An officer of an historic trust stays in an old manor house occupied by a pair of sisters, a wistful ghost, and a lot of dust.
Like most Aikman stories, this one takes its time to set up the situation and build out the characters and their relationships. It has few really scary moments, but a sense of dread runs through even the more mundane scenes. Aikman brings his own experience with historical preservation (and surely his experience of the politics within preservation societies) in this story, which adds another layer of interest.
A woman feels herself being watched, at first in quietly uncomfortable ways and then in horrifically terrifying ways.
This is a delightfully creepy story full of paranoia and dread, playing with themes of voyeurism and surveillance.
A representative of a feral cat rescue group visits an unusual colony of cats and their reclusive caretaker.
This is a dark and twisty little story; it didn’t go quite where I expected, and I enjoyed how it kept me guessing even if my guesses were mostly wrong.
A girl and her dog return to a witch’s forest cottage where she made a dangerous bargain ten years before.
A fairy-tale-like story that pulls together a few of Haskins’ favorite themes – dogs, witches, forests, magic; this closes the collection well, while leaving the conclusion uncertain (which is another theme of this collection).
The surviving members of a rock band attempt to exorcise an entity from one of their heroes.
This story has an interesting spin on the typical possession story; it plays with the old “sold my soul at the crossroads” trope and explores grief and regret in some unexpectedly poignant ways.
Advice is offered to a demon summoner when an exorcist arrives at her door.
This playful story turns poignant and dark as it goes on, and the voice of the narrator and the identity of the exorcist come into focus. I enjoyed the second-person narration and the clever descriptions of the levels of demonic summoning that have gone on leading to the revelation.
When a team mapping an Alaskan wilderness area disappear, a manager at a Google-like company and a group of friends who operate an adventure YouTube channel go looking for them, discovering that some places don’t want to be mapped.
This is an effectively scary story that ramps up quickly from a death-by-wilderness tale to something more cosmic in its horrors. It felt a bit like “The Ruins” to me, in the way the entity takes advantage of each character’s personal fears.
Two stories in a horrific pandemic – one a woman who is apparently immune to the disease that is killing her neighbors, one a police officer who is afraid of everything – are drawn together in a contingently hopeful conclusion.
The pandemic in this story is worse than the real one we’ve faced over the last two years – infection seems almost guaranteed to be fatal, and the social effects are even more stark than in our own dyspeptic age – but there are certainly things about it that ring true: the isolation, the fear, the blame.
Three friends rent a notorious video tape and are joined by a strange fourth boy, who proves far scarier than anything they can see on the television.
This is a short, sharp, and genuinely scary little story, both horrifying and poignant, as the best ghost stories always are. I’m certainly in the same demographic as these three young teens in the early ’80s seeking some video thrills (“Faces of Death” and “Mondo Cane” were about as extreme as we got), and I can certainly picture myself in a similar predicament if I’d had the opportunity.
A dog takes a perilous journey into the underworld in search of a lost girl.
This is the second of Haskins’ stories I’ve read from this collection that have a dog as the central character, and she does a good job of inhabiting canine consciousness. It’s a solid story with some interesting embellishments on Norse and Greek mythology and a quite scary Queen of the underworld.