First published back in July of 2015, The Sinister Horror Company’s anthology ‘The Black Room Manuscripts: Volume One’ brought together twenty short stories by some of the best up-and-coming names in the horror genre.

Foreword - Horror Today – Jim McLeod – 4 Pages
Kicking off the anthology, horror aficionado and owner of the ‘Ginger Nuts Of Horror’ website Jim McLeod ponders on the state of horror today – referencing the accessibility for indie authors to get their work out there, the publishers that have allowed genre fiction to grow, the continuation of the big hitters in the genre, as well as the middle-ground authors, and the importance of promoting the novels that deserve such attention.  All in all a very thought-provoking and passionate piece by a man who really knows the genre – and what better way to kick off a horror anthology with?!

Prologue – Daniel Marc Chant – 2 Pages
He’d searched the house high and low for the gold but found nothing.  It had clearly been a mistake to kill the old man before he had made him reveal where the gold was hidden.  Now his dying words came back to haunt him.  But what was their meaning?  Pasher tagoth imra…Paher tagoth imra…

Author and one-third owner of the Sinister Horror Company, Daniel Marc Chant, offers up the first of a two part bookending story.  Condensed right down until pretty much every single word is important, this somewhat mysteriously surreal first short simultaneously sets the scene, establishes the two characters, lays down the basic (but incredibly sketchy) plot and unveils a suspenseful cliffhanger – all in the matter of just over a page.  There’s absolutely no hanging around here.

The Stranger – Danny King – 3 Pages
He’d gone to the bar to meet a girl, but ended up being stood up.  As he was about to leave, an odd-looking guy sits down next to him, placing a fresh pint down in front of him and beginning to talk about his life.  Having been bought a drink, he felt obliged to stop a while and listen to this stranger unburdening himself.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?...

Danny King’s uber-short offering is a campfire-style horror story with one of those sweet-ass kicks in its tail that instantly brings a smile to your face.  Ok, it’s short and sweet and completely one-dimensional, but that glorious twist-ending makes it a damn pleasing little short.

Time For Tea – Duncan P. Bradshaw – 15 Pages
After they’d all received an invitation to the opening of a tea room, the four of them had gotten a table together in the recently refurbished basement area, and sat there waiting to see what happened next.  After all, the invitations weren’t exactly for your usual opening event.  In fact, they weren’t exactly here of their own accord.  Like everyone else sitting around their respective tables, they’d all received invitations and realised they all had no choice but attend.  Now they just had to see what was in store for them…

Duncan P. Bradshaw certainly loves his tongue-in-cheek ‘80s style horror.  It was particularly evident in his novel ‘Class Four: Those Who Survive’ (2015) and it’s certainly the case here.  Indeed, the whole delivery of the short is very reminiscent of his ‘Trevor Norman’s Penny Gaff Post-Apocalyptic Circus’ from ‘Class Four: Those Who Survive’ (2015).  It’s as imaginatively wacky as it is brilliantly horrific.  You just can imagine Bradshaw dreaming up these weird and wonderful ideas from particularly lucid nightmares, then frantically scribbling them down upon waking.  There’s barely any rhyme or reason behind them – just good old fashioned odd-ball horror to thrill and entertain. Oh the sheer fun of it all!

Hide And Shriek – Vincent Hunt – 14 Pages
Gretchen Hollow had found the perfect hiding place.  Unfortunately she was sharing it with her annoying younger brother Andy.  They were playing hide and seek at Danny Blanks’ birthday party, and although warned not to go too far into the house, Gretchen and Andy had gone all the way to the very top floor and hidden in a vast old closet that they’d found there.  Since then a good forty-five minutes had passed and still no one had found them.  Gretchen was starting to think that maybe choosing such a good hiding place that was so far inside the old house wasn’t such a great idea after all…

Yeah, the premise is that old horror chestnut – kids playing hide and seek, hiding away in a creepy old house, and then seeing something that makes their blood run cold in there.  It’s a textbook horror short story plot.  Not exactly bursting with originality, but if done well, it’s nevertheless still got plenty of potential to get you by the balls and give you one hell of a scare.  And to be fair, author Vincent Hunt does a damn good job at setting the scene, getting just the right atmosphere, and then slowly but surely unveiling his horrific grand finale.  Equal parts sinister as it is atmospherically chilling – the story reads like Tim Burton re-writing a Brothers Grimm tale.

