Nightmare #18, March 2014

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Nightmare #18, March 2014

“A Dweller in Amenty” by Genevieve Valentine
“HaveYou Heard the One About Annamaria Marquez?” by Isabel Yap

Reviewed by Lillian Csernica

The central device of Genevieve Valentine‘s “A Dweller in Amenty” is the concept of the sin-eater. For a very high price, the protagonist will come to the home of the deceased prior to the burial and sit down to a detailed ritual of consuming the deceased’s sins in the form of that person’s favorite foods. The protagonist has a slightly cynical perspective, one that brings to mind Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake. Quite a lot of information is packed into this story, including the origin of the nonexistent location “Amenty” in Ammut of Egyptian mythology. Anubis places the heart of the dead person in the scales of Ma’at, goddess of Truth, to be weighed against her feather. The heart heavy with sin is consumed by Ammut and the sinner is denied both reincarnation and final peace. There tradition and lore of the sin-eater are woven expertly into the protagonist’s present case, giving an “insider’s view” of the costs and compensations. Ms. Valentine’s style is smooth, polished, and a pleasure to read. She knows just when to hold back and let the reader’s imagination take over. There’s a twist at the end, and she makes it work quite well.

“Have You Heard the One About Annamaria Marquez?” by Isabel Yap

Set in the Philippines, this story calls to mind a number of horror movies. Mica and her little group of fifth grade girlfriends are facing trials both great and small, from the onset of puberty to the gory thrills of building their section of the Halloween festival haunted house. After listening to their Home Ec teacher talk about opening her third eye, Mica’s friend Hazel attempts to do so. Each scene of the story alternates with a different rumor about how Annamaria Marquez, a student at the school, died in some horrible way, leaving behind her vengeful ghost. Unstable teenage girls, psychic experimentation, haunted house, vengeful ghost. Sound familiar? The abundance of colloquial terms made the story hard to follow, especially in the beginning. I kept waiting for something horrible to happen, either inside the haunted house or in the school itself. The ending left me puzzled. I couldn’t tell if events were meant to imply redemption or condemnation for Mica, nor was I sure what she did or didn’t do.