Tag Archives: nightmare magazine

Short Tuesday #35: “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed" by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story! It’s set in Nigeria and incorporates tons of the local flavor, in terms of the dialogue, setting, and local superstitions. I’m realizing that maybe I have a thing for African horror, since I also love the South African duo S.L. Grey–maybe I should put in a conscious effort to read more genre fiction from that area of the world, since I always find the African-tinged worldbuilding so fascinating.

All the body horror fans listen up, because this story is for you. If you’ve ever wanted a first-person view of what it’s like to turn demonic, with all the gory teeth-gnashing and claw-growing details, definitely check this one out. That’s the story in essence–as simple as a poor high school boy who is unlucky enough to go through a second monstrous puberty. The author gets it done with vivid imagery and a pacing and tone that I found riveting and oddly poetic. It was the kind of story where I just couldn’t look away; if you’re looking for a quick horror read, this is one I highly recommend.

Short Tuesday #34: “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson. You can read the story for free here…

I thought this short story was great! It follows two Mexican brothers who discover a baby in the middle of the road while they’re walking home from a night spent drinking. I was really impressed with the atmospheric tone Larson sets immediately, as well as the quick characterization that nevertheless totally allowed me to understand the dynamic between the two brothers in the story. Larson accomplishes a lot in this quick short story; the whole thing wraps up within 1500 words!

The Mexican cultural details contributed a lot to the piece, and everything had just the right amount of ambiguity–I’m never on board with horror that shines a light on every detail. I also loved the author’s voice, and would definitely read more by Larson. It didn’t have that extra je ne sais quoi to take it to a five-star read, but nevertheless, I really recommend giving this story a read if you have ten minutes to spare.

Short Tuesday #33: HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

It’s spooky season, and I thought the only proper way to do Short Tuesday this week would be to give a whole bunch of suggestions for short stories that will scare you senseless! No need to crack open a thousand-page Stephen King novel when you can get your scares done in less than ten thousand words. 😀 Some of these short stories are tamer than others, but all of them pack a wallop; each story is a five-star read for me, and every single one of them you can read for free! So pick your candy, and have a great Halloween.


Snickers: the crowd-pleaser

I had a couple different contenders for this category, but “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George, which I just read for the first time last week, had to be the winner. “Future” features a teen MC who just can’t stop encountering eighties slasher-type killers. It’s great for anyone who wants a more YA feel, it’s bloody, it has a start-to-finish arc (sometimes hard to come by in short fiction!), and it’s brilliant.


Popcorn: the classic

For this category I suggest H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats in the Walls.” I think that Lovecraft can sometimes seem a bit unapproachable to people who haven’t read him, because there have been so many other works inspired by him. I mean, he sparked an entire horror sub-genre, for crying out loud. “The Rats in the Walls” is an easy gateway into Lovecraft, and for a story from 1924, it features some truly terrifying imagery and an awesome ending.

By the way, I just want to give a small warning that the name of the cat in this story infamously features a racial slur, and the name of the cat has featured a lot in discussion about Lovecraft’s racial views. This isn’t the place to go into that, but I just wanted to give anyone reading a heads up.


Candy Corn: the love-it-or-hate-it

I’m putting “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito in this category for a couple reasons. First off, it’s a short horror manga, so if manga is not your thing then… this won’t be your thing. 😛 Secondly, this story is basically a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” has made all the rounds on the Internet, and it totally deserves its infamy; it will stick with you.

All right, you’ve been warned! ❤


King-Size Candy Bar: just keeps on giving

For this category I suggest the sprawling “Interface Series,” which was a series of bizarre, non sequitur Reddit posts by username _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. You can start reading here. The posts swiftly attracted interest, garnering media attention and questions about whether the project would be turned into a book. There was also some speculation about whether the posts had any link to Stranger Things, as there were similar elements between the two works and the first season of the TV show was released just a few months after _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 started posting. Anyway, “The Interface Series” isn’t a short story per se, but each post is pretty short and will keep you hungering for more, so I think it’s a great fit for anyone who’s craving a king-size candy bar. 😀


Tootsie Caramel Apple Lollipop: the dark horse

If you love SCP, r/nosleep, and creepypasta, then I suggest the classic “Ted the Caver” as a seriously creepy Halloween read. (And if that’s a bunch of gobbledygook to you, well, you’re missing out!) You want to know what I love about this? It’s a website from literally 2001, that is still on Angelfire, that gets the spook done in a magnificent way. This one story has stuck with me for years. Definitely a good one for anyone who has claustrophobia as a horror trigger. 😀


Reese’s: perfection

We’re still a few months away from the end of the year, but if I had to make a prediction, “In a Canyon, In a Cavern” by Laird Barron will remain my favorite short story of 2019. Everything in this story works in perfect harmony: the characterization, the back story, the setting, the description, and the classic folk song “Oh My Darling Clementine” that forms a creepy musical background to the piece. Enough of me waffling–just go read it already!


