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

The spooky season is coming along quite nicely now that it’s here proper. What better way to celebrate the holiday than by reading some scary tales and verses? There’s been a lot of great Halloween content coming out over the past few weeks, especially when it comes to short stories! 

Hopefully, the stories and poems in this installment of Into the Night will get you more in the mood to carry all your October ghosts into November and beyond. This month, Into the Night features stories from Anathema Magazine’s Africa Issue, Cemetery Gates, and more. 

If you came across any great horror pieces in October not featured below, please drop them in the comments! I’d love to give them a read.


The Beggar of Balat‘ by Ruswa Fatehpuri (Black Poppy Review)

Though there were a lot of great horror stories published this past month, I had a little trouble hunting down dark poems to include in this month’s review. But I was able to find a couple—both from Black Poppy Review, too. My favorite poem from this month’s picks and out of the two is Ruswa Fatehpuri’s ‘The Beggar of Balat.’ It straddled the line between horror and highbrow, with a gothic element that hung over the poem. It was that control of darkness and the flashes of reality that wrapped me inside each stanza and kept me coming back for more. 


Flicker‘ by Daniel Lawlor (Anathema Magazine)

Content warning: murder

There were a lot of exciting and thought-provoking stories in the Africa Issue of Anathema Magazine. Technically, this issue came out back in September, but it took Daniel Lawlor’s short story ‘Flicker’ a couple of reads to grow on me. Still, because it’s stuck with me for a month now, I wanted to include it as a compelling horror mystery that does a wonderful job pushing the reader to continue to the story’s conclusion. And that’s why I didn’t initially like it: I don’t like to feel the author prodding me along while I read, daring me to continue to the next section. But Lawlor made the mystery and story so darn compelling that I found myself returning to it. The ending wasn’t what I expected and let me down slightly after all the build-up, but the journey to the end was terribly engaging. 


Bunny‘ by Ali Seay (Cemetery Gates)

I found two stories from the Cemetery Gates Halloween Party issue that felt very appropriate for the Halloween season. Though each story focused on the same theme (Halloween parties), ‘Bunny’ by Ali Seay–about a house party and trick-or-treating gone wrong–had all the markers of a great Halloween story. There were rowdy teens, rude boys, creepy costumes, and monsters. The spookiest part of the whole story was the description of the monster and how Seay could blend a basic party chant into something just a little gross to end the story nicely. 


Litany in the Heart of Exorcism‘ by Sarah Pauling (Flash Fiction Online)

Though I love all the stories and poems that I choose for Into the Night, there’s usually at least one or two pieces that stand out for me as my favorites. Sarah Pauling’s flash short story ‘Litany in the Heart of Exorcism’ is this month’s darling in my heart—or, well, the demon in my bones. It’s a roar of a story set during an exorcism where instead of hearing the pleas for salvation from the victim, Pauling gives us a taste of what it’s like to want damnation, demonic companionship. It’s touching and beautifully written, with several lines that have crawled off the page and lodged themselves in my brain. 


Twilight Zone Party‘ by Mark Allan Gunnells (Cemetery Gates)

The other story from Cemetery Gates Halloween Party issue that I really enjoyed was Mark Allan Gunnells’ ‘Twilight Zone Party’ another flash story set on Halloween during an ill-fated party. A couple go to the new neighbor’s Twilight Zone-themed Halloween party, where the costume prompt is to dress like their favorite characters from the show. The only catch is, no one knows the new neighbor, and the creepy decor of both the host and his house creates an atmosphere a bit too close to the original Twilight Zone TV show. It’s a funny story with a couple of great references to the show. 


The Ghosts of Fall‘ by John Grey (Black Poppy Review)

I’ve seen this fall roll in from many states, and it seems somehow more fall-y than falls past. I think that’s why John Grey’s recent poem in Black Poppy Review stood out to me. There’s something heartwarming laced in with the warnings in the poem. ‘The Ghosts of Fall’ encapsulates this particular fall—all the shadows of the pandemic on our breath, the desperation to experience a fall because maybe this year really is going to be the last, and of course, the feeling of death in the air. 


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.



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