Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Quick Sips - Nightmare #97

Art by Andrey Kiselev / Adobe Stock Image
The October issue of Nightmare Magazine doesn’t really go full-on spooky, though that doesn’t mean it skimps on the horror. Rather, the horror here is...quiet. Slow. Careful. Methodical, even. And it looks at aspects of the human experience that can sort of sink into something grim and terrifying. Marriage, especially when it rots. Academia, especially when the pursuits turn out to be sinkholes, traps. The stories show people who are on the cusp of something shadowed and deep, something there’s no turning back from after a certain point. One of the characters thinks to try and escape. The other plunges right in. It makes for an interesting and well balanced issue. To the reviews!


“Not Us” by David Tallerman (3147 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is a woman who has gone through a kind of transformation. From the outside, she might seem more or less the same. But inside, she’s no longer really her. She’s a part of Us. And she’s having a hard time keeping up the illusion of still being her, which is being required of her because her husband isn’t part of Us. The piece looks at the way that develops in the relationship between the two, and how in many ways that’s grown out of how their relationship has been. It’s a grim and quiet story, one that lacks much in the way of action in the favor of the slow and unyielding certainty of Us, the way it spreads, the way it’s patient. In some ways it resembles a bit of dissatisfaction, a depression, an emptiness, while also being something else entirely. Something more shadowed, more active and aware. And it’s an interesting look at where that leaves the two characters, and the world they live in.
Keywords: Transformations, Marriage, Collective, Arguments, Connections
Review: I like how the story finds this relationship already dead, the narrator just sort of going through the motions. But passion has left her because individuality has left her. As if when the life she was leading became emptier and emptier, so did she. And in the room that opened up inside her, Us came in. And that’s a powerful thing, because what the story exposes seems to be something that’s not...that unfamiliar. The relationship dynamic, the way the wife’s personality and life have been subsumed by her husband’s...that’s not exactly uncommon. That all that she’s expected to be is this source of support for him, for his physical and emotional needs. Without really considering what she wants, what would make her fulfilled. And so now she’s one of Us, and he isn’t. At first, at least. I do like the creeping way that it changes, that as she takes away her support, as she stops pretending, stops forcing herself to seem like she enjoys the life that she’s lived, it also takes away from him. Revealing just how much he depends on her, just how much he has replied on her to be this thing that he never even tried to reciprocate. And with that gone he, too, is shown to be hollow. A voice that keeps talking about nothing until the silence grows and grows and his transformation begins. It’s an interesting and slow study of the spread of this force, this Us, and it makes for a clawing and viscous read!

“The Monkey Trap” by Adam-Troy Castro (4608 words)

No Spoilers: Amber is working on her dissertation on the works of a once-famous author, Charlotte Winsborough, who has since fallen out of favor. She needs to track down a single missing volume in the author’s catalog, one that seems to have been missing for a long time. To help in her search, a professor tells her of a possible lead that’s a bit...unusual. Who turns out to be a collector and curator of all sorts of books. He has what Amber wants, but he also has some other bits of information that she might find too tantalizing to pass up, for all that she might also come to regret not walking away.
Keywords: Books, Authors, Secrets, Sins, Dissertations, CW- Pregnancy/Childbirth, CW- Death of a Child
Review: There’s a lot of name dropping here. And really for me the story is looking at the horror of discovery. Both the discovery that an author that you liked might have done some terrible things, and the threat of discovery that the curator represents. That he might me be able to find your secret, your worst sin. And, I guess, blackmail you about. It’s an interesting idea and the slow descent, the way that this trap works, as the title works into, is done all right. As with the previous story, the horror works slow and steady, so that by the time the full extent of it is revealed, it’s rather impossible to walk away. A fine read.


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