What are some of your favorite horror bits and bobs–any suggestions? And how are you getting in the Halloween spirit this year?

Short Tuesday #32: “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday; I mean, it’s almost Halloween, so how can I not? The short story I picked this week was “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future” by Carlie St. George. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story from start to finish! It details a high school girl who keeps finding herself in eighties slasher-type situations where she is the only survivor. After all her friends and her mom are killed, she decides to leave town to embark on a journey where she inserts herself into situations where a killer is bound to surface: frat parties, sleepy two-bit towns, etc. The hope is that she saves some people in each massacre, who will give her some money to continue her journey. If you’re into self-referential horror (and what true horror fan isn’t?), then this is the story for you.

The use of a second-person POV is an interesting narrative choice, and I don’t mean that in a “bad-interesting” type of way; I think it really works for the piece! Basically I don’t have anything critical to say here; it’s a great read for Halloween, especially if you’re at all a fan of eighties slashers.

Short Tuesday #29: “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

This past weekend I happened to be looking up Stoker Award nominees and finalists for the past few years and noticed that one of the award winners for short fiction was published in Nightmare Magazine! So you know me and my love of good old NM; I plowed through Alyssa Wong’s story in no time. You can read the short story here…

Kirkus called “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” a take on a vampire story, but as I was reading I was feeling succubus vibes all the way; the MC literally sucks evil thoughts from her (usually male) victims. She normally meets her victims through Tindr, a touch that I just loved for whatever reason, maybe for the subverting of the common wisdom that it’s normally dangerous men you have to watch out for when it comes to online dating, rather than women.

Other things I enjoyed about this story included the touches of Chinese culture throughout the piece and especially the opening scene, which was just so unexpected in the best way possible. I will say, though, that this story did go a little off the rails for me in the final act. There’s a turn of events that felt a bit too much “betcha didn’t expect that” for my tastes. Nevertheless, I can see why this piece garnered attention for literary awards, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Short Tuesday #28: “Wilderness” by Letitia Trent

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to take a look at “Wilderness” by Letitia Trent. You can read it for free here…

I had a lot of fun with this short story! It concerns a group of people waiting for a delayed flight in a small airport who become increasingly concerned that dire secrets are being kept from them by the airport staff. The main character is traveling alone, is feeling sick, and gives off aloof vibes, which introduces a wedge between her and the other passengers. If you’re a fan of fiction with a paranoia/mob mentality focus (The Mist comes to mind), then this is probably a good read.

One thing I thought was interesting was the author’s decision to not employ quotation marks for any of the dialogue—perhaps to keep everything happening around the MC feel a bit more distant to her? Her character is of an observer, and I think that not using quotation marks perhaps gives readers a stronger feeling of being fully in the MC’s head. It’s a writing technique I might think about using myself in the future.

I do wish there had been more of an ending to the piece; like a lot of other short stories, “Wilderness” ends abruptly, and I didn’t find the conclusion satisfying. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the author’s voice and all the character details.

Short Tuesday #26: “The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide” by Kurt Fawver

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read the short story “The Bleeding Maze: A Visitor’s Guide.” You can read it for free here…

True to its name, this story is written in an informal, guidebook style. The narrator never names themselves or gives personal details; really they just detail a mysterious maze that resides in the middle of the narrator’s small town which grows by the year. The maze features bleeding walls and presents those who enter it with off-kilter characters and eerie tasks. And of course, not all who enter the maze find an exit. Why enter at all? you might ask. As only suits a magical maze, this labyrinth has a mysterious pull on the townsfolk, tempting all resident teens to enter in what essentially becomes a local coming-of-age ritual.

This is the kind of story where suspension of disbelief only gets you so far. You can feel the author trying to pull us along towards believing, throwing in lines here and there to quell questions and preserve the mystery. One example: drone technology to fly over the maze for observation doesn’t work, for reasons. There are a lot of explanations like this to keep the story going.

