We have original short fiction from Nightmare alum Caspian Gray (“Empty Houses”) and Steph Kwiatkowski (“Cake Between the Teeth”). Our Horror Lab originals include a mini-essay (“Let Me Be Clear”) from E.K. Wagner and a flash story (“See With Your Eyes, Not With Your Hands”) from Monte Lin. We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, and a book review from Adam-Troy Castro.
In This Issue: June 2021 (Issue 105)
Welcome to issue 105 of Nightmare, and welcome to summer! Summer is the perfect time to strip off some layers—to risk revealing a bit more than you might in winter’s chill. When we first take off our sweaters and long-sleeved tees, our skin is pale and tender, like a grub exposed from its rocky shelter. Thin and pasty, it chaps quickly in the breeze. Our hearts quiver at the new sensations on our delicate flesh.
The new house had a lot of mirrors in it. Not, like, a freakish number—just more mirrors than I’d ever had before. They were in the usual places: bathrooms, closet doors, a nice-full length in the foyer so you could check your coat and shoes. But they were on the back of every door: bathroom doors, bedroom doors, even the odd little door that topped the staircase onto the second floor. There were additional mirrors in each bedroom—big ones!
I saw Nightmare’s call for creative nonfiction very close to the time that I saw a tweet (from @shiraisinspired), reshared by someone I followed, describing obsessive-compulsive disorder in a way I recognized, in a way that made me feel seen, made me feel not alone. And I’ve often embraced open communication as a form of exorcism, so I thought writing openly about my experience and how ultimately nightmarish it has sometimes been, would be healthy.
The standard formula for a slasher movie is to find something the culture takes for granted, and then have a killer rampage through it. The iconic slashers find something we rely on and take it away from us. John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is about the idyllic suburbs and holiday festivities becoming a playground for a masked killer. Friday the 13th (1980) effectively ruined camping for a generation by putting a dangerous stranger in the woods.
Cake Between the Teeth
I only know what you’ve told me. Around 11 p.m. while I’m checking yogurt expiration dates for tomorrow’s continental breakfast, you are pulling over to a man crumpled on the side of the highway. It’s a dangerous place to be, trapped between concrete and a road that’s iced over several times since the New Year. At any moment, a car could whip out of the tunnel, just as you did on your Yamaha, and smear him like butter along the dividing wall. I don’t know why you stop.
See with Your Eyes, Not with Your Hands
When I was a kid, I had horrible allergies (still do, actually) but I also caught a couple of skin infections that I won’t detail. This happened right around the time we moved to a new city where suddenly my “Asianness” also became front and center. With all this hitting a kid roughly at the same time, it wasn’t hard to feel absolutely helpless and alien.
Book Reviews: June 2021
This month, Adam-Troy Castro reviews Stephen King’s latest book (Later) and Sarah Gailey’s new novel, The Echo Wife.