Grab bag of quality and horror sub-genres (3/5)
Jessup, Paul: “It Tasted Like the Sea” (2009, shortstory) – 4/5
As an obligation held to Josh in her times of weakness at the hand of her ex-husband, Cathy feels compelled to comfort Josh in his own time of need. His art gallery had been met with a poor review, resulting in his sulking and Cathy's comfort. His art, a misogynistic portrayal of amputated women's limbs and removed faces, gives Cathy the chills, but soon realizes that she has been ensnared in his artistic trap in which she copes in her own way.
Mamatas, Nick: “Summon, Bind, Banish” (2008, shortstory) – 3/5
Alich if a man of he early twentieth century and indulges himself in satanic/black magic rituals in which he sees himself as a dark lord of the magical underworld. Another man,more so a child, several decades later finds himself living in his mother's basement without any ambition for the future save for the glow of the black and white television, the memory of his grandmother, and extremist thoughts. However, they are both restrained by naivety and ineptitude.
Pagliassotti, Dru: “To Every Thing There is a Season”(novelette) – 2/5
The cherubic, available and becomingly Lady Camille is being wooed by Lord Douglas Marsh, but another man has come between them—a man of unknown intent, mysterious origin, and veiled allegiances. This darkly-complexioned and jeweled man wins favor of young Lady Camille though he's only the ambassador of Carcose, once called Corsica before Cthulhu's nebulous and dark presence took hold of Earth. Now, Douglas must fight back.
Kontis, Alethea & Branson, Ariell: “Life's a Beach” (shortstory) – 3/5
A young man spurned by his young love-interest, Eddie feels the bubbling hatred from the pit of his tormented mind. Free of all care once spurned, Eddie imbibes in his whimsical lust of vengeance while the gulls of the beachside scene witness and participate in the slaughter. He stabs the girls who spurned him, bashes the boy whose detached curiosity annoys him, impales the other boy who ridicule him—all the while, the birds circle and descend.
Ainsworth, Gill: “Kusatenda Uroyi” (shortstory) – 3/5
In Zimbabwe on ancestral pilgrimage to visit his distant grandmother's burial ground in the water waters of a distant waterfall, Martin Chapman is a black-skinned man in a black-skinned land, yet his accent, money, and intention give away his foreign origin. His request to visit the waterfall is rejected by a tour guide and a youth he hires turns him into a bloodied victim. Still, Martin's dream awakens him to this ancestral truth and he's determined, still, to visit the waterfall.
O'Neill, Gene: “Lottery” (shortstory) – 2/5
Marek clutches his beloved wife's hand in the Community Hall where everyone in the village has gathered to hear the single-named lottery draw of eligible females. Marek is dumbfounded by the announcement—his lover Krasna has been chosen and now he must lead her to the MedCenter to begin her transformation. Later, again clutching each other, they depart as she she is led for the final Transformation. At night, the couple meet again under different circumstances.
Kowel, Mary Robinette: “Cerbo en Vitra ujo” (2006, shortstory) – 3/5
As Grete prunes her garden in an orbital in the sky, her boyfriend Kaj visits her to deliver his news: he's been accepted to attend school down on Earth at Fairview Academy. Once he departs, Grete's longing for him grows until she tries to contact him without any success. She tracks the biopattern of his iris to a wealthy orbital, where a woman own Kaj's eyes. His fingerprints, too, belong to another person, who has Kaj's hands... his surname happens to be Fairview.
Burstein, Michael A.: “The Spider in the Hairdo” (1997, shortstory) – 4/5
Thick of waist and low of self-esteem, Peggy is a high school girl whose daily life is plagued by bullying and torment. She is chosen as a host for a desperate refugee spider that has landed on Earth after its own planet had died. The spider impels her to have a beehive hairdo so that it can lay its eggs in her skull undisturbed buts keeps telling and reaffirming her that the style will make her popular. When the spider is discovered, she vows revenge.
Hasson, Guy: “The Dark Side” (novelette) – 4/5
He met Sharon at the 7-11 or did she try to sell him insurance in his apartment? Had she killed him, had he killed her, or had they jumped off the roof one after another to splatter on the concrete? Obsessed with death and the promises of the afterlife, he commits suicide again and again for the power of choice: living in any of diverged pasts or future of his life, where his father lives or dies, where he kills or is killed.
Sardina, Martel: “With the Beating of Their Wings” (shortstory) – 4/5
Kalden is laid on a stone alter in the mountains of Tibet after his death. As a youth, all of his childhood questions about death were answered save one lingering mystery: who he will be reincarnated as. After his body is ritually butchered and fed to the awaiting vultures, his journey to reincarnation begins. With his being inside he culture, the same vulture lays an egg, and another woman consumes that egg and mothers a daughter, who Kalden becomes. Unaware of this, she yearns to be a butcher though its forbidden.
