First published back in December of 2013, ‘The Bestiarum Vocabulum’ formed editor Dean M Drinkel’s second anthology in his ‘Tres Librorum Prohibitorum’ trilogy.

A is for Amon - ‘Le Diable Au Corps’ - Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet – 20 Pages
Everyone he loved was now dead.  He’d killed them all.  Since then he’d been wallowing in their blood; enjoying his family’s remains with the glee of a deeply unsound mind.  But now he had to confront the reason for this carnage.  In his kitchen he would come face-to-face with the abomination that had caused all of this.  The creature that was ultimately responsible.  With the head of a wolf, a serpent’s tail, its skin covered in dark scales and with claws instead of hands and feet – the Amon was a terrifying sight, even to his well accustomed eyes.  The Amon had been in his family for generations.  It had marked him as a beast on his sixteenth birthday, deep in the Chabrières forest.  And from that simple bite, he had become like his father.  A curse that would remain in their blood.  A connection with the Amon that had since become part of their lives…

Kicking off the anthology is Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet’s strangely compelling short ‘Le Diable Au Corps’ (translated as ‘The Devil In The Flesh’).  Throughout the entire length of the story it flitters between two different points in time - the first being when our narrator, Vincent, was a sixteen year old boy and was bitten by the  Amon demon, and the second being ‘the current time’ whereby Vincent now has his own family, but is nevertheless still plagued by this link to the Amon.  The tale constantly jumps between these two periods; never letting the reader feel settled into the rhythm of the story.  And in a way this helps with the inevitable tragedy of the piece.  Although at times perhaps just a little too disjointed, the overall impression left by this first offering is one of demonic power and the never-ending torment such a beast can bring.

B is for The Black Hound Of Newgate – Jan Edwards – 12 Pages
Ever since Francis Scholler had been incarcerated within the cold stone walls of Newgate Prison, inmates and warders alike had avoided him at all costs.  He’d been sent to the prison following a street brawl in which two men had died.  An incident that saw him accused of sorcery.  A highly punishable crime.  But thus far his time in Newgate hadn’t been so bad.  With those around him starving from the severe food shortages they had been experiencing, Scholler always seemed to be able to have his belly filled.  It was because they were scared of him.  But with prison fever running rife, it was only a matter of time before the inmates turned against their captors.  And when they do, the warders are nowhere to be seen.  And as they arrive at Scholler’s cell door, the quiet and mild-mannered man is waiting for them…

Author Jan Edwards dives in with a period set piece within this infamously cruel London prison; clashing the brutality of the prison with a modified take upon the legend of the Black Hound of Newgate.  The tale sets off with a healthy amount of vigour to it – detailing the aftermath of the riot with a particularly visceral relish.  And it’s once the action and harsh energy of the early sequences are over that the reader is introduced to our vague-protagonist – Chief Warder Brewys.  And from here the tale seems to back-off just a touch.  Weaving a carefully suggestive story that simply continues on until an ending appears, rather than striding towards a purposeful conclusion.  But there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had from the tale; it just doesn’t pounce on the reader like the early pages suggested it might.

C is for Chupacraba – ‘Harold & Maude’ - Martin Roberts – 16 Pages
Harold Perkins hadn’t been feeling too well.  And so, after he’d been sick, his dear sister, Maude, demanded that he visit the doctor.  But undergoing a medical assessment didn’t settle his concerns.  When the nurse’s needle snaps as it tries to penetrate his flesh, Harold knows something isn’t right.  And then when his flesh heals instantly after being cut with a razor – the bizarre situation is confirmed for him.  Somehow Harold Perkins’ flesh had learnt to self-heal.  But along with it came the strange dreams.  Things that seemed to happen in his mind.  Things that seemed to be driving him.  And then before he knew it, Harold Perkins had become something else.  Something that only his dear sister could love…

Okay, so this is a weird story.  Laced with a thick helping of comedy, the story certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Indeed, much of the tale plays around with the character of Harold.  And it’s here that the author, Martin Roberts, manages to pull in the reader.  Harold is the light relief in an otherwise totally screwed-up story.  To help the reader garner what the heck might be going on, it’s probably a good idea to look up what a Chupacraba is before starting the story.  That way at least you’d be a little clued in to what was happening to poor old Harold.  As for the strange (but hinted at from early on) ending – all I can say is, Mr Roberts, you are one messed-up individual.

