|Art by Rosario Rizzo / Adobe Stock Footage|
The two stories in this issue of Nightmare Magazine feature monsters and characters not really satisfied with their lives. Aside from that, though, these two stories are about as different as they can be, one a thriller of a read where a man must navigate a forest and a storm populated by a living nightmare, and the other a much more sensual piece about choice and longing. They’re both told in first person, both feature nameless narrators, and both are very light on dialogue, but thematically they contrast nicely, asking what it means to be a monster, and exploring how people seek to take control of their own lives. To the reviews!
“Antripuu” by Simon Strantzas (5718 words)
No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is having something of a hard time. Along with two of his friends he left his job and while both of them (Kyle and Jerry) have done well for themselves, the narrator really hasn’t. So they’ve pulled him out into the woods in an attempt to make him feel better and get his mind off of things. But despite a promising start, a storm has been plaguing them, and just when it seems it can’t get worse, the storm turns out to be a byproduct of something else—something much more dangerous. The story is something of a classic monster tale, complete with a cabin in the woods and an extended chase scene. The horror comes from the physical danger that the people are in, and in the way it seems just the culmination of the direction his life has taken. But amid all this, he’s able to rekindle a bit of hope, which might be enough to help him outlive his vacation.
Keywords: Forests, Stories, Friends, Monsters, Storms
Review: As I said, this story feels a lot like a monster movie to me. The group goes out into the woods to figures themselves out (or at least, the narrator does) and finds instead a waiting monster. It’s easy enough to cast the monster in the role of fear and doubt and, above all, hopelessness. The narrator’s main (read only) defense against it is his hope, his small belief that maybe they can get through this, that they can find their way back to their car safely and that, after that, he can change and pull his life together. But the story does a bit of flip-flopping on that, having the narrator insist that he has no hope only to come around to having some, then losing it again, then regaining it. This happens in a style that is pulled away some, so that despite the story being told in the first person, there’s not really dialogue. It’s narrated almost like a survivor’s account, but even that doesn’t feel quite right, because it also seems to be immediate. The action is solid, the monster frightening and relentless, and the nature of hope revealed here resilient and solid. For people looking for a story with a good chase in it, that’s definitely the brand of horror on display. There’s not much in the way of explanation, or resolution, but it does have a nice message about hope in the face of despair. And it’s certainly a story I suggest people check out if it sounds like your thing. A fine read.
“No Other Life” by Isabel Cañas (2355 words)
No Spoilers: This story unfolds in 16th Century Istanbul, where the narrator is a young woman who draws the attention of an ancient being. A vampire. And what might have begun as a feeding turns into something else as the two experience something new in the city they both know and love in different ways. The piece is full of quiet longing and a certain romantic flare, two very different people who find that each has a power over the other. A magic that is tied to the place and to the time and to the emptiness they feel apart from one another. And it throws out the Gothic dread of the vampire, embracing instead the allure and the promise. Not erasing the blood or the hunger, but rather acknowledging that those things are very hard to avoid, especially for a woman of this time.
Keywords: Cities, Vampires, Marriage, Fires, Invitations, Queer MC
Review: I like how the story plays with the legacy of vampires, predating the European explosion and concentrating instead on Istanbul, on a young woman singing to herself during the lonely nights, unwittingly inviting this vampire into her home. It’s a familiar enough trope, and yet she also asks the vampire about herself, and strikes a kind of bargain with her, so that they are both getting something from this deal. And the vampire paints a picture that speaks to her, that fills her with longing, that might be in part because she doesn’t have much choice in her own life, treated as little more than property and doomed to spend her life that way if she can’t... And I just love the warmth and poetry for the piece, the way that it builds up this city and these vampires as part of it, embodying it in some ways. And for the venue for me it’s actually a rather bright story. It evokes monsters, yes, but not the kind of problematic seductions that are present in a lot of vampire work. This story speaks to me of choice and freedom, even as it’s contrasted against the traditional vampire narratives of bondage and hunger. The story has passion, yearning, and a lyrical style that makes it a delight to experience. Definitely check out this invigorating read!