Room At The Inn – Adam Millard – 17 pages
It was the day before Christmas Eve and Dr Beaman had arrived into Cumberland with no options for accommodation left available other than the Kirkstone Inn.  Arriving at the inn, the doctor finds it to be incredibly tired, old and missing any degree of charm.  However, it’s the strange rules that greet him which perturb the doctor the most.  Room seven is out of bounds.  Guests attempting to gain access to room seven will be ejected without refund.  For a man of science (and not of faith) it was a rule that niggled at him like a rotting tooth.  What could be behind the door of room seven that could justify such a perverse rule?  It was something that Dr Beaman knew his ever-curious mind would be craving to find out…

Adam Millard abandons his usual weird and wacky and over-the-top craziness for a more atmospherically-charged ghost story.   Set back in 1887, the story oozes with a suitably dark and dank late-nineteenth century Britain vibe from the outset.  However, it’s with Millard’s masterful skill at fermenting the suspenseful mystery surrounding room seven that really makes the story.  And when it’s revealed (as the story had undoubtedly been building towards) and the tale draws towards its end, Millard signs the whole thing off in a pretty darn creepyass fashion that ends it in style.

Clandestine Delights – J.R. Park – 25 Pages
Ben Varrey was a very wealthy man.  In fact, thanks to some shrewd business decisions, he’d become one of the richest men in the world.  But, as a single man, he still craved something more out of life.  And as he pursued life’s discreet passions, exploring the temptations of the flesh, he’d heard whisperings of something more.  Something that the luxurious hotel - The Maid of the Wave - could offer.  He’d spent months quizzing the high-end prostitute, Lorelei.  But no one dared speak a word about it.  Until now.  His time had finally come.  After months of waiting, he’d finally get to experience the ultimate in clandestine delights…

I might as well get straight to the point here - this is a frigging superb short story!  Think Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’ (2005) meets Edward Lee’s ‘The Chosen’ (1993), crossed with a Clive Barker style search for the ultimate sensual thrill.  Wrap that all up in a fast-paced, tightly-written and incredibly atmospheric short story – and you’ve got yourself one hell of an entertaining read.  At a mere 25 pages, somehow Park’s managed to cram so damn much in here.  There’s intrigue and mystery and bucket-loads of tension-rich suspense.  Literally from the first couple of sentences you’ll be sucked right into this darkly seductive tale.  Its stories like this that really make an anthology.  Quite simply superb.

Waiting For The Right Stop – Madeleine Swann – 7 Pages
She really didn’t want to have to go back.  Terry and her had an argument and she’d stayed in a B&B for the night.  But now Lilly was on her way.  She’d boarded the double-decker bus that she was sure would get her back.  Her map told her it would.  But she didn’t recognise any of the streets.  Nor any of the dreary buildings.  She didn’t recognise anything.  Hopefully her stop wouldn’t be long…

This is a weird one.  Disorientatingly surreal in a purposefully sketchy way.  Reading the short you feel like you’re in a nightmarish dream – watching as around you the grey and dreary world becomes increasingly menacing.  It’s like a messed-up trip gone very bad.  And it plays at your nerves.  Worrying you.  Putting a shadow over you.  Depressing you.  There’s no light relief to be found here I’m afraid.  But instead you have a properly atmospheric and downright creepy short to play with your mind.