D if for Djinn – ‘The Waiting Game’ – Lisa Jenkins – 12 Pages
He had been waiting in the all-consuming dark for longer than he would ever know.  Locked away in the stone tomb that had encased him, Craven waited out the days, years, centuries, for something to set him free.  Someone to break the darkness.  A soul to penetrate the stone of the cave walls.  He had survived on the vile cave beetles that scurried into his mouth.  Around him, in the darkness lay the withered corpses; a lasting memory of the gluttony that had trapped him there in the first place.  But now in the darkness of the cave he could hear the faint echoes of metal on rock drifting through the otherwise silent cavern.  Perhaps now his time had come.    Finally a chance to reap his vengeance on the race that had entombed him for so long.  Finally a chance to taste the richness of blood once again…

Oh yes, what we have here is one dark little treat; quivering with a cold damp atmosphere that lingers under the reader’s skin for some time afterwards.  Written from the perspective of the demon, Craven, the short lays down the premise in a gradual way, as the first sounds of a geology team begin to reverberate around the darkness of the demon’s tomb.  Expect visceral descriptions of blood drinking, a penetrating darkness that chills to the bone, and a demonic menace that is just oh-so-evil.  The first definite highlight of the collection.

E is for Ellerwoman – ‘The Death Dance Of The Ellerwoman’ – Peter Mark May – 14 Pages
The three German Kriegsmarine sailors had no idea where in the North Sea they were, around them the thick blanket of fog making visibility impossible.  And then, all of a sudden, their orange dingy pulled up onto the gravel of a shoreline.  With the Destroyer Ludtz sunk, the three cold and desperate survivors make their way inland, towards what looks to be a small wooden cottage.  However inside the gloomy confines of the isolated shack the three Germans find little more that the decaying remains of a long forgotten hideaway.  But at least it offers shelter, and once they have a fire going, some warmth.  However, the German survivors have stumbled across somewhere that should have been left alone.  An old tale that warned of Ellerwomen taking their victims across the Norwegian coastline.  A whispering that seems all too close to the bone, that cold and damp night…

With a respective nod towards the works of E.F. Benson, Lovecraft or perhaps even a touch of William Hope Hodgson; British author, Peter Mark May, delivers a deeply sinister short story that seems to edge ever closer towards a dark menace that we all know is coming.  And even though there isn’t even the remotest hint of a surprise in store for the reader, the eerie tale nevertheless delivers quite a full-bodied punch to the guts upon the arrival of the Ellerwoman.  A superb little story, let down only by an annoying volume of typos.  Some further proofreading eliminating these small annoyances would improve the overall enjoyment of the tale tenfold.

F is for Fenrir – ‘Shadow Wolf’ – Raven Dane – 14 Pages
Professor Rob Helson had come back from his home in Colorado to the sleepy old market town of Weltham for a reunion with his childhood friends.  It had been years since he’d seen them all together again, but upon meeting up, it didn’t take long before they were all back to how they had always been with each other.  Unfortunately, that included Nigel the Eelman.  And the slimy troublemaker hadn’t changed a bit since they all left school.  Meanwhile, a shadow had descended upon Weltham.  As it worked its way through the small community, those it touched became frenzied killers desperate to kill.  And all of a sudden, Helson had found that he had returned to a town gripped by violence and madness…

Raven Dane’s offering is an ambitious one within the obvious constraints of a short story.  Drawing upon a character-driven structure, whilst interweaving a near-apocalyptic threat; Dane has gone for an impactful but incredibly risky approach.  And, to be fair, it’s a heck of an enjoyable little tale.  There’s no messing around with the plot; Dane gets straight into the descending threat, whilst simultaneously laying down her handful of characters – most notably Rob Helson.  Admittedly, the short draws somewhat heavily from the likes of ‘The Fog’ (1975) or ‘One Rainy Night’ (1991) – with an Old Norse twist.  Sadly, the final couple of pages to the tale do suffer from a tad too much over-explaining; bogging the reader down with tying everything together as the short draws to an end.

