Magic, horror, and handmade children.
A trip to the country turns into nightmare beset by mysterious creatures and body transformations.
"When we went over to look at the creature, it was mostly flattened. It looked like a crow, except the feathers had fallen off its back. Underneath, the flesh was scaly and pink. The exposed skin was split in half by a row of translucent spikes. The spikes were moving slightly, pointing first in this direction, then in that. The smell made me wrinkle my nose. It was an oddly sweet smell to find outdoors, like an open vat of lollipop flavoring."
A lake house; complex family mysteries and horrors.
"From the backseat, I pull the hammer. I’m prepared to use it. I considered a hatchet, but it’s my brother."
In a series of diary entries, a woman explores her terrifying relationship with a vampiric count.
"The first thing I saw this way was me. I was in bed beside him, and began to drift into sleep. When my eyes closed I saw myself, dozing. My hair was silver and gold on the moonlit pillow and my mouth was smeared with his blood. I opened my eyes and he was leaning over me, studying me. I asked him what was the matter."
A farm family is beset by body horrors, crows, and the appearance of a mysterious figure.
"I wish some flood would cover me and bring me peace and comfort. Every day I miss my mother. My heart seems to have been torn from my chest, just like my father’s. Sometimes I go up to her sewing room when Janna is busy with our father. I close the door so that Fig can’t follow, and I sit in the armchair that no one ever used, the one our mother draped swatches of calico over when she didn’t have anywhere else to put them. The room is full of Mother’s smell, lavender and starchy cloth, and the hyssop that flavored her tea. It has also retained her silence, the atmosphere of quiet contentment that she exuded when busy with her sewing. Her ancient Singer sewing machine seems to dominate the room, its black enamel and fussy gold lettering giving it an air of slightly pompous authority as it perches on the battered oak desk. The dressmaker’s dummy occupies one corner, iron hoops and wooden moulds in the shape of a lady’s torso, its head a shrunken knob. The window opens outward, and you can climb over the windowsill and step out onto the roof."
The author on why he belives in God (“It makes things better”), the perils of writing high (“Annie Wilkes is cocaine, she was my number-one fan”) and what he thinks of other writers (“Hemingway sucks, basically”).
Cemetery field recordings reveal terrifying audio messages.
"One night, listening back, she heard the crunch of shovelling. Nothing to worry about, the priest said. Simply gravediggers. She had not realised the cemetery still bore room for fresh dead; she imagined dough cut to the shape of the cemetery and a coffin-shaped cookie cutter pressed into it to calibrate the number of remaining graves."
Transcribed logs from the mysterious voyage reveal terrors of the sea.
"Yesterday was the worst day of my life. The captain said we would be entering the sea of sirens and, if we looked carefully through the mists, we would be able to see the mermaids, but he warned us, grievously, to take great care against being hypnotised by the sounds of the sirens for their sighs and whispers were said to be sensuous and would entice our souls to Hades. Mother and I looked at each other with dread in our hearts as we went up on deck. Mist was all around and nothing could be seen. We heard the mermaids singing. Songs so soft you could feel your heart melt. I held Mother’s hand and realised that the longer I held it the colder it became."
A single father's life is complicated by his son's new friend: a severed hand.
"That decided it—we would walk away. Let some other dad deal with the fallout of their kid digging up evidence of, what? A murder, maybe? A ritual dismemberment? The Mob torturing some poor fool before sending him to sleep with the fishes in the East River? My mind reeled at the possibilities. Whatever the case, getting involved was the last thing we needed, especially with me battling Mo for custody. I could see the headline in The Post: LET’S GIVE THE BOY A HAND! Her lawyer would have a field day."
A fictional trailer for a fictional film, dramatizing a civil war among zombies.
"A bridge over a river. Two zombies kiss so hard their faces distort as they shove into each other. Behind them rages a violent battle between crawling and standing dead."
An unsettling story of murder and telemarketing; originally published in 2007 and recently anthologized in The New Black, edited by Richard Thomas.
"There is a noise—the noise teeth might make biting hurriedly into melon—punctuated by a series of screams. It makes me want to tear the headset away from my ear. And then I realize I am not alone. Someone is listening. I don't know how—a certain displacement of sound as the phone rises from the floor to an ear—but I can sense it."
Horror--physical and psychological--grips a cockroach-infested Navy ship.
"I reached down and slapped his hands, sent his pals flying. The roaches were scuttling around, I was trying to step on them, when Thurman’s foot shot out. His toe-claw speared me in the leg between my calf and shinbone. I fell to one knee, gripping the wound. Thurman stood up and started shouting at me.