You might be thinking, “Why don’t you go searching for those kids? Why don’t you run into that maze in parties and pull them out?” In the past, adults tried this, or so we’re told. They went in packing compasses and lights and maps and weapons—all the accoutrements of proper search and rescues. Despite their best efforts at navigation, however, the maze led them in endless circles and forced them to backtrack to its entrances when they used up their supplies. No matter how many times they subsequently resupplied and reentered and tried to solve the maze, they failed.

Nevertheless, it’s a fun read, and I did enjoy the accounts from the townsfolk who entered the maze. Some extended anecdotes from the local townspeople weren’t very convincing in terms of realistic dialogue… but frankly speaking, extended dialogue for the purposes of storytelling is a difficult thing to pull off if your aim is realism in how people actually talk. I’d say if you’re up for a short story that kind of feels like a hokey House of Leaves, then give this one a chance.

Short Tuesday #25: “Spore” by Amanda Downum

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read the short story “Spore,” which was published in a female Lovecraftian horror anthology. You can read it for free here...

“Spore” was a quick read, and I was interested in the premise of a purported fungal infection that is influencing its hosts in strange and unanticipated ways. I’ve thought of including some sort of magical fungus in the sequel to The Gold in the Dark, so I’m always psyched to see tangential ideas in fiction.

The language in this piece is really beautiful. Settings are detailed in a way that makes the piece come to life.

Condensation drips through the weave of the metal table onto the pavement. People pass us on the sidewalk, bright summer colors and chattering voices. Hands touch arms to punctuate conversation; shoulders brush; a couple rests their hands in each other’s back pockets.

I do wish we’d been given more of a glimpse into the further aftermath of ingesting the mushrooms, especially in terms of further physical effects and mental urges. I also don’t get a Lovecraftian feel from the piece, despite the anthology it’s housed in.

Nevertheless, I liked the detail-work in the piece and the MC’s personal struggles with her own personality as it relates to belief, so I’d recommend this story.

Short Tuesday #20: “Universal Horror” by Stephen Graham Jones

This week I dove in to Nightmare Magazine’s backlist once more, picking up “Universal Horror” by Stephen Graham Jones. You can read the short story for free here…

The premise of “Universal Horror” is a group of friends playing a drinking game on Halloween, where a little mummy trick-or-treater is coming around to the house a few too many times for comfort. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time connecting with this story—the whole thing felt a bit detached. I think that can partially be chalked up to the age and life situation of the characters. They’re grappling with some life changes and don’t seem to know how to handle them—break-ups, “getting old” (we’re talking thirty here), the question of whether or not to have a child. And while they’re trying to come to terms with all the important life stuff, the author is also heaping on a long-kept secret, not to mention the requisite dash of horror. It’s a lot of different threads all smushed together, and I didn’t find that any of the elements were strong on their own or in tandem.

Also, as a woman who’s twenty-nine, I’m not huge on stories about people in my age bracket coming to terms with the fact that they’re proper adults now. So many of these characters strike me as weak, nihilistic, and mopey—maybe that’s why I’m such a fan of YA. 😛 So this story is sadly not my favorite of Nightmare Magazine’s offerings.

Short Tuesday returns! #19: “In a Cavern, in a Canyon” by Laird Barron

And we’re back! It was nice to take a couple weeks vacation from Short Tuesday, but I’m excited to return and dive into more weird short stories. First up is “In a Cavern, in a Canyon” by Laird Barron, courtesy of the excellent Nightmare Magazine. You can read the short story for free here…

Let’s first set the mood. The title of this story is actually the opening verse of the classic song “Oh My Darling Clementine”—one of those earworm childhood songs where you know the chorus intimately but have only a vague sense that there are other verses as well. Oh, how I love horror that draws on old tunes to set an eerie tone! You think I’m joking, but I’m dead serious—this is one of Stephen King’s oldest tricks in the book (har har), and it’s the reason why “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” features heavily in one chapter in Specter.

This is not a mood piece masquerading as a short story, but an actual full-fledged work, hallelujah. The story follows a middle-aged woman who has an obsession with search-and-rescue hunts and proceeds to track the eerie events in her childhood that led to her developing that interest. The Alaskan, working-class setting works perfectly for the story; everything feels very grounded in reality until the point when the weird shows up to say boo. So many of the short stories I read have this floaty, mood-driven tone where you know things are going to happen and nothing will really be explained. And sometimes that kind of works, but more often it drives me a little bananas; I crave a bit of grounded realism as a story base, and that is what the author delivers here.

I’m going to leave it at that, since this is the kind of short story you should really let unfold for you, with no spoilers. I loved it and am excited to read more from this author. If you are at all a fan of creepypasta and Lovecraftian elements, then this is a short story not to miss.