G is for Golem – ‘In The Shadow Of The Golem’ – Joe Mynhardt - 16 Pages
Jeremy Marx had done quite well for himself.  A partner at Spencer and Marx Insurance Brokers, he had the success and wealth that he had worked so hard for all his life.  But when his secretary tells him that a Mr Hendrix has called to tell him to meet them at the Lake, Marx leaves straight away.  After all, it had been years since he’d caught up with Matt, Caleb and Jacob.  And what better place to do it than at Aventura Lake.  Somewhere that held strong memories for them all.  The Pier where they had spent so much of their childhood.  And ‘The Pits’ where they had created the Golem.  If only Marx could remember what had happened when they formed that strange creation out of the dark mud…

Joe Mynhardt’s short is a strangely alluring one.  Linking up with our narrator’s childhood and his friends from back-in-the-day; the tale has a slight Stephen King-esque feel to it, along with a creeping uneasiness that grows from the moment Mark arrives at the Lake.  Indeed, with our protagonist not quite sure what’s going on, and his supposed friends all leading him on nonetheless, you know something pretty nasty’s on the cards soon.  And Mynhardt doesn’t disappoint in that aspect.  It’s weird, with a very 80’s vibe to it; whilst not taking itself too seriously.  In a nutshell, Mynhardt delivers some good-old-fashioned-B-Movie-horror-fun.  Cheers pal…you made me grin all the way to work!

H is for Helicoprion – Rakie Keig – 14 Pages
Together they had explored many caves over the years.  But when Simon and Timothy found the partially-eaten remains of a dead fish floating in the water within a large underground cavern, they knew they’d found something of importance.  Indeed, their first thoughts were that this dead fish with the bulbous eyes was very likely to be the first real proof of a through passage between the cave and the lower Agazu system.  But, when Timothy begins feeling around, exploring for the potential underwater exit, things suddenly go badly wrong.  The two aren’t alone in the hard-to-reach cavern after all.  In the dark and murky depths of the waterlogged cave – something is swimming around just below the water’s surface.  Something with vicious intentions…

Oh yes indeedy.  Now we’re talking.  Take Neil Marshall’s ‘The Descent’ (2005) and replace the inbred race with a prehistoric shark.  And we’re not just talking any normal shark here.  These badboys have a strange tooth-whorl which can produce one hell of a lot of damage on a submerged limb.  Wrap this monstrous premise up in a story by the author who brought you giant killer moths, and you’ve got a sure-fire pulp horror winner.  There’s suspense and action; all tightly wrapped up in a claustrophobic rug of pulp-horror terror.  Awesome stuff.

I is for Imp – ‘Ma’s Good Boys’ – D T Griffith – 14 Pages
George D Giovanni was out in his late mother’s old backgarden, looking after her tomatoes and pepper plants, when he first noticed the small little creature out of the corner of his eye.  Curious, George roots around, trying to locate the strange little figure he could have sworn he saw.  And then, from out of nowhere, one of his Ma’s tomatoes hits him – the culprit for launching said projectile is a small creature with a miniature cow’s head.  A creature that scampers off as soon as it’s seen.  A few minutes of internet research later and George has identified the mischievous intruder.  An imp.  But what he wasn’t prepared for was the connection this troublesome critter would have with his family…

From the outset, one of the first things that presents itself to the reader is how very well-written Griffith’s tale is.  Indeed, the story has a natural buoyancy to it, with the light-hearted jovialness of the situation and Griffith’s colourful prose, making for an enjoyable read – even without anything really happening.  But gradually a whimsical storyline does begin to formulate – one reasonably akin to that of Clive Barker’s ‘The Yattering And Jack’ (1984).  Griffith weaves in a further layer to his story, adding a certain degree of meaning, to then conclude his otherwise accomplished tale with a weirdly hurried ending which seems at odds with the rest of the story.

J is for Jack-In-Irons – Mark West – 16 Pages
Alex and Jules were heading down the A169 to York from Whitby; a relaxing getaway holiday that they had planned as a second honeymoon.  On their journey, they decide to stop off at the small, off-the-beaten-track town of Jakisenhelm.  There, they find the Jack-O-Green pub, where after feeling suitably welcomed by the locals, they stay at for an evening meal.  And it’s in the quaint little pub that they hear the legend of Jack-In-Irons – a giant who supposedly haunts the lonely roads around Jakisenhelm, taking away unwary travellers.  In his hand, he carries a large spiked club.  And as they couple are to find out that night, there may just be some truth in that old legend…

Storming in with the next addition is Mark West’s glorious adaptation of a classic mythical legend.  The setting and premise are textbook campfire story material.  A middle-aged-couple on a second honeymoon, get lost out on the backroads in the middle of nowhere.  And then the legend that they’ve just been told starts stalking them.  The rest is pretty much as you’d expect, along with an all-too-predictable twist marking the end of the tale.  However, on the whole it’s still pretty darn entertaining.  And there’s just enough expansion on the original legend, to make Jack-In-Irons quite a terrifying foe.