Equinox – Craig Anderson-Jones – 21 Pages
The Epiphany and her four-man crew had been sent into the abyss to explore planets that had been identified as potential replacements for Earth.  Out in the depths of space, Captain Sian Yokohuri had been woken by the Epiphany’s computer, Ellie, to inform her that preliminary scans of the planet known only as MC-671 showed there was a chance that there could be life on the planet.  Upon waking him, the Captain sends out her ship specialist - Kurt Falwasser.  But when things go wrong, Kurt is forced to land on the unknown planet alone, whilst the rest of the crew attempt to fix the ship without him.  But Kurt isn’t alone…

Sci-fi horror – it’s hard not to just love it!  Here we have a short the mashes together the likes of ‘Event Horizon’ (1997),‘Inseminoid’ (1981), ‘Aliens’ (1986) and the shit-scary first half of Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’ (2011).  Sound good?  Well, author Craig Anderson-Jones shovels on the suspense like there’s no tomorrow; executing a near textbook sci-fi horror venture into the unknown.  Nothing breathtakingly original here – but it’s simply a damn entertaining read from start to finish.

He Said, It Said – Leo Stableford – 17 Pages
The acolyte purchased a copy of the Libris Ex Enunciato Pandaemonium Mortis off ebay for a mere $40 plus shipping.  Considering the potentially rare content, and the age of the tome, it was a risk he thought was probably worth taking.  And as it turned out, the demonic volume was exactly as described.  With it, the acolyte was able to summon up a demon from the Outer Hells.  And sure enough the demon Gu’Lor, who dealt in soul acquisition, materialised.  But the Xeno-ha-atep-ra wasn’t what it used to be.  Times had changed.  Not only in our world – but also in Hell itself…

With tongue firmly wedged in his cheek, author Leo Stableford delivers a comical short bringing the occult into our modern world.  Laced with over-the-top Lovecraftian-sytyle names, the short spends the majority of its length juggling fantastical ancient occultist practices with elements of our modern commercial world.  Of course it doesn’t fit well.  That’s the point.  Its oddness and awkwardness is what makes the whole thing work.  Think ‘The History Of The Devil’ (1980) with a touch of ‘Mister B. Gone’ (2007) – all with a very similar black comedy vibe to it.

Plagiarism – Martin Jones – 13 Pages
At the age of fifteen, Dave Reynolds discovered the enjoyment he got from playing the part of someone else.  Not only did pretending to be someone else give him a thrill, but it could also reap plenty of rewards.  At fifteen, using someone else’s ID, he was able to buy booze and cigarettes from the local shop.  As he grew older he picked up girls claiming to be a company director, solider, or doctor.  Playing someone else was damn handy.  But how far is too far?...

This is an intriguing one.  For the vast majority of the short story you have pretty much no idea where author Martin Jones plans to take the tale.  As the story comes to its final page you’re still none the wiser on where the horror element will come in.  And then in the last couple of paragraphs there you have it – a very last minute spike-through-the-gut and the grim reality lurking behind the escalating storyline hits home.  Although the vast majority of the tale is devoid of any nasty little surprises, the story as a whole is still a very entertaining read – with the characterisation and ‘voice’ telling the story really making it an enjoyable little read.  But of course that ending’s what it’s all about.

Lanmò – Thomas S. Flowers – 44 Pages
The year was 1964, and in Greenwood, Mississippi John Turner was out in his father’s 1953 Cadillac canvassing the Delta in support of the CORE.  Not knowing the roads around a particular rural stretch, Turner found himself lost along a dirt road when a police cruiser pulled him over.  Smelling trouble John Turner tried to be as respectful and as apologetic as possible to the officer.  But Turner hadn’t been pulled over for any offence.  Nor was this a routine stop.  Trouble was in the stifling Mississippi air.  Officer Sean Hannity, together with Deputy Bill O’Reilly, and locals Billy Dalton and Huckabee, had a message to send.  Under a tall weeping willow, the four men had themselves a lynching.  Whilst still alive, John Turner’s body was then hacked to pieces; his remains photographed before being buried in a shallow grave beside the willow tree.  His brutal death was to be a message to all the coloureds who had ideas of desegregation.  But there were those that would not stand for such heinous crimes.  Those who sought vengeance.  And it would come with an odour of sweet rum that was somehow rotting.  And it would reek of divine retribution…

