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

Okay, now, the spooky season is here for real for real. Skeletons dance on doorsteps, and ghosts wearing sunglasses party in the afterlife—this is Halloween! And what better way to celebrate the holiday than by reading some scary tales and verses? Well, there are tons of great ways, but none ever match the thrill of reading a new horror story or poem. 

Hopefully, the stories in this installment of Into the Night will get you more in the mood for all your October frights and chills. This month, Into the Night features stories from Apex Magazine, Tor.com, The Dark, and more. 


Nails‘ by Phoenix Alexander (The Dark)

Content warning: torture

Phoenix Alexander’s recent short story is the perfect mix of creepy and vengeful. Told from the POV of a ghhrblin, or goblin, ‘Nails’ is written in deep voice, using interesting syntax choices and styling that make the character and their pain real. After being captured, the ghhrblin is painfully declawed and left soaking in blood and rage. Stories that capture character completely tend to pull me in hard from the get, and Alexander’s story did just that. There are just enough visceral descriptions of goblin torture and pain that by the end, your nails seem to have become claws too. 


Demon Shakers‘ by Jim Cheff (96th of October)

Jim Cheff’s horror poem in the newest 96th of October issue isn’t what I usually like when it comes to my horror poetry. If it weren’t for the creepy sort of vaudeville artwork accompanying the poem, it wouldn’t have stood out to me. The poem is darkly funny, only made more so by the garish drawings of demon saltshakers and demonic smiling faces. Together they elevated each other. Though the ending falls flat for me, the idea behind the poem does not. Demons are all around us, masked as commonplace items there to tempt and persuade us. And in a way, Cheff has written an honest and dark poem of the lore and taste of dark desires. 


Wake Up, I Miss You‘ by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine)

In Apex’s Issue 125, Rachel Swirsky creates a tremendous and sad depiction of floating through a dream state desperately fighting for someone, you or another, to wake up. The story turns the reader around and around in a grief-stricken state, trying to find a center that is never reached in the story. ‘Wake Up, I Miss You’ does one of the best dream depictions I’ve come across in short fiction. Things move suddenly, changing and morphing. I wasn’t sure whose life was being fought for throughout the story, and I believe that’s the point. When you’re with someone facing death or the unknown, it can sometimes be like you’re there too, wandering through a sea of uncertainty and strangers that seem familiar. 


Bone Collector‘ by Katrina Kaye (BOMBFIRE)

The second in a set of three poems by Katrina Kaye, ‘Bone Collector,’ is the most chilling of the pack. Short lines fall with short stanzas all in a hard blur of mess and bones. At times gory, Kaye’s poem also holds beautiful and terrifying lines. Part ode to life and part exploration of body horror, ‘Bone Collector,’ stands out in a dark and loud way, even though the poem itself takes on quiet, startling tones. Some parts even reminded me of the 2002 horror movie May, about a woman who builds her own friend from human body parts, stitching it all together, like the bone collector in Kaye’s poem, to create something new, perfect. 


A Particle Theory of Inheritance‘ by Gabrielle Langley (Carmina Magazine)

September’s issue of Carmina Magazine features Gabrielle Langley’s dark poem ‘A Particle Theory of Inheritance.’ I’m not particularly fond of math, so it feels right to me when it appears in a poem alongside death and haunted houses. The equations add on to the rooms of Langley’s poem, making it a home. Langley’s inclusion of arithmetic has more significant meaning than sending chills down the spines of readers like me. ‘A Particle Theory of Inheritance’ is a poem of remembrance and a mix of unlikely things: math and science fiction and death and dying and ghosts and body prints on the floor. Yet it all combines to make a unique and beautiful life. 


Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre‘ by Lavie Tidhar (Tor.com)

Tor.com is known for its imaginative fiction and did not disappoint this September. ‘Judge Dee and the Poisoner of Montmartre’ is the latest installment in Lavie Tidhar’s vampire judge comedic horror series. The story finds the vamp Judge Dee and his human assistant, Jonathan, solving the case of a vampire slain during a lavish undead party. I’ve never read any of the previous stories within this world and found the dark humor and mystery refreshing. I also loved that I could follow along with the story because Tidhar set the stage so well. The comedy rode alongside the dark so well that I went back and forth between being grossed out and laughing. 


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. 



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