K is for Kappa – ‘The Kappa’ – John Palisano – 10 Pages
It was the sound of their horses screaming that woke Isamu from her sleep.  And after racing out to the barn, she discovered that a large chunk of flesh had been bitten out of one of her two horses.  Knowing that the threat to their horses could be back later on that night, Isamu decides that her parents and her should camp out in the barn through the rest of that night.  However, it’s not until dawn breaks that Isamu discovers the culprit for her horse’s wound.  A Kappa is standing outside the barn.  A reptilian creature, who speaks to her about the hunger he felt.  A hunger that drove him to take a bite out of Isamu’s horse.  But now he wants to make amends.  But the question is, can the Kappa be trusted?…

Palisano’s short is quite an odd offering.  Less demonic than it is a bizarre parable-esque fable; Palisano offers up a story that flitters around with the idea of acceptance of guilt and redemption – and then ultimately on to a message of final deception.  Characterisation is almost completely left off, instead focusing on dialogue between the two principal characters.  The Kappa itself is barely even described, only the loosest attempt at fabricating a picture of our strange antagonist.  A weird story.  Not necessarily a bad one.  But not altogether very satisfying.

L is for Lamia – ‘Everlasting’ – Amelia Mangan – 10 Pages
She had washed-up onto the gritty sand of an unknown island.  The boat she had been on, sunk and long gone.  No one else to help her.  No one else to share this ordeal with. Alone.  Her expensive summer dress hanging off her in tatters.  Her leg very possibly broken.  But she’s alive.  And as she makes her way through the undergrowth that threatens the beach with overgrown foliage, she realises that she is not alone.  On the island, where there is no sound other than the breaking of the waves and the rustle of the trees, a small child now stands facing her.  The child’s eyes as black as the night’s sky.  She is about to witness life in its bitterest essence…

The anthology is really heating up now.  Written in a way that closely resembles a meditating Clive Barker when he’s at his most poignant; Amelia Mangan’s short delves into a nightmarish dreamlike premise, where our unnamed survivor is left wandering round what appears to be a desert island, with her life (and clothes) now in tatters.  Indeed, on the surface the short is as terrifying as it is compelling.  But throughout its disconcerting bleakness, there seems to be an underlying context being worked through.  Something deeper than simply a woman stranded on an island where life is an everlasting hard and bitter cycle.  Possibly a highlight of the entire anthology; Mangan’s incredible prose and undeniable skill at painting an emotionally rich environment has created a short that seems to stand out as an isolated singular amongst the twenty-five other stories.

M is for Mara – ‘Mythological Being Of Nightmare’ – Robert W Walker – 8 Pages
John Henry Kagi detested all forms of slavery and the slave-owners.  He lived as a devout Christian Baptist even though he knew he was a murderer of the innocent.  After he was fired from his teaching position and kicked out of Virginia, Kagi had joined up with other like-minded rebels and taken to combating pro-slavery enemy combatants.  However, Kagi knew that this had eventually resulted in the murder of five innocent men in Osawatomie.  That was a year ago.  And ever since then his nights had been plagued by the presence of a Mara.  A pointy-eared succubus who squatted on his chest as he lay there consumed with guilt.  And now Kagi and sixteen other freedom fighters were awaiting another raid.  But Kagi could not trust the information provided to him by their spy.  What if the information was wrong again?  What would their guilt mean?  And what of the Mara’s warnings?…

Prolific horror and sci-fi author Robert W Walker’s tale is a somewhat complex affair for a short of this length.  Delightfully period set, the story instantly conjurers up an atmosphere of oppression and utter devotion to ones beliefs.  Such rich and fertile ground for the seeds of a demonic horror story.  However, Walker’s tale doesn’t as much embrace the demonic side of the story as it wallows in the all-consuming guilt of a deeply troubled fighter.  There are questions and confessions and concerns for ones sanity and then comeuppance.  The succubus is only there as a troubling omen of sorts.  More a messenger than the true tormentor.  It’s a thoughtful short.  And it leaves the reader pondering the ideas of redemption far more than they probably thought they would.