God damn is this a grim reminder of America’s past.  Author Thomas S. Flowers pulls absolutely no punches in delivering a vicious and hard-hitting horror that’s made a thousand times more shocking by being embedded within a thick quagmire of truth.  The first third of the short is blood-chillingly real with the lynching of the black man John Turner.  Flowers delivers these initial chapters with a bold and powerfully evocative prose that leaves you cold and sickened.  Absolutely faultless execution.  The latter two-thirds of the short are where the supernatural-cum-voodoo horror kicks in.  Somewhat thankfully we’ve escaped into realms of horror fiction now – and although we’re given a respite from the reality of the horror being offered, to counteract this Flowers instead ramps up the violence and vengeful bloodshed to near-splatterpunk proportions.  Hand on heart – this is one of the finest and most powerful shorts I’ve read in a long time.

When The Pin Hits The Shell – Kit Power – 11 Pages
His whole life seemed to have been leading up to this one moment.  At the age of five he’d played in the dusty yard outside whilst his no-good father beat his mother.  At twelve Dan lost his cherry to a whore.  Of course by now he’d killed his own father.  Later he would kill again.  But this time it was for mercy.  He was tough.  He was hard.  But when it all came down to that one moment, when you were faced with the end, the whole world would slow down and all those years would come flooding back in a flash.  And that’s when the pin hits the shell…

I frigging love Kit Power’s work!  His writing’s so fresh.  So purposeful and direct.  Here we have a gritty Wild West type of story, with a Cormac McCarthy style of prose.  The story as a whole has been very carefully constructed, with probably as much thought gone into how it will be executed as to the various intricacies within it.  The whole construction reminds me of Joseph D’Lacey’s ‘Roadkill’ (2013) – utilising a stretched and expanded timeframe where a mere second takes up pages upon pages.  It’s clever – and it makes for an intense edge-of-the-seat read.  Once again Kit Power shows his impressive versatility as a writer by penning a very different style of writing once again – and once again it just works so damn well.

Hand Job Italiano – D.K. Ryan – 14 Pages
Fatima Santan had moved from her native Italy in search of a better life in the UK.  Stumpy in stature, with an awkward limp, and the carrier of an ugly hairy wart underneath her left nostril - her unfortunate looks had done nothing to deter her from pursuing a lifelong dream to become the greatest hand model the world had ever seen.  And it wasn’t long before she spotted her potential first job in the UK.  An opportunity for staring in an advert for worming tablets.  It was a start.  The beginnings of her lifelong ambition.  However, her interview with advert director Derek Swanner would prove far more challenging than any of the hand model jobs she’d previously applied for…

Here we have another short that successfully mixes horror with the very blackest of comedy.  From the outset author David Karl Ryan injects a near-constant stream of witty over-the-top descriptions and wonderfully surreal conversational banter; serving the reader with pure entertainment on a comedy-rich platter.  It’s probably fair to say that the story as a whole is a bit all over the place.  It starts off by setting the scene and premise, when all of a sudden Ryan throws in the first thick helping of horror.  As completely unexpected as it is, the delivery and resulting turn in direction comes across as completely out of sync with where the storyline was at.  Furthermore, despite having quite a clever (and totally unforeseeable) twist-ending, it results in a fair bit of the preceding story not quite adding up.  However, you can’t deny that this is one heck of an entertaining short read.

