Into the Night: June 2021’s Best Horror Short Fiction and Poetry

Into the Night: June 2021’s Best Horror Short Fiction and Poetry

Into the Night: June 2021's Best Horror Short Fiction and Poetry - 207

Each month when I dive in to read stories and poems for this column, I find myself pushing past the prominent outlets and digging for the publications I’ve never heard of. I already know I’m likely to love the work published in the top journals in genre short fiction and poetry–it’s hard not to when I’ve been reading them for so long. But for Into the Night, I want to find those stories and poems that are outside of my usual reading circles. 

I’ve been lucky that there are people out there consistently forming and publishing new magazines, websites, and markets dedicated to the things that scare, terrify, and haunt us. Keep it up. I’m a fan of it all, and I’m sure I am not the only one. 

June’s edition of Into the Night features stories from Uncanny Magazine, Rune Bear, and more. There aren’t really any connecting themes between this month’s picks. Only darkness.

When Driving Past

‘When Driving Past Skyscrapers’ by Mark Henderson (Rune Bear)

One of the new (to me) outlets I came across this month is Rune Bear, an online publication ‘dedicated to the strange, surreal, supernatural, and speculative.’ In June, they published two pieces worth a read, but Mark Henderson’s poem ‘When Driving Past Skyscrapers’ kept coming back to me. The two-stanza poem about ghosts and the hauntings in glass from skyscraper deaths crept up on me in its creepiness—much in the same way the spirits in the poem creep up on their victims, unknowingly driving past and catching their reflections in the final moments before their crash. There is a content warning for suicide due to the poem’s content matter dealing with skyscraper jumpers. 

‘The Bones and Their Girl’ by Sylvia Heike (Flash Fiction Online)

Two stories came my way this month that were both horrifying and sensual. ‘The Bones and Their Girl’ by Sylvia Heike is the first. This horror flash piece did not take the turn that I was expecting. When you find a man who loves bones, who speaks to them, can hear their whispers, it tends to bring up some red flags (at least to me). But Heike’s story is not scary in that direction. It does not rely on the evil of what men like that can do, but rather on the love they can bestow, especially during the moments when we are vulnerable. ‘The Bones and Their Girl’ also touches on sickness and the way that it can feel as though it reshapes and morphs us into something we can’t–or are afraid to–recognize. These two themes working together made this a heartwarming horror story. 

‘The Hungry Ones’ by Emma Törzs (Uncanny Magazine)

The other of the two sensual horror stories that caught my attention this month came from Uncanny Magazine, written by Emma Törzs. ‘The Hungry Ones’ is a dark fantasy tale that stuck with me for a long time. I woke up thinking about the characters, the scenes, the world, hearing the rambling fear and hate in the protagonist’s voice. ‘The Hungry Ones’ follows a man who, upon discovering his wife’s infidelity, wants to prove to her and to his community that he is the type of man who would kill to show his power. He goes to The Hungry Ones in the woods, who help him unleash his shadow—but only after he brings them to orgasm. That bit of sexual content adds an extra layer of tension to the already conflict-wrought story. Content warnings on this story for violence against women and misogynistic slurs.

‘2019’ by Christine No (The Racket)

Another new publication I encountered for the first time this month was The Racket Journal. They publish a wide range of genres, with a commitment to serving newer writers alongside established ones. In their 50th issue released this June, a poem by Christine No caught my attention. No’s freeform and unrhymed style begs readers not to ‘take me for a sucker,’ while expressing that the character in the poem is done with their own skin, and it accurately depicts the feelings and awkward growth that so many of us have experienced since 2019. The thing about poetry (and art in general) is that I don’t know if No was writing about the way we’ve outgrown ourselves without realizing it while quarantining for the past year plus. I just know that I love the dark depictions of death, hell, and ruin used to deliver the message, whatever that may be.

‘Demon Fighter Sucks’ by Katherine Crighton (Apex Magazine)

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for stories based online or in chat rooms, about YouTubers or streamers–really any story that showcases the wild world of the web–and Katherine Crighton’s ‘Demon Fighter Sucks’ does that and so much more. Not only is this story about a streamer, but it’s about a streamer who trolls fake paranormal shows by showing viewers what real magic looks like. Though the story is about a bit more than that, that’s kind of what I stayed for–that and the knockout voice of the main character. ‘Demon Fighter Sucks’ is one of those horror stories that’s a bit funny, a bit sad, and fun to read. Broken into sections like ‘Step 5: Do Some Mugglefucking Magic,’ the story takes readers on the journey of conjuring a fairy while weaving in the main character’s backstory, which of course ends up having a significant impact on the spell and its conclusion. Like any good story.

‘The Fog, Your Heart, Our Teeth’ by Hannah Madonna (Not Deer Magazine)

All of these stories and poems are my favorites of the month, but some shine a little brighter than the rest in my heart, like Törzs’ ‘The Hungry Ones’ and Hannah Madonna’s story ‘The Fog, Your Heart, Our Teeth’ from new-to-me Not Deer Magazine. Madonna’s flash fiction horror story about a fogged swamp is subtly and quietly creepy, with a great use of the second person. We the readers are the “you” being called into the swamp by the fog that seems at once inviting and absolutely terrifying. I knew from the beginning of the story that I really liked ‘The Fog, Your Heart, Our Teeth,’ but it was the final line that I’ve been thinking about and repeating under my breath. It’s one of those endings that chills while still cradling the soft desire built throughout the piece. 

I hope you found a new magazine, writer, or story to check out and support in this month’s Into the Night installment. If you have a favorite publication that puts out excellent horror poetry or fiction, 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 all the dark things, which may be a desire I learn to regret. But I crave the stories that haunt me past the page and screen.

Join Us by the Fire...

Join Us by the Fire...

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