“Nothing is ever as it seems”
With spooky season approaching it is time to select this year’s Halloween reads. First up for me was Spooky Ambiguous, straplined Ghost stories and poetry, fangs and fairy tales. This latest offering from the tiny but fierce Crumps Barn Studio includes: short stories, poetry, and artwork that perfectly complements the varied gothic tales. Its shades and shadows offer images that, while recognisable, remain somewhat opaque. Draw up a seat by the fire and listen carefully. Those strange creaks and muffled voices you tell yourself is likely the wind may truly be something to be feared.
As with any collection, there are favourites.
Mirror Mirror, by Michael Bartlett, was such a sad story, featuring a lonely philatelist who wishes he could tell a colleague how he feels for her.
Naming, by Harriet Hitchen, gets across wonderfully the conceit of humans in believing they can control that which they do not understand.
Who’s Haunting Who? by Daphne Denley proves that a fine story may be told in an impressively succinct poem.
Relocation, by Angela Reddaway, is an imaginative take on how it can matter where you are buried – and that may not be next to the old man you were required to marry as a teenager.
Within these stories and poems, witches are both feared and befriended. The latter is not always welcomed spellcaster given how some will try to use other’s gifts for their own advantage.
Message Delivery, by Angela Reddaway, employs a clever use of repetition.
The Flooding, by Amaris Chase, contains a clever twist I didn’t see coming.
Some of the stories are notably weird. Several are a tad raw. There are ghostly beings that are seriously disturbing, creatures buried alive that should probably remain so. What comes across is the potential loneliness in an afterlife, and how this can affect those who died leaving unfinished business. There is both good and evil, just as in the before.
Diabetes X, by J.J. Drover, ended ambiguously – or maybe I just wanted laid out what I had guessed would happen.
Penance, by Joe Robson, completed the collection with a quiet menace, eerily understated.
Whatever my reaction to each individual entry, the authors may take credit for eliciting a reaction. This collection serves as a delicious reminder that, however determinedly pragmatic and logical one may be, inexplicable malignancy can still exist in the shadows.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Crumps Barn Studio.