Long Haul – David James – 20 Pages
Primary Pilot Conrad Dexter had awoken from a long deep space sleep, disorientated and surrounded by icy stasis fluid.  Riding that first seething wave of agony was always the worst bit of coming out of a long sleep in a stasis pod.  He knew that he’d be one of the very first to be brought out of deep sleep.   It would just be him, First Engineer Jen-Hui Tsai, and Software Tech Will Morgan.  All the cattle and everyone else on the ship would be left to sleep for weeks.  But the three of them had a job to do now.  But as Conrad begins to get his shit together, he realises that he hasn’t heard from the other two for a while.  Where the hell were they?...

Author David James offers up the second sci-fi horror in the anthology – here utilising the disorientation produced by a long stasis sleep in deep space.  And fair do’s to the author, the short oozes of a fog-like confusion as we try to put together the pieces of what’s going on and where the hell we are.  Of course there’s something far more sinister awaiting us.  And the unveiling of this brutal treat is a bit of a heart-stopper.  It’s all quite nicely played out, with a tension that doesn’t know when to quit and a final delightful twist that’ll get you sitting up and grinning with sadistic glee.

Cuttings – Duncan Ralston – 29 Pages
When Gavin Leslie arrived home driving an ugly old RAM van, Gavin’s wife, Katie, couldn’t believe he’d actually paid good money for it.  Okay, so he’d recently lost his job and wanted to start up a florist business, but surely he could have done better than this beat up old van.  In the back there was a disgustingly stained mattress along with some poorly fitted kitchen units.  One phrase came to mind when Katie saw the vehicle – rape van.  But Gavin seemed to love it, so she let him carry on with it.  However for Gavin the van was something else.  At first it brought back fond memories from his past.  The cassette player with all the old 80’s hair metal he used to love.  Gavin found that driving around in the van was a way for him to unwind.  But it wasn’t long before Gavin started hearing a voice inside the vehicle.  It seemed to be speaking to him.  Coercing him.  Making him do things.  The van had history.  All the hookers knew the previous owner – a shady guy named Tony.  And now it looked like Tony hadn’t left after all.  He was here in the van – making Gavin do things.  Twisting him.  And slowly but surely Gavin was changing…

Hell this is a gritty one.  Duncan Ralston’s not a man who shies away from the brutal side of things.  Just looked at shorts like ‘Artifact (#37)’, where we see seedy internet porn film makers responsible for instigating a serious of brutal rapes and murders.  Ralston’s writing has so often veered towards the grimmer, grittier side of human nature.  And with ‘Cuttings’ we have another hard-hitting example of this.  Expect scenes of brutal misogynistic violence.  Expect twisted fantasies depicting sadistic rape.  Expect to see this from behind the eyes of a hideous and vile killer.  But interwoven through all of this there’s a carefully planned twist that will leave you cold.  Brilliantly executed.  Masterfully penned characters and storyline.  Another prime example of how damn well this young Canadian author can write.

Conductive Salts – Daniel Marc Chant – 10 Pages
It was nearing the end of a long day of roaming the countryside with their metal detectors when Brett and Emma decided to head to the nearby beach.  The last dregs of sunlight were fading when their border collie, Bramble, started barking at the sandy ground around a concrete block that was used for mooring.  After digging into the damp sand, Brett pulls out a small statuette depicting a strange beast – part snake, part squid, and part mollusc.  Emma instantly has an uneasy feeling and the dog seems terrified by the statuette.  Regardless, Brett couldn’t be persuaded to throw his bronze prize back into the sea, and so it came with them.  However, upon finding the strange statuette their seemed to be change in Brett’s temperament.  He no longer seemed the same loveable boyfriend to Emma.  Even Bramble seemed to notice the shift in his personality.  Emma didn’t like it at all.  And it all seemed to be since Brett found that eerie statuette…

This one is pure Lovecraft / Clark Ashton Smith territory.  In fact, it would be perfectly at home in one of those numerous ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ anthologies that seem to appear every few months.  Don’t get me wrong – that’s not to say such stories don’t have their own merit.  Continuing with and expanding upon such an imaginative mythos can often produce some damn entertaining stories.  And although not announcing itself as such a tale - Daniel Marc Chant’s short would nevertheless fall into this territory.  Okay, so the idea behind the short isn’t exactly brimming with originality.  I seem to recall at least five or six shorts which utilise this basic plot.  But it’s with Chant’s delivery of the story, along with the delightfully swift vicious ending to the tale that makes it potentially stand taller than its peers.  I have to admit – I really did enjoy this one.

