It’s our tenth anniversary issue! We’re celebrating with original short fiction from A.C. Wise (“Sharp Things, Killing Things”) and Spencer Ellsworth (“The Ghost Eaters”). Our Horror Lab originals include a flash story (“Tiny Little Wounds”) from Carlie St. George and a poem (“Ritual”) from Okwudili Nebeolisa. 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 Terence Taylor. Our ebook readers will also enjoy an excerpt from Kay Chronister’s new novel, Desert Creatures.
In This Issue: Oct. 2022 (Issue 121)
Welcome to our 121st issue and our tenth anniversary issue! One of the hardest things about writing horror is that everyone is frightened of very different things. For one person, the sight of a spider will send them running screaming, while someone else will launch into a long discussion of the environmental benefits of arachnids. Clowns terrify some, while others enjoy their fanciful makeup and oversized shoes. We all feel fear, but we each have our own triggers and responses to it.
We saw the first billboard while driving along Lake Road. We’d driven the road a hundred times before, because it was the only road out of town that went anywhere worth going, and there was fuck-all to do in town except get drunk, get stoned, and get in trouble. Lake Road let us go ice fishing in the winter. Lake Road let us go camping in the summer. Lake Road let us drive and pretend like we would keep going, like one day we would get out for good.
Compulsion can be a strange and disquieting thing. For a long while, I’d wanted to write a story about skin-picking and the sense of immense relief that can come from peeling back something which doesn’t belong—or at least feels like it doesn’t belong. I had the first few opening lines and not much else until my brain inevitably turned to ghosts and trauma (as it does), and then this story quickly started to take shape.
A man returns to his ancestral home to bury his recently deceased brother. There, his estranged father welcomes him with trepidation, and the locals treat him with mistrust. When he falls for the owner of an antique shop who sells him a silver-headed cane, he believes his fortunes are looking up, but it is not long until he is bitten by what he believes to be a wolf. Warnings of his new ailment fall on deaf ears, and on the next full moon, his rampage kills several people.
The Man had come and gone, other Someones too, and all the lessers, but Barley still guarded the House. He still patrolled, passing right through the gate instead of getting caught under the slats, still lifted his nose and trotted the fence line every morning, though he could no longer smell the asphalt baking in the heat or rabbits in the hedges. At sundown he returned to his grave and lifted his leg even though he hadn’t urinated since the Man put his body in a cardboard box and dropped it into foot-deep earth.
This poem is inspired by what I call “the miracle industry” in Nigeria, where pastors carry out exorcisms on their congregations. Because I have been taken to certain pastors to supposedly cast away demons inhabiting me, I thought of writing a poem mocking pastors who engage in that act.
Ready for some classic tropes? Terence Taylor reviews Arthur Shattuck O’Keefe’s new novel The Spirit Phone (that’s right: this one features both Nikola Tesla and Aleister Crowley!) and Sign Here, Claudia Lux’s new novel about living and working in Hell.