These Lonely Places: A Collection of Bad Dreams
This collection delivers on its title. It contains tales that could possibly be very bad but very coherent dreams set in everyday places with the common theme being loneliness and despair. The writing ensnared me, the characters are mostly normal schlubs caught up in their own little nightmares. I can’t think of one story that was a dud. I’m too lazy to grade them all and will bold the titles of my favorites. They’re all pretty solid and several are really something special. If you like creepy, skin-crawling type horror without in your face gore you should definitely check out this collection.
Late Night Laundry
If you ever find yourself with an undying urge to do some late night laundry in a creepy basement this 3 page story will you a good reason to resist that urge. Watch a movie instead. Do the laundry in the light of day. Just saying.
The 16th Floor
When Scott’s boss calls him over he initially thinks he’s in trouble Dean “reminded him of an excitable dog who might bite for no reason” and it was here I knew I was going to like this story and many that followed. I love a nifty turn of phrase that can sum up a character in so few words. And who hasn’t met someone like Dean? Anyhow, Scott is asked to up to the abandoned 16th floor to find some old files. Scott doesn’t know that everyone else is too chickenshit to do so and with good reason!
This story is one of my favorites. The scary and strange atmosphere happening in such a mundane place as a busy office was unique and fascinating. It’s a creepy, old fashioned “don’t go in there, you dummy!” kind of story that may linger with you.
One boring summer day two young boys looking for a little adventure stumble across some incredible weirdness. This is another creepfest that might you from straying off the beaten path. Or not . . .
This one is more suspense than chiller and features family members who are perhaps terrorized by Bigfoot hisownself.
On Powdered Wings
The protagonist is divorced, depressed, stuck in a horrible job and plagued at night by incessant banging on his window panes. The noise gets increasingly worse as the days pass and the sleep deprivation starts to show. He begins to think he's been cursed. And he is probably right. This one has dread leaking from every word.
Mrs Lumley's Masks
This one? This one is creeptastic and my absolute favorite.
Christie is helping an elderly woman prepare for the arrival of her sister. While there the older woman shows off her vast collection of masks that fill an entire room. When Christie asks something along the lines of ,“What’s up with all the masks?”, Mrs. Lumley’s answer seems reasonable enough.
“You do things differently when you pretend you’re someone else. You feel free to be whoever you are on the inside when you’re wearing a mask on the outside.”
But in the end her response takes on a far more sinister meaning. While Mrs. Lumley leaves her to her work, Christie pokes around and stumbles across something terribly disturbing. I absolutely loved this story. You can see what’s coming and want to scream at good hearted (but nosey) Christie to get the heck out of there NOW. It is horrifying and I would love to read a full novel based on the younger Mrs. Lumley.
Ian has worked himself into a seething ball of hurt. He's lost Samantha, he thought she loved him but now she’s gone and he’s stuck back at home living with his parents. He focuses his pain and anger to take revenge.
This one surprised me. I thought I was paying attention but there was a satisfying twist that I didn't see coming.
A dying dad tells his grown son a story from his past. The relationship and dialogue felt genuine and the nightmarish “flood photo” story gripped me from the first page.
This kind of honest dialogue is what won me over in most of these stories.
“I was a young boy. Boys are strange. They can be a little creepy. You were. Remember that imaginary friend you had that you said killed his family?
This made me laugh even as I thought “but girls are creepier”.
Alex goes undercover to catch a meth dealer but finds something much worse! This is one icky horror story. The gore is of the implied kind but it still got to me all the same. Sometimes the less said the better and it works well here.
Here is a great example of the perfectly eerie way the author sets a scene:
“A slovenly row of tall bushes lined the driveway on the left. On the other side was a large, square lawn that hadn’t been mowed in weeks. It was more yellow than green and there were a number of balding patches scattered across it. In the upper right corner of the yard up close to the house a thick, gnarled tree jutted defiantly from the lawn, its roots clutching the soil like long, arthritic fingers. It had no leaves and many of its limbs hung broken and dry near the top. It didn’t seem to know it was dead.”
Celaeno zooms in on a man who is haunted by guilt. It’s a nasty-gram to all cheaters of the world and I absolutely adored it. It’s another one that manages to be gross without being all out gory in its description.
Working alone in a late night drive up convenience store is creepy enough but when ghostly faces start peering at you from the darkness I’d say it’s time to find yourself a new job. This is story does lonely, melancholy and builds on its atmosphere to chilling perfection.
Last Night At the Red Carpet Inn
Charlie works the front desk at a run-down inn frequented by druggies and prostitutes. This is another great example of a quickie character study. Charlie’s job is lonely but the resident prostitute befriends him and she keeps him entertained with stories and laughter. It’s haunting.
The Boy from Deleary Park
The protagonist describes herself much better than I ever could:
“I was always picked last for gym, even though my legs had healed just fine, and I was always the last one to find a lab partner in science class. Sure, I had friends. No one ever said anything to my face and I got invited to birthday parties and sleepovers, but I wasn’t really close to anyone. I was included but not needed. I felt like if I disappeared, no one would miss me. Because of this I sympathized deeply with the outcasts, freaks and weirdos who shuffled around the edges of the playground like kicked dogs.”
Because of her kindness for outcasts she befriends a strange boy at the park and follows him home. She soon suspects it’s a very bad idea but it’s too late for her to turn back. Things soon take a horrible turn and get far stranger than she could’ve ever imagined.
*The FTC makes me declare that I received a copy of this book from the author.