Skin – Kaleigh Marie Edwards – 19 Pages
Fifteen-year-old Amy Cook was with her boyfriend, Martin, when the spider bit her.  The second the spider punctured her skin pain blossomed out from the wound.  Within a minute a yellow-coloured ring had formed around the two puncture wounds on her calf, and the entire leg had started to throb.  Before killing it, Martin noticed that the spider had a strange pentagram design on its back.  Nevertheless they assumed it just to be a false widow.  However, as the hours passed by, Amy’s leg worsened.  The doctors’ tests came back inconclusive.   And she was duly sent home to rest.  But the flesh around the puncture wound continued to deteriorate.  This was something far worse than a normal spider bite.  This was something truly horrific…

Stories involving a strange insect bite are usually pretty nasty.  And this one’s certainly no exception.  With a plot somewhat akin to Chad Archibald’s recent film ‘Bite’ (2015), Edwards’ short is predominantly focussed upon our inherent phobia of what we fear could happen after suffering a bite from an unusual insect.  Edwards toys with this fear factor, gradually upping the game on the resulting reaction until we’re treated to a cross between David Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly’ (1986) and Eli Roth’s ‘Cabin Fever’ (2002).  That’s right – the gore levels are high, the suffering is teeth-grinding, and the outlook’s pretty damn bleak.  It’s all good stuff.

Needs Must – A. S. Chambers – 8 Pages
Odd Bod lived at the very bottom of a roomy, dank and dark well.  He liked his home.  It suited him well.  However, over recent months the food supply that would send down wooden buckets for water had stopped coming.  True enough the water in the well had also dried up. Nevertheless, Odd Bod feared the worst.  What if he’d eaten all of the food?  He had one choice left.  He had to climb the well and see what was left up there in the horrible light outside…

Love this one.  Chambers has utilised quite a clever little idea, by telling the entire short story from the perspective of a bloodthirsty troll that lives at the bottom of a well.  With tongue-in-cheek, Chambers paints a picture of child-like innocence in this troll character – making him out to be more of a misunderstood anti-hero.  Of course as we read the story we’ve got at the back of our mind what we’d be thinking on the other side of the well.  And it’s this double-play that works triumphantly in the story’s favour.  It’s clever and imaginative and wonderfully original.  And if that’s not enough – Chambers has got a wicked little twist-ending treat in store for you to put the veritable icing on the cake.

The Octagonal Cabinet – Ian Caldwell – 16 Pages
He’d received an invitation from his old university friend, Lord Aries, to attend a formal party at Aries’ country house.  Seeing it as a chance to use his motorcar and a good opportunity to take his fiancée, Harriet, out of the city, he duly accepted.  However, upon arriving it appeared that it would only be Aries and them, along with another old university friend – Sir Charles Darrow – until all the other guests arrived later on that evening.  But it allowed Aries time to show them his most prized possession.  An octagonal cabinet that he acquired during his travels in Africa.  However, this was no normal cabinet.  Upon opening the doors one could access a trapdoor that led down into a vast chamber below.  And when the cabinet was rotated, it would open out into an entirely different underground chamber.  The cabinet defied all logic.  It flummoxed Darrow to the point of barely-suppressed anger.  And it made them all want to investigate further.  But some secrets are best left alone…

Written with an Algernon Blackwood meets E.F. Benson meets Henry James style of mysterious plot –author Ian Caldwell’s wonderfully imaginative short is one that whispers of those age-old penny dreadfuls from the nineteenth century.  Caldwell has managed to capture the charm, the pacing, and the chilling supernatural scare factor perfectly – producing a story that entices you in with a piecemeal mystery which never really explains itself fully.  However, although some aspects are left unexplained, this doesn’t detract from the short tale one bit.  Delightfully strange and puzzling with a good wedge of eerie thrills thrown in for good measure.  It’s a good ‘un.

