Where do you find your boogeymen, your ghosts and nightly frights? Most people I ask say Reddit or NoSleep or Nightmare or The Dark or some other periodical. Diligently, I go and read or listen to these publications and am amazed at what I find (or, sometimes, my eyes run red with boredom and frustration).
And so, I constantly crave more. I’m hungry for the grim, dark poems and short stories that I haven’t yet read.
This month, Into the Night features stories from Nightmare Magazine, All Worlds Wayfarer, Coffin Bell Journal, and more. Next month, who knows what I’ll find, but for now, feast on these horror poems and short stories.
‘The Child Feast of Harridan Sack‘ by Kaitlyn Zivanovich (PseudoPod)
Content warning: kidnapping, pedophilia, and grooming
Read by Jasmine Blake, Kaitlyn Zivanovich’s horror story about parenting and a kidnapping, “The Child Feast of Harridan Sack,” builds to an ending that’s simultaneously happy and awful and sad. Happy feels like the wrong word, in fact. “The best outcome that could be found for the characters” is a better way of describing it. “The Child Feast of Harridan Sack” is an excellent example of emotional horror that blends the scary world of fairytales with real life. Echoing a fairytale of a witch who steals children, the story follows a mother as she searches for her daughter, who has been kidnapped by a pedophile. On one side, you have the heartbreaking and honest story of a mother and daughter at odds, at risk. And on the other side, a fairytale of a mother trying to save her children from being turned into witch food by recognizing who they are through what they were turned into. The two stories mix seamlessly throughout the telling, making each more terrifying and real.
‘In The Witch’s House‘ by Nora Claire Miller (Strange Horizons)
I’ve got a thing for creepy poems, but when they’re interactive, my love ramps up a notch. ‘In the Witch’s House’ by Nora Claire Miller in July’s Strange Horizons issue feels like it’s in conversation with “The Child Feast of Harridan Sack,” in a way. What’s in a witch’s house? Why does a witch need such a loathsome house? There is an audio recording of the poem read by the author for readers who want to hear the words instead of following along on the interactive page. Having the two different formats was great, as I could listen and read them separately but compare the two experiences. Though readers can’t interact directly with the text-based poem, the pacing changes as it progresses. What drew me to this poem wer the questions it posed and how, instead of seeming scary, the witch’s house was profoundly sad.
‘Gordon B. White is creating Haunting Weird Horror‘ by Gordon B. White (Nightmare Magazine)
This story is super meta, and yet it works on many creepy levels. “Gordon B. White is creating Haunting Weird Horror” makes me happy I don’t mess around on Patreon anymore. It’s a second-person story about a fan of Gordon B. White who signs up for a mysterious pledge tier on the author’s Patreon. They, or, well, you begin getting postcards with eerie omens, messages, and pictures. A haunting and a curse is wrapped up in this funny yet spooky tale. “Gordon B. White is creating Haunting Weird Horror” is a cautionary tale, but about what, you’ll have to decide for yourself.
‘Sometimes Boys Don’t Know‘ by Donyae Coles (Nightmare Magazine)
Also in Nightmare Magazine’s July issue, Donyae Coles’ “Sometimes Boys Don’t Know” remixes how some male writers depict women’s bodies in fiction. She does a great job of building the story like the stories she’s critiquing. And like any good parody or critique, the real kicker comes at the end. Trust me, it’s a great shocker. Coles does such a great job at writing in the voice of these writers, in fact, that some moments felt too real. But ultimately, monstrous beings and the eating of a handsy man are everything I want from these types of stories. Pull me in with the promise of dissecting vile misogyny and then devour it in a way that’s sensual, powerful, and scary.
‘The Jogger‘ by Jenny Maloney (All Worlds Wayfarer)
Jenny Maloney’s “The Jogger” is about a person who lives with a curse that forces him to find dead bodies by running to them. Like a bloodhound, the jogger in the story picks up the scent of the dead and, typically, calls for help. But this time, the jogger is ready to pass the curse on to another. A murderer and a jogger meet in the woods one night, and each of their worlds changes. With an ending that surprised me, Maloney’s story was my favorite story concept that I came across this month.
‘Amaranth‘ by Arielle Tipa (Coffin Bell)
The last two poems on this month’s list both come from Coffin Bell Journal’s Volume 4, Issue number 3. The first is Arielle Tipa’s playful and morbid “Amaranth.” In this single stanza poem, Tipa flies from image to image, evoking darkness, soft caresses, and… werewolves. Over the course of the month, I found myself going back to this poem and reciting the lines in my head, each time allowing them to gain speed and a bit of the same off-kilter rhythm and nature that the poem itself holds.
‘Eulogy‘ by Remi Recchia (Coffin Bell)
The second poem from Coffin Bell is “Eulogy” by Remi Recchia. When I first encountered the poem, it didn’t immediately strike me as horror. “Eulogy” is dark and hard and depicts stark images, but the type of dread that it raises in me is subtle. Instead of being shocked or taken aback at first by Recchia’s ability to showcase what it’s like to be so close to tragedy that it touches and stains you, I was entranced by it. Through reading, I found myself agreeing, being carried through the poem by the reality and intimacy it depicted. It reminded me that sometimes the scariest of stories are the ones that happen to us all, the ones we can’t escape from.
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 drop me a line. The same goes for writers and editors of publications. I want to read the stories that haunt me beyond the page and screen.