surely deserved some coverage here. (Movies, I feel, even as a guy whose mania for the art approaches laser focus, can largely carry their own water.) But it ain’t going to change this time, as we once again have one book, and one movie, fortuitously linked by the commonality of predatory smiles.