Title: Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror
Editor: John Pelan
Year of Publication: 2005
Genre Keywords: anthology, horror, mystery, short stories, suspense, thriller.
Summary: A selection of tales from the self-proclaimed masters of terror, ranging from the gory to the supernatural to the psychological. The common unifying theme seems to be the concept of an evil side to reality that fascinates us and draws us in, even when we’d be smarter to look away – a rather interesting comment on the horror genre itself. Stories include:
- “At the Circus of the Dead” by Tony Richards – A very unsavory circus act that traffics in death and dismemberment. So why won’t anybody walk away?
- “This Body of Death” by Maria Alexander – A sexy story about a demonic love affair, where it’s the darkness that draws our heroine in . . . but at what cost?
- “The Blood of Ink” by Joseph A. Ezzo – Lionel doesn’t know why he’s so irritated by his business partner’s habit of fidgeting with his fancy, expensive pen. But when he steals the pen as a prank, he discovers it’s more than he bargained for.
- “Unblinking” by Ramsey Campbell – A university professor finds himself increasingly obsessed with his elderly neighbour in a chilling chronicle of the descent into paranoia.
- “The Dirty People” by David B. Silva – When a writer begins to see neighbours silhouetted in the attic of the vacant house next door, he assumes somebody must have moved in, but instead faces the nightmare of decay – both in the house next door and within his own brain.
- “Glyphotech” by Mark Samuels – Franklyn Crisk has an ordinary job in an ordinary cubicle until the day his company invites him (and his colleagues) to a motivational seminar at Glyphotech. When he chooses to walk away from the company’s cultlike tactics, he becomes a target . . . and the choice may cost him more than just his job.
- “Spider Dream” by Michael Reaves – Pretty much what it sounds like. Except what if it was a dream from which you couldn’t wake? If each time you woke, you found yourself inside the same nightmare, getting worse?
- “Behind the Masque” by Jeffrey Thomas – Upon the death of his eccentric boss, Rod finds himself charged with getting rid of the man’s strangest possessions: a number of clones who have the DNA of their famous progenitors, but not the talent that brought them immortality.
- “Last Stop” by John Pelan – A librarian repelled by a particular homeless man who comes to the reading room to get warm finds himself obsessed, following the stranger to a horrifying end.
- “A Bottle of Egyptian Night” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson – An aging single woman with a peculiar love for curiosity shops comes into possession of a seemingly ordinary ink bottle with a mysterious ability to introduce her to the mysteries of the hereafter.
- “Roadside Memorials” by Joseph Nassise – A paramedic becomes fascinated by the human habit of erecting a little cross or leaving flowers at the site of a fatal accident . . . and both transfixed and repelled when he learns that the tradition may be less human than he’d supposed.
- “Comforts of Home” by Michael Laimo – The other homeless men think Charlie is a freak because he feeds the stray cats around the area. Then again, cats are good friends to have in a time of crisis.
- “The Call of Farther Shores” by David Niall Wilson – Returning home after his father’s death, Jeremy finds himself moving beyond the memories of his childhood and into the history of a seafaring artifact from the local barber shop.
- “Our World, How Fragile” by Paul Melniczek – A seemingly purposeless chase scene leads Robert to a very abrupt and unexpected end.
- “The Crawl” by Gerard Houarner – A violent ritual of redemption drives Dylan to hope that maybe he can find peace at last. But can he embrace the forgiveness? Or will the darkness draw him in?
Who’ll Love It: Fans of horror fiction in any form will find something here to intrigue them. Some of the stories contain elements of bloodier, gooier “gross fiction”, I’ll admit, while others are much more cerebral; there’s a genuine mix that means everyone is likely to find something here that will horrify them, and perhaps also something that will turn them off, which is the risky part of a horror anthology like this.
Want More? This is the fourth in a series of horror anthologies edited by the same John Pelan. Check out Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium, A Walk on the Darkside: Visions of Horror, and The Darker Side: generations of Horror (which won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology). The nice thing about short story anthologies is that you’re not compelled to read them in order to understand what’s happening; each one is sweetly self-contained.