N is for Nimerigar – Christine Dougherty – 16 Pages
It’s October of 1932 and fellow prospectors Frank Carr and Cecil Main are in the Pedro Mountains, using dynamite to blast the stone away from the mountain sides in the hope of finding long-forgotten treasures.  With the temperature dipping to bone-chilling lows, the two men blast a whole that exposes a darkened tunnel.  A subterranean cavern that contains a strange skeleton.  Little over a foot tall, Frank can’t help but think of it as the remains of a baby.  But a baby it isn’t.  What it is, is far more terrifying…

Before he embarks upon his ‘X-Files’ style story, Dougherty has put down a quick ‘Author’s Note’, detailing that the following story is only a fictional account of what Carr and Main supposedly found in the Pedro Mountains back in 1932.  Knowing that there is a hint of a true story lurking behind the tale only whets the reader’s appetite further.  And as the somewhat casually-paced tale continues, so the reader begins to see an all-too-familiar premise arising.  One with more than a mere a hint of ‘Pet Sematary’ (1983) behind it; but nevertheless still a heck of an entertaining read.  ‘X-Files’ meets Stephen King.  What’s not to like?

O is for Onokentaura
– Tim Dry
– 14 Pages
He watched and waited as the trio of young females scrubbed their threadbare clothing on the river bank.  With his thick and heavy club in hand, the half-man-half-donkey Onokentara sprung out from the undergrowth and bludgeoned two of the young girls to death.  The third escaping across the river as the creature brutally raped the motionless bodies of the dead girls.

Coming too from the vivid daydream, Jake ‘The Snake’ Bishop looks down at his engorged member as Dave ‘The Ink’ finishes off his tattoo.  On his bicep, the freshly tattooed image of the Onokentaura stands proud.  A tattoo that will carve the lustful destiny for the young Adult movie star…


Whoah!  This is some heavily-charged and brutally sexual stuff.  Beginning with an ‘Ancient Greece’ style mythological-beast setting, once the hard-hitting rape of the two young girls is over and author, Tim Dry, has seen the Onokentaura destroyed for its truly horrendous crimes; Dry commences with the second part of his beastly-and-perverse story.  With a wealth of graphic sexual slang describing Jake ‘The Snake’s exploits, the second part of the tale is equally as ‘adult’ as the first was.   This is a short that’s impossible to put down until you’ve witnessed all it has to show you.  It’s hard-hitting and brutal.  It’s sadistic and uncaring.  And it makes for one ferocious-beast of a tale.

P is for Púca – ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ – Nerine Dorman – 12 Pages
Ten years she had been with Paul.  Ten years.  A decade.  And now it was over.  They were over.  He’d gone off with someone from his work.  And she was left alone – in the house that they had lived in together; bagging up what was left of his things.  Paul didn’t even have the courage to come and pick up his remaining possessions.  He’d sent his bestfriend Geoffrey to do his dirty work.  And she’d unloaded her misery on to him.  It felt like life couldn’t get much worse.  And then that night a pitch-black horse appears in her front yard.  A horse that draws her to it.  A horse that takes away the pain.  A horse that seems to show her what is really important in life…

Nerine Dorman’s short is certainly the least ‘demonic’ of all the offerings.  Full to the brim with the emotional torment of our bitterly downcast narrator – the story feels so ‘from-the-heart’ that there are undoubtedly some true feelings from the author surrounding the pain felt by separation.  As such, it’s a very human and personal story.  One with a beating heart of very real bitterness behind it.  And ultimately, Nerine Dorman delivers a very poignant message.  However, it’s a story that suffers somewhat from the quieter and subtler elements that it is constructed from.  When held up against the other shorts in the anthology, you can’t help but feel a tad underwhelmed by the finale.  Perhaps it would have a stronger existence slotted in amongst a different set of stories?  But here it sadly feels a little too pastel-coloured.

