on Sep. 27, 2012
Dead Birds is a good, fast read that gets your mind churning and keeps your fingers flipping pages. Admittedly, some flips of mine were backwards to make sure I hadn’t missed anything important, but that was mainly my fault for skimming ahead, keen to follow the progress of protagonist Hollister, a man living on the streets.
Chad Inglis wastes no space in this thoughtful yet abrupt short story, describing a mutated, unsettlingly familiar world populated by strange, hurting people, some of whom exhibit even odder behaviours. In response to one such behaviour, the serial beheading of pigeons, Hollister breaks through a severe case of “not caring” (an ailment most are afflicted with), and investigates. Hollister encounters kindness in his dark urban world, and ever-stranger acquaintances on his short quest. Dead Birds culminates in an event so unexpected and written so matter-of-factly that I had to read the sentence several times to be sure it had happened.
A story about a simple witness to the world’s madness maintaining his goodness in the face of (what on the surface seems to be) pointless evil and hopelessness, I found Dead Birds to be quite intelligent and well-written, altogether a satisfying read.
The Hyacinth Girl
on Oct. 01, 2012
Beverly loves and trusts uncommunicative, artistic Carl, missing him terribly when he fails to visit. When she begins to waste away, it is him and only him she thinks of, needing him. And then he comes. But however idyllic a chick-flick the circumstances seem to create, this nicely-flowing short story had me gnawing at my fingernails. Flinching at symptoms described with succinct gore. Eyes widening in slow realisation of Carl’s absolute betrayal. Though at its core a story of love, this is no soppy romance. Mary Ann Mitchell’s The Hyacinth Girl tells a slowly creeping tale of intimacy gone horribly wrong in the worst sense.
I have not read the award-winning novel which was inspired by this short story - I plan to at one point now, though - so can write uninfluenced by any previous opinions on the story concept. And, my uninfluenced opinion is that this concept is enthralling. Repellent - as all good horror concepts should be - but so wonderfully thought-provoking and novel. Mitchell has created a highly-relatable protagonist in Beverly, and Carl is so intriguing and intense. Not quite evil but far from good, this selfish man, driven by fear, comes across as neither selfish nor cowardly in demeanour. This makes him all the more threatening, and his confessions all the more unbelievable. My main critique of the writing is - and this, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion - that occasionally the dialogue seems a touch staged, not quite realistic.
I was very much drawn into The Hyacinth Girl, an example of my favourite type of horror - subtle and disarming. By the time I read the final words I almost felt ill, stomach unsettled and head gone fuzzy. And this is without buckets of blood. It was the notion, the story concept, that got to me. I am sure, in the dark and silence of pre-sleep, my thoughts will stray to Carl and his perfect drawings for days to come.
A Slave To The Coin
on Dec. 09, 2012
Life controlled by his unbearable need to pick up and hoard coins, Emerson Cartwright discovers the origin of his fixation and fights to overcome it, however dire the cost. A Slave To The Coin is a well-written, succinct, and tense story that captures well the desperation and struggles of a man unwillingly obsessed.
Debra Dunbar has created a pitiable yet quite likable protagonist in rich businessman Emerson. Suffering due to another’s choices, I wanted him to succeed, making the story’s ending all that more gripping. I particularly liked the recurring character of the unsettling beggar man, his seemingly harmless requests for spare change taunting and tormenting Emerson.
Quick to read and rather dark, this short story gives a bit of a harsh reminder of how unfair and cruel reality can be, even when reality is somewhat fantastic in nature.
Single Guy, Lonely Grill
on April 19, 2013
A really sweet little short story. It made me smile, and made me care for a barbeque grill. I think that's an impressive achievement.