Happy Anniversary – Paul Townsend – 11 Pages
Over the past few months he’d been saving up his overtime pay at the fire department in order to celebrate their second wedding anniversary in style.  He’d reserved a table at a particularly fine restaurant, he’d booked a chauffeur to take them there, and he’d even put on some tux.  However, when his wife, Chrissy, opened their front door to the driver, seeing the limo waiting behind him, all she’d seen was the money it must have cost.  Furthermore, when they arrived at the restaurant her mood didn’t change one bit.  Extravagance like this cost money.  And she wasn’t going to hold back with her feelings on her husband spending out like this.  It was going to be one tough night…

Here we have one of those short stories that’s all about the ending.  Without the last few sentences, the story would be just of a married couple’s anniversary night that quickly sours.  However, with that all-important twist ending, what you have instead is an instant explosion of horror that turns the whole thing around and ends the short on a dark and wonderfully gruesome note.  To be honest, I didn’t see that final twist coming.  Executed to absolute perfection.  And it really makes the short.  Paul Townsend – we salute you!

And In The Endless Pause, There Came The Sound Of Bees – Jeffery X Martin – 16 Pages
Bobby loved the Princess Shonda, and he reckoned she felt the same.  However, he was just the Caretaker for the Colony.  And even though the Princess would sneak out of the Palace to spend time with Bobby as he did his rounds of the Colony, at the back of his mind Bobby always knew that one day Shonda would be Queen of the whole place.  And then one day, the inevitable event happened with the announcement that the Queen was dead.  From that moment on everything changed.  Bobby no longer saw Shonda.  That is, until some three years later when he was summoned to the Royal Suite, and he was faced with his own inevitable destiny…

As the anthology begins to draw to a close, author Jeffery X Martin offers up a short crammed with ingenious imagination.  Taking the structure of a bee colony as its basis, Martin transposes mankind into the Colony model, utilising two principal characters – the Princess-soon-to-become-Queen and a lowly Caretaker.  So far so imaginatively conceived – but with little in the way of horror per se.  However, although the majority of the tale delivers a somewhat clichéd love story, Martin has some gut-churningly gruesome delights up his proverbial sleeve to end the short with.  And gruesome is certainly the word to use here.  For all you insect loving entomologists out there – this one’s for you!

Epilogue – Daniel Marc Chant – 2 Pages
Antonio removed the dagger from the miser’s heart, cursing that someone else had robbed him of the chance to kill the man himself.  Never mind, his search for the book was surely drawing to a close.  Somewhere in this house he would find the ancient volume.  And then it would be his at last…

Finishing the fiction in the anthology is Daniel Marc Chant’s second part in his oddly surreal horror short story snippet.  In the same vein as the first part which kick-started the collection, Chant offers up a sketchy and almost dreamlike glimpse of what feels to be a much larger story.  As if we’re peeking through the curtains at a tragic horror for the briefest of seconds, Chant spills out a dramatic final sequence – offering the meekest essence of the story whilst leaving the rest purposefully untold.  Ultimately it’s more of a tease than a truly satisfying read – but you can’t help but feel that this was the author’s intention all along.

Afterword - Horror As A Uniting Force – Jennifer Handorf – 3 Pages
Indie Academy Award Winning Producer Jennifer Handorf (The Borderlands, The Devil’s Business, Little Deaths) signs off the anthology with an intriguing and engaging look at the reasoning for our enjoyment of the horror genre, why  we get a thrill out of it, and why it is potentially therapeutic to embrace it.  An incredibly well-written and thought-provoking afterword which ends the collection on just the right note.

The anthology runs for a total of 350 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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