Q is for Qareen – ‘Le Sacrifice’ – Dean M Drinkel – 28 Pages
In Paris in 1968 the man lay in a bed, tied down and eagerly anticipating the next stage in the nights pleasure.  The olive skinned young woman, with bright green eyes and flaming ginger hair knelt over him; ready to take things to the next level.  And with that, she drove the nails through his hands and ankles.  Close to four centuries earlier, a woman with the same appearance sits in her cell awaiting her sentencing from the priest.  A priest who is not convinced about her guilt.  But he knows his duty.  He knows what he must do.  Again in 1789, an olive-skinned woman with green eyes and  ginger hair, going by the name of Sister Miriam, has locked herself in the private chapel and has sex with the decomposing corpse secured there.  Later still, in 1944 and Hester leans forward over the desk, pistol in hand, and asks that the olive-skinned, green-eyed woman before him to end his life there and now.  And now, in the present day, Scott lays down the book his dead wife wrote and contemplates the strange connecting stories within.  Why the same woman over and over again?  Why the odd connections?  And, as his friend Michael points out, the look described is the exact same as his late wife?...

For his addition to the collection, anthology editor, Dean M Drinkel, offers up the longest short of all the stories – one that spans numerous centuries; connecting them all with this recurring ginger-haired woman.  And it’s when we come to the present day that these intertwined stories come together, with a well-executed explanation.  Within the grit, grime, blood and dirt spanning across the hundreds of years, a hauntingly sentimental and mildly heart-wrenching narrative makes itself known.  Far from demonic, what is revealed is chilling in its delicacy, and floods the reader with a partially penetrating cold-hearted bleakness.  Admittedly somewhat slow on its delivery, the short works well in its final choking moments – leaving the reader with a strangely-lasting coldness.

R is for Rusalka – ‘The Sad Lady’ – Christine Morgan – 14 Pages
The sun was beating down hard on the small town of Ladikov when Pavla found Magda and Minka squabbling again.  Minka claimed that she had been given some bilberries by a sad lady up by the willow pond.  No one really believed her, thinking she had found a bilberry bush herself, but that night, when she was found dead in her own bed, having mysteriously drowned in her sleep, her mother, Vadya, began to question what had happened.  Overhearing Vadya’s misery, their slave-woman, Alba, speaks of the Rusalka.  A river-spirit who dwells in the depths of the willow pond; tempting the little ones with sweet fruit and luring men and maidens with what they naturally desire.  And the slave-woman has foretold more than one death on their family…

Christine Morgan’s short is another fable-esque offering that feels like there needs to be more of a message behind it.  The premise offers plenty of scope for the Rusalka to do a bucket load of alluring.  And indeed, Morgan utilises a large family to spread the misery through.  However, none of the seductive deaths leave much of an impression.  Furthermore, the whole delivery of the short feels clumsy and far too cluttered.  It’s a strange tale.  One that does leave the reader with a hint of a chill, but getting there was perhaps just that bit too longwinded.

S is for Succubae – ‘The Laundry Girls’ – Tej Turner – 14 Pages
Moyra hadn’t been at the Magdalene convent all that long, but she had already come to the attention of Father Braden and Sister Cynthia as one of the more troublesome of the girls.  Having been caught in the fields with a man from the village, Moyra had been sent to Magdalene in a hope it would put her back on a true and virtuous pathway.  However, when she began seeing brief glimpses of a young spectral girl around the convent, her problems simply multiplied.  That is, until she gave in to her seductive dreams.  And slowly the beautiful girl who visited her began to gain strength.  Strength that would turn to vengeance…

You can’t beat an oppressive and corrupt all-girls convent for an erotic-horror setting.  Let’s be honest, it’s got everything going for it from the outset.  And author Tej Turner isn’t afraid to exploit the setting for all it’s got.  Well, perhaps not “all it’s got” – but he certainly delivers the goods.  And behind it all, Turner has a hint of a more well-defined demonic element at the wheel. That classic Clive Barker tagline “Angels to some, demons to others” certainly jumps to mind.  And if one was to add a hint of Edward Lee into the mix, you wouldn’t be all that far removed from Turner’s incredibly enjoyably seductive demonic romp.