Riley, Thomas: “Enough to Make a Devil” (novelette) – 3/5
James Rees is a fractured mind according to everyone who has crossed his path, including the dozens of women he killed. Compelled by the evil of a dimensional demon, an embodiment of evil as much as God is said to be pure good, Yog-Sothoth compels James to kill since he had discovered the temporal weakness in the ghost town of Dunwich. His old case worker visits him, shares his haunting visions, and feels the evil of the newest psychologist.
Sizemore, Jason: “Flash of Light” (2007, shortstory) – 2/5
A veteran of the 2043 start of the American-Asian war, Gerald Malcolm Linden is a wounded man with a wounded state of mind. The initial fracture of his psyche is a result of his failure in the Pacific arena where thousands of men died under his direction. The chasm of his mental wound is spread to fester when the government refuses to allow him to draw pension. His two kids hide in a closet as he takes his wife aside and shoots her in the head.
Tidhar, Lavie: “Transylvania Mission” (2004, shortstory) – 2/5
Between Hungary and Romania, a band of displaced Jews hides from the Nazi army. Their overseer/leader/commander, The Rat, is a changeling of the animal of his namesake. He learns that the Nazis are crossing the border, but their jeeps aren't the only threat—the Gestapo's army of Wolfkommado are in tote. The Rat's status and form intrigue the Nazis as they move on toward Bran Castle, where Dracula is rumored.
Adkins, Mari: “Inside Looking Out” (shortstory) – 3/5
Call it kinship or a telepathic bond, something pleasantly eerie exists between Erin and Devon. Devon used to call upon her to conjure dark magic, but today he needs help finding the bodies of two teenagers. To assist his investigation, Erin enters the ghostly realm and uses her faultless intuition to locate the two bound and charred corpses. Erin physically follows Devon to the murder scene, where she senses something else eerie, then sinister.
Taber, Deb: “Powered” (2006, shortstory) – 4/5
A generation heirloom of sorts is handed down to Cassie—a table-saw. Prior to her current ownership of the saw, the machine belonged to Mama Marie, who lives with Cassie and advises her on how to handle the beast of a machine. Mama Marie has bodily proof in a scar that the machine can act up, but Cassie doesn't understand the temperament of the saw until she pulls the plug on it.
Burrow, B. J.: “Disturbing Things” (shortstory) – 3/5
Jack wants to involve himself in every gruesome accident he passes, thinking he should do something. His fiancé Maggie urges him to continue on their way and shrugs off her own urge to rubberneck. On the way to her family's house, Maggie warns him that an unpleasant childhood experience will be mentioned at the evening's dinner party, where Father Harris is the guest. His story spins Jack's head, but his accusation spins his life.
Brozek, Jennifer: “Eulogy for Muffin” (shortstory) – 3/5
A group of children from two families mourns the death of their respective pet: a cat and a ferret. Sharon considers the death to be an act from a menacing fox, but the other mother, Kathy, is more keen on things. The children's seemingly spontaneous need for a ritualburial, eulogy, and reverence to a God named Moccus and his heaven Annwfn is actually more real than Sharon knows, and the children are most eager to share.
Engstrom, Elizabeth: “Hands of Heritage” (shortstory) – 3/5
Originally from Amsterdam but currently residing in England, Abraham Van Helsing is a sought after man when it comes to the tracking and killing of vampires. He catches word of a recent convert, tracks her down, and makes her confess the name of the person who turned her before driving a stake through her heart. Abraham is astonished that his long dead father is the vampire in question, an event which releases a torrent of represses childhood angst.
Anwar, M. Zak & Anwar, O. M. R.: “The Junkyard God” (shortstory) – 4/5
Living in the trash heap of the Depositors, tribes of Junkyardies eek out their survival while living in fear of the Dogs. Some as big as vans, these patrolling, marauding, and murdering monstrosities of flesh and metal kill the tribes' people at will, but there is one family name dedicated to banishing these creatures—Ironspear. The young Lirk Ironspear decides to tackle a recent menace to Enannco Disposal Unit 39 to prove his worth.
Friel, Fran: “Bessie Green's Thumb” (shortstory) – 4/5
A widow without any recourse to spending her time, Bessie accepts the responsibility of looking after a tomato plant. As the plant wilts in her apartment, she looks upon the adjacent vacant lot and remembers the hippies conjuring Pam for whatever reason. After she places the tomato plant in the soil of the garden and accidentally spills blood onto the same soil, the garden soon grows lush. The community is enlivened and motivated while her appearance seems to be getting younger. It seems Pan might have been called forth after all.
Pelland, Jennifer: “Big Sister/Little Sister” (2003, shortstory) – 5/5
Born as twins but far from equals, Big Sister was born able-bodied while Little Sister was a pathetic, feeble emotional drain. Big Sister's mother never let her forget that Little Sister could never enjoy the same freedom as she, so before her death, their mother grafted the head of Little Sister on to the torso of Big Sister so that they could experience the world together. Given that Big Sister has always resented her status, she plans ways to hurt and silence her sister.