|Art by Robert Emerson|
"Please, Momma" by Chesya Burke (4187 words)
I great use of voice in this story that features a strange and malevolent creature trying to steal the soul from one of a pair of twins. The story is almost mythic of fable-esque in its use of names and titles, the sisters being Sissy and Baby and the mother being Momma. They're on their way to see a psychic for help, one that acts like something of a fake but who is very much a real practitioner. She finds that there is a spirit creature possessing Momma, who has fallen into a depression since the death of her husband. But as the story moves along and the sisters bicker, it becomes clear that the tragedy wasn't limited to their father. Because once the nature of the small creature is know, it's revealed that Baby died too. Died and yet is being help on by Momma's despair and need, though it's only Sissy who can see her. About letting go and the power of grief, and how too much care for the dead can ruin your relationships with the living, the story is nicely creeping, the twist done well and though I suspected something was going on, it still hit me, still had power as it plowed to the ending which leaves things vague but full of hope. And I loved the use of voice to keep t he mystery, to keep things moving along, the way Sissy and Baby would speak and the way the magic ran through everything. Very well done.
"An Army of Angels" by Caspian Gray (5515 words)
This story falls back on a rather popular idea when it comes to horror: madness. In it, Nancy (presumably) has a mental illness and suffers from hallucinations and paranoid delusions that the world is going to end unless she creates an army of angels to fight back the invasion of demons that is coming. The visions started in high school and her friend, Jazmine, watched her fall out of touch with reality. The story unfolds from Jamine's point of view as Nancy tries to tell her something. The mood is excellently constructed, the tension inching up. Something is in Nancy's closet. Something, and something that's completely crazy. Except maybe it isn't. Because when Jazmine finally sees what's waiting there everything changes. And she finds herself falling victim to the same insanity that struck Nancy. It's an interesting premise, and the imagery surrounding the angels is rather great. The mental illness is handled fairly well. I think it does have nuance when it comes to dealing with a character with a mental disorder. It doesn't really bother me that the mental disorder in this case is brought on by what might be "actual" things. I think the story still does a nice job of it, and there is certainly a feeling at the end that things might get really bad, that causes the reader to question whether or not the angel is real or not. A well crafted story, all told.