T is for Tsul ‘Kalu – D M Youngquist – 12 Pages
Tim Wilkinson was halfway up the Tanasee Bald Mountain on the County side of the line in North Carolina when he decided it was time to stop and let his two gagged and bound captives await their fate.  And as he roasts the meat of his last hunt, out of the shadows the Tsul ‘Kalu arrives with his Cherokee Clan.  Wilkinson wants revenge on the two men.  He asks of the Tsul ‘Kalu to assist in their deaths.  For they had raped his pregnant wife who had since miscarried their child and left him.  And so he craves vengeance.  Revenge through the old Cherokee way.  And after looking into the eyes of the two men, the Tsul ‘Kalu agrees.  The hunt is on…

Youngquist offers up a tale rich in (what feels like) justified vengeance, interwoven with the classic horror premise of bestial-metamorphosis.  Indeed, there are a number of well-used ideas at play in the construction of the short, but together it works incredibly well – indeed, much more so than the sum of its parts.  Furthermore, Youngquist doesn’t simply leave it at that, but at the final goal posts he slips in a thought-provoking change in direction to kick the reader into not simply taking the easy road with the whole vengeance concept.  And hats off to him – it works well.

U is for Ubume – ‘The Birthing Lady’ – Jason D Brawn – 14 Pages
Living at the local pub, The Green Man, within the sleepy village of Brays Beach meant that everyone generally knew everyone else’s business.  And so when teenaged Lucie Morgan began to see an old oriental looking crone holding a blood-soaked dead baby out to her, the resulting trauma that Lucie underwent quickly became public knowledge.  Her parents were obviously worried about her, but how could she tell them what she had been seeing?  She had only one person she could turn to – her Wiccan godmother Valerie Holder.  But there’s only so much a practicing Wiccan can do for someone who is seeing an Ubume…

There’s something inherently spooky about the image of an aged Asian woman.  It conjurers up one heck of an uneasy feeling when coupled with a blood-soaked dead baby in her arms.  And it’s this image that author Jason D Brawn has utilised to a magnificent effect.  Outside of the image of the Ubume, the story doesn’t exactly offer up much else to chill your blood.  But luckily this is enough for this short.  And Brawn wraps the whole thing up nicely with a particularly ‘Kōji Suzuki’ style of ending.

V is for Veltis – ‘Rapture’ – Lily Childs – 16 Pages
Richard Walters’ undoing came about from the chance finding of seemingly most innocuous of things.  A small delicately embossed card that he found in the long grass at a nearby park.  An invitation to ‘The Rapture Club’.  A club that out of curiosity, or perhaps even fate, Walters decides to visit.  And once he does he becomes hooked.  Each night after that he is there.  But it’s the strangely alluring man he knows only as Babylon who takes Walters’ obsession to the next step.  Promises of exquisite pleasure and the ultimate seduction.  But for now he has to wait.  Wait and try to avoid his wife…

And I thought some of the other tales in this anthology were strange!  What author Lily Childs delivers here is possibly the most jam-packed and mind-boggling story of the lot.  The short has close similarities to the seductive pleasure/pain hell from Clive Barker’s ‘Hellraiser’ (1987), only somewhat diluted in its horror appeal and given an injection of added eroticism.  Only, it’s pretty hard to follow exactly what the hell is transpiring at any given time.  Unless Childs has purposefully made her story to be utterly disorientating and almost dreamlike in its strangeness, then one can only surmise that the stories confusing narrative is down to too much being shoehorned into its mere sixteen pages.  Although the reader is likely to spend half the time trying to decipher what is going on, the short still manages to maintain a consistently intriguing quality throughout.  Baffling, but with quite a lure.

W is for Werewolf – Andy Taylor – 12 Pages
Sharing his body with the wolf was a curse that he couldn’t escape.  The spiralling guilt he felt for each one of the savage kills was constantly gnawing away at him.  Admittedly, bad things happened in Sauget anyway.  And those that he ripped apart had made the choice to be out on those damned streets.  However it was whilst he was wandering around Sauget in the dead of night, wanting someone to end it all for him, that he laid eyes on the woman who would ultimately alter his whole perspective.  Through her influence he would lose control of the wolf; letting the beast run rampant.  And the inner battles he had been feeling would shift.  But adding another element in his chaotic psyche was never going to work out for the best…

Okay, so I had expected this to be a run-of-the-mill tale of werewolf savagery.  However, it’s not that at all.  What Andy Taylor offers up instead is a well-crafted and interesting take on lycanthropy.  As thought-provoking as it is rich in emotional turmoil; the short delivers a tale that examines and exposes the tormented psyche of our cursed narrator.  Add in the element of this strangely barely-defined third-party, and you’ve got an inner-conflict that holds together a powerfully introspective story.  An absolute triumph.

