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, we have stories and poems ranging in themes and subgenres from publications like The Dark, Grim & Gilded, and more. If you want to read last month’s Into the Night picks, check out January’s installment.
‘Tooth, Teeth, Tongue‘ by Ai Jiang (The Dark)
Ai Jiang has appeared once before on Into the Night, also for a story in The Dark—‘Hello.’ Jiang’s latest piece in the magazine, ‘Tooth, Teeth, Tongue,’ deals with language in a new and frightening way where the tooth fairy is a monster who follows the main character in different skins with the same haunting and racist message. The horror of the story is all too real and tangible, but I’ve also never encountered a tooth fairy so insidious. While it reminded me so much of other stories and poems I’ve come across dealing with this haunting thing called being-a-person-of-color-speaking-a-language-other-than-English, Jiang’s ‘Tooth, Teeth, Tongue’ wrapped it around a familiar kids’ fairy tale, making both just a bit more horrifying.
‘Seven Vampires: A Judge Dee Mystery‘ by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com)
Another author return is Lavie Tidhar, who appeared in September 2021’s Into the Night with ‘Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre.’ The Judge Dee horror comedy vampire series follows the vampire and his human assistant as they travel Europe, solving vampire mysteries and trying to stay one step ahead of being killed by another vampire or human. The latest story is a murder mystery featuring vampires, art, and Jonathan trying not to get eaten. Using their combined knowledge and skills, Judge Dee and Jonathan can once again bring truth to light. I’m always a fan of the dark alongside comedy, and I especially like how Tidhar does it within this series.
‘Reading the Omens‘ by Jonathan Helland (Flash Fiction Online)
The horror of this flash fiction piece by Jonathan Helland is subtle and soft. And to give a minor spoiler, it never really comes, but what does come are writings on the world that remind the character what’s important and where to go when the world begins to shift in unexpected ways. The themes hit really close to home and gave the story more weight. Helland’s use of an impending war that pushes the protagonist toward their heart and a place in the past left me unsettled, quickly to be placed at ease by the ending. It’s frightening, with tiny speckles of hope like omens dropped along the page.
‘Hundred-Handed One‘ by Wen-yi Lee (Uncanny Magazine)
Content warnings: attempted child death, abuse, self-mutilation
I have a bit of a kinship or affinity with the monster child, and Wen-yi Lee’s horror piece in the January/February 2022 issue of Uncanny gave me another monster to love. Like a couple of the other pieces on this list, Lee’s ‘Hundred-Handed One’ speaks of a particular type of horror, a horror of being rejected and returning home. What stuck with me the most about Lee’s piece are the descriptions of main character. Instead of illustrating precisely what they look like, Lee shapes the character through the reactions of the world around them and how they move through and interpret that world. It makes an unusual character relatable and allows the reader to paint their own vision of the hundred-handed one.
‘Swarm‘ by Bridget Spoerri (Grim & Gilded)
A new find for me this month was the online horror magazine Grim & Gilded. They published quite a few horror poems, but two in particular stuck out to me. The first was ‘Swarm’ by Bridget Spoerri. The poem is creepy and unsettling, with several gut-punch lines. Though Spoerri’s horror is more on the surface than a few other pieces on this list, it still is one of my favorites out of the bunch. And the ending stuck with me so much I found myself repeating the lines like an affirmation, reminding myself of all that I contain.
‘The Missing‘ by Stepy Kamei (Grim & Gilded)
I am always a fan of a long poem with many shifts and turns, and this poem is just that! Stepy Kamei’s narrative poem in form crafts a story of a great aching. Like Spoerri’s ‘Swarm,’ ‘The Missing’ features a bit of shapeshifting and changing. It, too, ends a powerful whopper. I loved both poems on here from Grim & Gilded, but ‘The Missing’ touched me the deepest. There were lines so focused on becoming food or being consumed like food, only to, in the end, be denied of food that I couldn’t help but vividly see the horror of eating disorders and food anxieties.
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.