“Marathon Days” by Mikal Trimm
“Controls” by Steven Prete
“Apple Jack” by James Walton Langolf
“The Man who was Afraid of Holes” by Robert Heinze
“Pliable Polly” by Bryn Treacy
“Shrieks” by Jack Kincaid
“Turrow” by Kealan Patrick Burke is a tale with a film noir taste about a broken man simply going through the motions. His wife is a shrieking harpy bent on making his life hell, and he treads a fine line between stubborn pride and displeasing her to the point where the Council will come and “deal with him.” The subtle slipstream nuances threaded throughout this story aren’t bad, but ultimately the story fails to deliver much in the way of substance. A slightly anticlimactic ending mars what the beginning promises, which is a shame as the gritty opening really draws the reader in.
“Marathon Days” by Mikal Trimm is one of the better stories in this issue. A man simply runs for no reason, heedless of all danger, headlong into traffic and disaster. The narrative tension is masterful for a short, and the idea is simple and original. A real thought-provoking tale, the central premise being a bizarre curse similar to the one in The Ring.
“Controls” by Steven Prete is a difficult story to classify: while it has a vivid introduction and a flavor of disturbed adolescence throughout, this story of a boy afraid to mow a particular part of the lawn fails to finish on a satisfying note. Prete has given “Controls” an interesting subtext, that of power and control. He shows the weakness of the incapable, and how a fearful situation can be defeated through sheer primal rage and nerve. It is a multilayered and cleverly written story, and Prete almost manages to carry it off. It is still worth reading, but it would have been interesting to observe the development of this story had it been given one more edit.
Like a fable gone wrong, “Apple Jack” by James Walton Langolf is a definitive take on the stories of the Brothers Grimm. It is the tale of a terrifying nature spirit, the Apple Jack of the title. With twigs for fingers, and leaves and bark for skin, Apple Jack torments the protagonist, an orphaned little girl. He stalks her through the wall-space, murders her cat, and mimics her grandmother losing her head. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do…and the little girl finally snaps!
This is a great little ripper of a read with a solid ending. While there is little here in the way of visceral horror, the true power of this tale lies in how it references the mundane and binds it to the darkness of the old fairy tales. The fecundity of Apple Jack is truly disturbing, and while this type of story is nothing new, this is a fresh look at an old school of writing. Great!
“Pliable Polly” by Bryn Treacy is a cute little piece that could possibly appear as a children’s SF story. Here we meet Polly, a little girl with the powers of amazing elasticity. When mum leaves the house, the rest of the family like to play silly games with their stretchy sister. But don’t let mum find out!
“Shrieks” by Jack Kincaid is one of two long pieces. When strange noises are disrupting an old theatre, the mystified manager calls in a favor from a police officer friend. They roam the old sewers beneath the building where a little girl is rumored to have vanished some years ago. Then things begin to get strange…
“Five Second Fantasies” by Scott William Carter is the best story in this issue. A man loses control of his body for five seconds while driving, in which time he deliberately swerves into a bus, killing his entire family. Why did he do this? Why are there other incidents like this occurring across the town? Carter leads us on the journey of a broken man searching for answers in the aftermath of a horrible tragedy. When he finds the supernatural origin of the disasters, he goes prepared…or is he? If his body can be stolen again, what will happen to him when he confronts the thief?
This is an amazing idea, cleverly plotted and brilliant. “Five Second Fantasies” borrows some themes from Crash but puts a surreal horror twist into the mix. The ending is a real treat and rounds off a great story nicely.