X is for XeXeu – ‘Final Song’ – Sandra Norval – 10 Pages
Looking back, our narrator remembers those stories of the XeXeu.  A giant Thunderbird whose expanse covered the sky; with flaming wings which beat down onto the landscape underneath it.  Now, as an ambitious student, things were different.  No longer could such stories be thought to be true.  And with the chance to go to the Amazon now a certainty following sponsorship from the Big Tree Fella Corps; receiving a PhD was becoming a distinct possibility.  But the research could have greater ramifications.  Repercussions that fellow researcher, Professor Palomu, had realised, only that bit too late…

Sandra Noval’s story is a bit of a minefield for problems.  With the timeframe jumping all over the shop from the outset, and our unnamed narrator never giving away much in the way of who they are (the narrator’s sex isn’t even disclosed), it’s hard to feel attached with anything or anyone within the story.  Indeed, as the plot gradually unfolds, it becomes increasingly hard to really get into anything that’s transpiring – the end result feeling little more than a strange dream at best, and a disjointed mess at worst.   A shame, as the final page delivers some tasty XeXeu vengeance.

Y is for Yule Lads – ‘The Fourteenth Visitor’ – Adrian Chamberlin – 14 Pages
Corporal Ellis was hiding behind the rock that formed a natural perimeter around the Dimmuborgir when the fourteenth visitor to the Dark Fortress arrived.  Baring a hunchback that was still easily visible in the dying North Icelandic sun, the sole surviving solider in this lone outpost was deeply unsure of what to do.  Could it possibly be Doctor Arnarsson who somehow made it across the Icelandic wilderness after being shot down in a helicopter by the Sons of Loki?  But why would the Scandinavian terrorist group have left the doctor alive?  Nevertheless the figure before him was there.  And he was requesting access to the one body that was left unburnt.  The question was, could this fourteenth visitor be trusted?...

I admit I’m a huge fan of Chamberlin’s work.  And once again, he doesn’t disappoint.  One thing that Chamberlin does so very well is research all the details within his stories.  And these small little details make a far richer and more all-consuming read.  What we have here is a tale that screams of a bitter isolation.  If you take John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982) and mix in an unsettling fairy-tale, only to warp and corrupt it to terrifying proportions – then you’re on your way to describing Chamberlin’s incredibly dark short.  I knew nothing of the jólasveinar prior to reading the tale.  But by god am I intrigued by the story behind these fourteen little Yule Lads.  Expect nothing short of a cold, soul-chilling read that ends on a sombre and darkly-poignant note.

Z is for Zulu Zombies – Barbie Wilde – 16 Pages
After consuming a tad too much alcohol on their best friend’s Hen Night, Trish and Debs managed to completely miss their train back home and instead found themselves curled up asleep in the Milton Keynes train station awaiting the next train.  Waking from their alcohol-induced slumber, they realised a train was just about to depart and clambered aboard without first checking that it was the right train.  And it wasn’t.  But that was far from the worst turn of events for them that night.  It was as the Train Inspector towered over them, thrusting an ancient spear into Debs’ gut, that things went decidedly bad for them.  The following Zulu Zombie rape of Trish was an equally sour note.  And its all thanks to a young man named John Jones, who couldn’t keep good care of one particular ancient stone bottle.  The Zombie Zulu warrior spirits were out in the streets of London…

I have to be honest, I was hooked on the story’s title alone.  Zulu Zombies – now there’s something to tantalise any good pulp-horror zombie fan.  And from the pen of one particularly sexy Cenobite to match.  Oh yes, with this final instalment you really are in for one hell of a treat.  Expect Zulu Zombie mayhem, undead rape, witch doctor rituals, vomiting and plenty of bloodshed.  Cram it all into one hell of an adrenaline pumping read – and you’ve got a strange ‘I Am Legend’ (1954) meets ‘Zulu’ (1964) meets ‘Horror Express’ (1972) maddening ride.  Thank you Ms Wilde – you’ve ended a superb anthology on one hell of a high.

The anthology runs for a total of 382 pages with an additional 12 pages for author biographies.

© DLS Reviews

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