The second book I had the pleasure of reading from my AnthoCon binge (5 anthologies and 3 novels) was Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers. The New England Horror Writers released the anthology at AnthoCon and had several of the authors on hand to read during a panel. Trisha J. Wooldridge was exceptional in her reading of her poem, Kali's Promise. I've read it twice and each time I hear her voice in my head as I read the words. Epitaphs brings a wide range of dark fiction (23 short stories and 3 poems) and while several didn't appeal to me, there seems to be something for everyone. I was disappointed at first to see two reprints but Rick Hautala's Perfect Witness, originally published in 1995, ended up being one of my favorites in the anthology. Overall I thought Epitaphs was a great read and contained several stories that I will want to revisit in the future. Below are my favorite pieces from Epitaphs: A Case of the Quiets: A poem by Kurt Newton that reminded me of Jack Ketchum's Bram Stoker award winning short story, The Box.
The Possessor Worm: Editor Tracy L. Carbone introduced B. Adrian White's The Possessor Worm stating that it was Lovecraftian in nature and she hates Lovecraft. No love for Lovecraft?! Come on! I was pumped to read it, however, as I am a huge fan of Lovecraft. White does not disappoint. The story updates the letter format of some Lovecraft tales with emails back and forth between two characters on opposite coasts of the U.S. and the horror that one of them finds in an old home in the North End of Boston.
Make a Choice: The situation in Make a Choice by John McIlveen is one that I think we see in a lot of contemporary horror (Strangers, Last House on the Left, etc.) But the tale is very well written and makes the reader question what really is the best outcome for the family.
Perfect Witness: Mentioned above - don't want to say much else to spoil the story other than I loved it!
Kali's Promise: Also mentioned above. The poem is about a woman who doesn't exactly get the revenge she was looking for. Voices for the demon and the main character come through loud and distinct.
Malfeasance: I really like the questions that David North-Martino delves into with this story: How does the individual react when presented a situation vs. how is the same situation viewed by society as a whole? Murder and torture are accepted as wrong by society, but as an individual, would you commit the crime to save a loved one, for example?
A Deeper Kind of Cold: Great sci-fi horror story from K. Allen Wood. I love the setting in the space station and it screams Alien to me. Brutal revelations for characters with a lot of pent up emotion and an ending that I'm still tossing around in my head.
Legend of the Wormley Farms: Philip Roberts, this may be my favorite piece in the anthology. A family farm fallen on hard times. Cue the horror!
The Church of Thunder and Lightning: I'm a news junkie so I loved this story. Peter N. Dudar tells the tale of a reporter who is so desperate for a big story she sneaks into a cult ceremony with disastrous results.
To Sleep, Perchance to Die: In which an obese man suffering from a sleep disorder doesn't find the cure he's looking for with a CPAP machine. I have a like/dislike relationship with this story. It's not something that I would rave about but wow, does Jeffrey C. Pettengill know how to keep the reader in the moment or what? This story is so visceral and keeps the reader in such a gruesome - albeit very short - moment, one that Pettengill drags on over six pages. I could tell where the story was headed after things started to go wrong but I think that was part of what kept my eyes glued to the page even though I wanted to look away.
Next Up: Dead of Night by Jonathon Maberry (And maybe I'll get some damn writing done!)