"The Eye in Room 16" by Terry Dowling
"The Empty Child" by Richard Harland
“The River, Black with Night” by David Witteveen
“Moving Dad” by Steven Cavanaugh
“The Feast” by Joanne Anderton
“Nothing of Him that Doth Fade,” part one, by Poppy Z. Brite
"Autopsy," part one, by Robert Hood
In Terry Dowling’s "The Eye in Room 16," a boy in a private school is haunted by night visitations from a solitary floating eye. But knowledge is power, and the boy finds a way to face his fear. The solution attests to the value of a grounding in the classics. Dowling does a good job capturing lonely childhood terrors in this Bradburyesque piece.
"The Empty Child" by Richard Harland is one of two horrific dead baby stories in this issue. In darkest Brothers Grimm-land, an infant is thrown from a carriage and eaten by a starving wolf. The wolf’s resulting emptiness feels much worse than normal hunger. The bereaved mother, arriving on the scene just too late, informs the wolf that a witch has taken the child’s soul. The two join forces for their own reasons in a story touching on the horrific roots of fairy tales.
“The River, Black with Night” by David Witteveen is an even more disturbing dead baby story, possibly because it’s about a contemporary childless couple. The setting doesn’t cushion the inevitable shock the way a fairy tale would, and the author spares you nothing in what could be the story behind a tabloid headline.
For a complete shift of tone there’s “Moving Dad” by Steven Cavanaugh. It’s a grim bit of gnarl about the afterlife. A family checks its dear departed into a facility designed for—and run by—the necrotically abled. There’s just a bit of paperwork and then they really hope you’ll enjoy your stay.
“The Feast” by Joanne Anderton is set in an archaic and matriarchal Scotland under siege by an army of the damned. The narrator, a female warrior, has failed to hold back the tide and is resigned to watching her brother join the other side. Her tenderness towards him is well depicted in this otherwise despairing vignette.
The zine also includes the beginnings of two serialized short stories: Poppy Z. Brite’s “Nothing of Him that Doth Fade” and Robert Hood’s “Autopsy.” It’s impossible to judge them fairly under these conditions, but they ought to appeal to fans of Lost and C.S.I., respectively.
It’s inevitable that we’re seeing so many publishers turn to the web. Flash fiction seems made for the Internet medium. The short-short has long been a staple of what used to be called horror. The economics of publishing make it far cheaper to post rather than mail paper all the way from Australia. The web is helping to keep the small-press tradition alive.