I don’t like being scared – which is a bit strange, since my mum grew up on classics such as Friday the 13th and is a big fan of the Saw franchise. Maybe it skipped a generation.
Yet for reasons I can’t explain, I’m occasionally struck with the desire to watch something scary. Most of the time there’s someone nearby to talk me out of it. When I was at uni, I had to watch Ringu for a film class and forced my sister to watch it with me in the middle of the day; in contrast, one night I decided to watch The Blair Witch Project, alone in my dorm room with the lights out, at 1am. Naturally, I regretted it immediately after. You see now why I need a chaperone.
Still, that lingering desire to engage with something unsettling does bring me into contact with some fascinating short fiction. I’ve vowed to never read or watch Stephen King’s It (though I admit to reading a plot summary…that was quite enough for me, thank you!) but I do have to slake my mild thirst for horror somehow. And that’s how I came across the following stories.
I know there are many sub-genres of horror and lumping them together like this may not necessarily make sense to some people, but let’s face it: I don’t read nearly enough horror to justify making individual posts for all the different types.
These are the stories that planted an uneasiness in my mind long after I read them. These are the stories that are on the tip of my tongue if someone needs a quick horror fix. You probably have more horror recommendations than I could even dream of – feel free to leave a comment sharing one, if you like.
Your Hand in Mine, We’ll Be All Right by Katherine Crighton
Body horror and self-harm are way up there on my HELL NO list, but this piece of flash fiction was so gripping from the get-go that it’s become one of my absolute favourites. It starts innocently enough, and I think it’s the realism and the relatable backdrop for this story that makes it so effective. Intrusive thoughts happen to everyone now and then, right? Read it at Flash Fiction Online.
Cry Room by Ted Kosmatka
Churches have been used in horror media for a long time, but I doubt you’ve seen anything like this story before. I find horror more palatable when it touches on some kind of positive emotion – hope, for example – and the guilt and love in this piece really drives home the ending. Read it at Nightmare.
Mary, Mary by Ray Cluley
This piece has an earthy darkness about it, and descriptive language to match. The anticipation of something terrible approaching is a pillar of the horror genre and the tension in this story grows delightfully. Sometimes the most horrifying truth is that people are the real monsters. Read it at The Dark.
All My Nightmares Are Named Heather by Mário Coelho
Nightmares, body horror, missing memories – this story has it all. Even the protagonist knows that something isn’t right, and joining him on his journey towards the truth is a nerve-wracking experience. Old girlfriends have a way of sticking around long after they’re gone…. Read or listen to it at PseudoPod.
Mr. Try Again by A. Merc Rustad
Sometimes people are the real monsters – and sometimes monsters are real. This story is disturbing in a number of ways, but using a kid as a lure to trap other kids reflects the modus operandi of real-life killers in a way that’s truly confronting. A little bit Stranger Things with a dash of ‘the final girl’ trope, this piece will keep you on the edge of your seat. Read it at Nightmare.