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“House of Small Spiders” by Weston Ochse (7762 words)
No Spoilers: Susan is a young woman whose family has gone through a number of recent tragedies, including the accidental death of her brother and the possible suicide of her mother. It’s not just the deaths that she has to contend with, however. It’s the fact that the house is now talking to her, and is thirsty for blood. This is a visceral story about pain and suffering and need, about family and blood. And it’s definitely of the school of horror that goes heavy on the red and doesn’t skip the gory details. The result is a piece that gets under the skin and crawls around, asking readers to look at the unfolding horror of what’s happening to Susan, and what she’s becoming a part of. It’s uncomfortable, bloody, and yet there’s something of love to it as well, which only makes it that much more terrifying.
Keywords: CW- Torture, Blood, Family, Houses, Spiders
Review: I normally don’t really go into the whole splattery horror scene, but I think this story does a lot of really interesting things. First and most, it makes the idea of houses with souls just creepy as fuck and yet something that seems like could happen. Like these older houses that have Seen Some Shit might just pop into sentience and have appetites of their own. Like a haunting but also not. And I like that they whisper, and it’s something that the people living there can’t quite get over. Not because they can’t but because they’ve been primed by violence, by tragedy, by abuse or some other trauma. The house reflects back their own despair in order to get them to the point where they would kill of it, all the while using the fact that it...well, that it might be more familiar than they realize. And the plot itself, Susan’s isolation and then her breaking through that and the betrayal that it sets up is all very effectively done, playing on some tropes that aren’t exactly horror’s best (mostly surrounding gender roles) but also twisting things around and allowing Susan a way of gaining the upper hand in a way that I was basically cheering on...until I realized what I was cheering for. And that’s the beauty of this piece, that is so utterly shocking and visceral but retains at its core something understandable. Definitely a piece to spend some time with!
“True Crime” by M. Rickert (987 words)
No Spoilers: It might be difficult to either spoil or not spoil this story, so I’ll say that it’s a piece without a singular narrator or main character. Instead, it tells a story of stories. A story of crimes. And as the title implies, these are things that very much happen with some frequency. It might be difficult to pin down any specific reference that the story might or might not have been going for, because it seems more likely that the story comments on just how many references there could be. How common this kind of violence and this kind of news story are. Or, if not in the news, how common the experience is, passed along in family histories, in people we know, in our own lives. It’s a rather haunting story, very lightly speculative but with a touch of the ghostly, that seems to coalesce by sheer weight of pain and violation.
Keywords: Crime, Victims, Ghosts, Dancing
Review: This is a heavy story for being so short, evoking the history and reality of violence against women and bringing it home again and again and again. Proving the lie that there is a way to avoid it, a way to be worthy of avoiding it. The truth of this is that the violence is so pervasive that it’s impossible to say that there’s a way to navigate the world that will guarantee safety. And the piece lays that out nicely without the need for a single character, though I did like the kaleidoscope image it produced of the girl dancing. Because it seems to encapsulate for me the kind of attention these stories get. The fleeting kind, seen and then dismissed, blending into every other story about violence against women. Which makes them almost mundane, but for the fact that each is deeply tragic, deeply upsetting. Each is an injustice, a wrong, and the cutting short a life of brilliance and grace, captured in the spinning figure, blending with all the faces of victims but not losing any of those identities. Because each individual is important, even as the story’s scope grows much beyond the individual. Those parts of the whole are never lost, are still important and still powerful, and the piece does a nice job of giving each of them weight individually, and an added impact together. A great read!
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