First published back in July of 2017, British author Kayleigh Marie Edwards’ short story collection ‘Corpsing’ contained eight horror short stories, two of which were previously unpublished.

Bitey Bachman – 22 Pages
Brian had been working at Flagg’s Ranch insane asylum for well over twenty years now.  Him and Janet were pretty much part of the furniture.  He knew the facility inside and out.  Or at least he thought he did, until he learnt about the neighbouring hospital’s secret research lab located in the basement of their building.  That little nugget of information was news to him.  Nevertheless, knowing about it didn’t change what he had to do that night.  It was another graveyard shift, with just Janet, Nurse Mary and him on duty.  Unfortunately, the infuriating bastard – Fred Rice – was already riling the other patients up.  He’d set off Mr Bachman with his howling at the moon, which was never a good start to a shift.  Time to get the Diazepam and get these nutters doped up for the night.  Unfortunately a slight mistake in identifying the correct tranquilizer ruins any chance of a quiet night.  In fact, it opens the door for the goddam zombie apocalypse…

Ha! Is this story one hell of a lot of fun.  Set in an ex-riding ranch turned insane asylum, we follow ‘Rocky Horror Show’ addict Brian as he goes about his usual business working the graveyard shift, trying to keep peace and quiet and some form of order in the facility.  Even with its short page count, Edwards manages to flesh-out a wonderfully warm and ever-so-slightly eccentric character who pretty much makes the story.  Indeed, for much of the tale, it’s all about Brian and his quirky singing and dancing as he goes about his various routines.  When Bachman starts kicking off, the shit very quickly hits the proverbial fan.  But not in a ‘scare the bejeezus out of you’ sort of way.  Nah, instead this is a black comedy in the sort of way that Peter Jackson’s ‘Braindead’ (1992) is a black comedy.  You see, even though we’ve got a potential zombie outbreak on our hands, and things are escalating at an alarming rate, it’s all about how good old Brian reacts to it all.  His witty one liners.  His instant acceptance of the situation.  It’ll get you smiling at worst, and laughing your little head off at best.

Bits And Bobs – 8 Pages
As a child Steven Plunkett had been obsessed with all things morbid.  As he grew older, he knew he had to find something to satisfy his love of death.  The Body Farm seemed the ideal place.  He’d flown over from the UK to volunteer to be a porter there.  Of course they thought it was odd, but free labour was something no one could rightfully turn down.  For Steven though it was a dream come true.  At the Body Farm they laid unclaimed bodies out around their grounds for CSI trainees to learn from.  From this they’d study the mangled dead as they decomposed under the sun.  Sadly, the powers-that-be quickly decided Steven wasn’t right for the job.  So his dream had come to a bitter end.  Steven promised himself he’d leave with his dignity.  That and a grim little surprise of his own…

Oh, how good is this one?  It’s only very short.  Pretty much just flash fiction really.  But oh so very entertaining, with Edwards’ usual deeply dark wit riding abreast this thoroughly intriguing narrative.  The idea of Body Farms is insanely morbid.  Yet they exist!  I kid you not.  The first thing I did after reading this little number was Google the term.  And there it is – Body-fucking-Farms!  It’s got enough ammunition in its cannon for a damn good horror story, no matter where the author takes it.  Of course, Edwards goes for fucked-up comedy.  And it works an absolute treat.  Before you know it, you’re watching one hell of a grim climax to an altogether messed-up read.  Short, snappy and it goes straight for the balls of the matter.  Superb stuff.

The story was first published within the ‘Give: An Anthology Of Anatomical Entries’ (2015) anthology.

Siren – 26 Pages
Lucy Black didn’t like her new house, and she’d told her mother as much.  Being eleven, she found the concept of ‘adult issues’ difficult.  Her parents had fallen out and were presently getting divorced.  So she and her mother had to go live somewhere else.  It seemed so unfair.  Why didn’t she have a choice in the matter?  The new house was in a tiny, isolated village, with a lake running next to it.  Lucy hated it.  Hated the house.  Hated the lake.  Hated her mother.  However, that started to change when she saw the little girl in the late.  The girl just sat there, in the freezing cold water, beckoning Lucy.  At first Lucy was afraid, but when they spoke, she began to realise the girl could be a new friend.  Alice would never leave her.  Alice was her friend.  Her special, secret friend…

Here we see Edwards tackling an altogether different style of horror.  In essence we have a tale designed to chill your blood.  Mission achieved m’lady.  You see, from the outset Edwards starts laying the first building blocks for what will quickly become one sinister little tale.  Anything involving kids, that’s told from their perspective, as they try to make some sense out of life’s difficulties, is always going to pull on your heartstrings.  Edwards utilises this to her advantage, whilst simultaneously weaving in a deeply unnerving and altogether eerie ‘The Ring’ (1998) style supernatural presence.  You can kind of guess where the story’s leading.  But that doesn’t detract from the heart-thumping tension Edwards has managed to create.  It’s dark, sinister, and purposefully emotive as it plays with your sympathies like a sadistic puppeteer.

The story was first published within the ‘Nightmares & Echoes’ (2014) anthology.

