Welcome back to Into the Night, Tor Nightfire’s monthly horror short fiction and poetry review and roundup series. I’m here every month to recommend you spooky tales and poems I found somewhere on the net. My main objective with this series has always been to give horror readers a wide selection of authors, publications, and stories to read every month–like a subscription box, but for dark fiction and poetry, but more importantly, free.
This month, I review stories and poems ranging in themes and subgenres from publications like Uncanny Magazine, Omenana Speculative Fiction Magazine, and more. Check out March’s installment if you want to read last month’s Into the Night picks.
‘Requiem for a Dollface‘ by Margaret Dunlap (Uncanny Magazine)
‘Requiem for a Dollface’ was one of those short stories where I couldn’t tell if it was a capital-H Horror story or if the descriptions of doll death were just effectively creepy and terrifying. This is a mystery story about a stuffed animal who comes to life to search for the killer that destroyed a child’s favorite doll. If Dunlap’s story is indeed a horror story, it’s a slow type of horror, with a building whodunnit dread. Once I was able to get over my sudden fear of dolls and the things that go slinking around your house when you’re asleep, the voice of the piece grabbed me—both the main character’s voice and the narrative style or tone of the writing. Using the plushie’s care for the young child and their affections toward their doll, Dunlap weaves a touching dark tale of murder, leading to a deeper love.
‘Notes on The Shadow World‘ by Mandisi Nkomo (Omenana Speculative Fiction Magazine)
I’m going to say this a lot, but one of my favorite pieces out of this month’s picks is Mandisi Nkomo’s ‘Notes on The Shadow World’ in Omenana Speculative Fiction Magazine. ‘Notes on The Shadow World’ is told in the epistolary style, as excerpts from the journal of someone who discovers a hell dimension on the side of the road. As with Dunlap, above, Nkomo shows great control over the voice of his story, using it to create a sense of character that felt very real and very much in danger. While the concept wasn’t anything new, I wanted to read about the strange happenings and awful visuals the character found while exploring the hell dimension.
‘Valor Bones‘ by Derrick Boden (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
My other favorite story this month is Derrick Boden’s ‘Valor Bones.’ The dark fantasy story appeared in Issue #354 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies and follows a person as they feed objects, stories, and memories to a creature as it grows into a large monster. The monster born from the items and stories it has been fed helps its caretaker see a way to justice. I love the idea of feeding ideas, moments, and stories to something to help it grow. It’s a theme that lends itself to great darkness but also warmth. Something new comes from what we’ve given away, and Boden’s story aptly shows that. It moves from tragedy and horror to touching realization and action.
‘Haunted‘ by Dan Gerber (The Sun Magazine)
So, every piece on this list is my favorite, and I shouldn’t really pick and choose because they’re all so great, like Dan Gerber’s horror poem about killing a bat. The poem tells the story of a person who lives with bats in their home. The bats aren’t seen as dangerous, but one night the person kills one of the bats, and the killing haunts them like this poem’s imagery does me. I loved that this poem was dark, haunting, and spooky, but it was all real-world. I myself lived in a house infested with bats, and I remember their fluttering well. And I, too, fear accidentally killing a defenseless animal because I’m not aware or because I let my fear of the gross overcome me.
‘The Bone Forest‘ by Gail Little (Black Poppy Review)
Like Gerber’s poem, I found a personal connection to Gail Little’s poem. Little’s horror poem, featured on Black Poppy Review, took me back to my youth and the Jersey pines. ‘The Bone Forest’ is precisely what it sounds like: a forest made of bones. All types of bones built up to create a dark woodland that bears tempting fruit. The woods surrounding the home I grew up in were filled with bones in the soil, though (luckily?) the trees weren’t fruiting trees. Little beautifully captures the images and feelings of a bone forest. It is home and nightmare, an invite to adventure and a call to death.
As always, I hope you found a new magazine, writer, or story to satiate your horror hunger. Also, if you have a favorite publication that puts out excellent horror poetry or fiction, please tell me about it by leaving a comment on this article or dropping me a line.
The same goes for writers and editors of publications. I would love to connect and read the horror stories and poems you’re publishing! Just send me an email.