Now You See Them – 6 Pages
Bobby didn’t want to go to bed.  It wasn’t that he wanted to stay up playing or anything, he was just scared of what would happen when he was left alone in his room with the lights out.  He’d glimpsed them before.  Moving.  Shuffling.  Waiting for him to be alone.  He didn’t want to find out what they would do when he was finally in bed.  Alone…

Another creepyass story designed to chill.  It’s one that uses that all-too-familiar inherent fear which many young children have with going to bed alone with the lights out.  You know the score.  Things that appear to be lurking in the shadows.  Slight movements you’re sure you glimpsed within your peripheral vision.  Only here of course, they’re actually there.  And Edwards delivers one bitch of a gut-punch to end this short, sharp, shock of a story with.

The story was first published within the ‘In Creeps The Night’ (2015) anthology.

Skin – 24 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.

The story was first published within the ‘The Black Room Manuscripts: Volume One’ (2015) anthology.

‘S’ Day – 10 Pages
Bobby Taylor was a little sod.  He was one of those demanding eight-year-olds who wouldn’t take no for an answer.  His shrill little voice was always demanding something, and of course, Kate always caved.  It wasn’t even lunchtime and he was already requesting a bowl of chicken soup.  But when Kate refused Bobby’s demand, he decided upon a different course of action.  He began to pray for it.  Relentlessly.  Unfortunately for Bobby, and indeed the rest of the world, God was in no mood for Bobby’s whining.  No mood at all…

This one’s hilarious.  Edwards almost always uses a wonderfully engaging and entertaining voice when delivering her humour-filled stories.  Ok, so this one’s not really ‘horror’ per se.  It nevertheless still fits in perfectly with the rest of the stories in the anthology.  A spot of vengeance-fuelled comeuppance for a whinny little brat of a kid, which quickly escalates to catastrophic proportions.  All with a thick helping of dark humour and ladles of maniacal imagination.  To be honest, it’s stuff like this that makes Edwards such a good writer.

The story was first published within the ‘Deluge: Stories Of Survival & Tragedy In The Great Flood’ (2015) anthology.

Barry’s Last Day – 20 Pages
After spending forty odd years as a builder, it was now Barry Pufton’s last day before his retirement.  Not that he particularly wanted to retire.  He’d been pushed into it by the foreman, Todd Tafwell.  To say Barry was bitter about the situation was an understatement.  Tafwell was younger and far less experienced than him.  The fact that Tafwell landed the foreman job instead of him irked Barry even to this day.  However, on his way to the building estate, Barry begins to plot a devious scheme for his last day.  A plan involving the contents of a bag of magic mushrooms he’d confiscated from his no-hoper son that very morning.  Today Tafwell was going to get the shock of his life.  A sly grin spread across Barry’s face for the first time in years.  What could possibly go wrong?...

Another magnificently entertaining read from Edwards.  Again we’re offered up a good helping of the author’s dark humour, and once again it’s without really edging into the field of horror.  This particular tale reads distinctly like something author Kit Power would pen.  The inner monologue of our disgruntled narrator plays a key role in the tale.  The farcical situation that escalates quite preposterously is where the story finds its mojo.  Indeed, it’s these aspects which makes for one damn amusing read.  The way that Edwards tells the story through bitter old Barry Pufton’s perspective is undoubtedly where the story really excels.  Almost every thought and word uttered through his lips brings a smirk to your face.  And then the ending.  What an ending!  Did I say this wasn’t horror?  I might be wrong there.  Sheer genius.

The story was first published within the ‘Death By Chocolate’ (2016) anthology.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – 16 Pages
The dog had only gone and ruined their Christmas tree the day before Christmas Eve.  Now the three of them were out searching for a replacement.  However, with Christmas so close, unsurprisingly all the shops were sold out of trees.  Now ten-year-old twins, Dan and Nathan, were getting fed-up with all the searching.  Their dad had given up on the shops and they were now searching the woods by their house for a suitable tree.  Sadly that hadn’t been going so well.  That is until they came across the one pine tree in the whole damn woods.  Unfortunately, it had been planted exactly where they’d buried their beloved cat, not so long ago.  The kids weren’t happy with the prospect of using a tree which had been growing on that particular spot.  It felt wrong.  Unfortunately their dad disagreed…

Here we have a good old fashioned Christmas horror story to end the collection with.  It’s a bit of a slow burner, with the wacky ‘horror’ behind the tale taking a little while to be revealed.  Furthermore, when the crazy threat within the story is revealed, it’s only in glimpses and suggestive sounds.  Never really brought into full view.  The story is also quite purposefully a tongue-in-cheek reworking of King’s classic story, ‘Pet Semetary’ (1983), only with a slightly weirder reanimation.  Indeed, Edwards even references the book in her story.  However, despite the outrageous oddness of the ‘horror’ behind it, Edwards hasn’t really injected much of her usual humour into the tale.  It’s a shame, as this would have worked incredibly well with the zaniness of the plot.  As it stands, we’re left with a story that feels a tad lost, somewhere between oddball bizarro horror and a yuletide Christmas treat of camp-tastic terror.

The collection runs for a total of 133 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

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