Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem

Sabrina's Scary Christmas Part IV

This will be an ongoing review of 21 short stories found in the Halloween anthology, Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem compiled and edited by Ann Frasier.

Today's short stories are brought to you by Kelly Lynn Parra, Jason Evans, Paula L. Flemming, Shirley Damsgaard, and Anne Frasier. They contain a little bit of this, and a little bit of that... mingled with some graveyard fun, a black cat, a burka wearing monster, a man that loves red shoes, and a little reanimation. Enjoy.


I've never been one to hang out in cemeteries... at night... with friends... to bring back the dead, but... I have been known to roam the grounds during the day, alone, just to enjoy the silence and read the grave markers. I could spend hours in a cemetery. I love them so much I even started a Pinterest board devoted to all the cemeteries I'm wanting to visit. Gotta love Pinterest! If people didn't think I was odd before...

Where was I? Oh, yes.

In Graveyard Soul Sucker by Kelly Lynn Parra, a group of friends head off to the cemetery in search of some Halloween fun. They're planning to resurrect John Peter Montgomery, a former serial killer (former, 'cause you know, he's dead), that died with 25 souls trapped in his body after sucking them dry through black magic... or something like that. He was captured and hung, and rumor has it a witch was in love with him. When John Peter didn't return the interest, she cursed him... "for all eternity he can only come alive midnight to midnight on Halloween to eat as many souls as he wants..." Only if you perform a ritual, though.

Turns out the practical joker in the group, Jones, just happens to have the ritual words needed to wake John Peter from his sleep. Jones doesn't really think it will work (can you see where this is going?), but to everyone's surprise it does work, and they soon find themselves scattering through the cemetery, taking cover behind grave markers, and listening to the Soul Sucker steal the lives of some of their friends. Some quick thinking, and reading of the book, the remaining friends devise a plan to confuse the Soul Sucker until they can get back to his grave, find some dirt, and recite some words that will throw him back to his grave... forever! Only... you need a decedent of a witch to make that happen. Hmmmmmm.

*****

There's an awful lot of apple-spiced tea drinking in She Came on the October Wind by Jason Evans. While drinking apple-spiced tea, Natalie is befriended by a black cat and is reminded of a pact she made with her sister when they were children. Her sister, Amanda, ran away from home years ago, and the history behind this event still sparks anger in their mother. As the cat begins to move closer and closer to Natalie's heart, her desire to find her sister becomes stronger.  A search proves useless, but a slip of paper with information lands on Natalie's bed while she's been sleeping; paw prints leading the way to a closed window. The information leads Natalie to her sister... just in time to say goodbye. This wasn't the happy ending I had hoped for, but She Came on the October Wind by Jason Evans, was truly heartwarming and had me reaching for the phone to call my sisters. They didn't answer, though. #sadness

*****

In Treats, Tricks, and Terror in Tin Lake by Paula L. Fleming, Adeela is a woman living in a small community and dealing with the daily struggles of rumors caused from her need to wear a burka. The townsfolk have a hard time believing there's a Muslim living in their community, and even though the adults have been somewhat kind, some accuse her of being a terrorist... worse, a witch! But really, she's just your average monster hiding a disfigurement behind a burka and trying desperately to fit in.

Seems that every year on Halloween her house gets hit with graffiti and eggs and all kinds of nonsense. So this year, Adeela, is planning to win over the townsfolk by having lots of candy, lots of pumpkins, and the best costume around. She's taking off the burka, people... and letting her true beauty shine. Okay, so she's not really sparkly and all like that last sentence suggested. I got a little carried away.  She's a monster... with no breasts, and she has a hip frill that covers her genitals. AND, most importantly, she doesn't sparkle like a member of the Cullen family. She's truly monstrous!

Things are looking good for Adeela this year when the kids are loving her costume and one of the parents admits that she has the best look in the neighborhood. But things soon take a bad turn when evil men torch her house and send Adeela scrambling to save the only link she has with the other world / community that she really belongs with.  It's a sad tale of survival for a monster living among us humans... but with hope that there just might be more of her kind living in the community of Tin Lake. Hey, was that a devil lobster that just walked by?

***** 

What do you do when the man that you think is the ONE breaks your heart and never returns your calls? Well, if you're a witch you send him a curse that makes him fall in love with you so you can break his heart in little tiny pieces later. And if you're not a witch?  You pretend to be one and catch your kitchen on fire.

This is where we meet Rachel in Bewitched by Shirley Damsgaard. Turns out the guy she might have given a little too much of herself to for a first date, didn't call her like he had promised. He hasn't returned her calls, either. Frustrated, angry, maybe even a little humiliated, she comes up with a bad idea to curse him. Her attempt fails and she can now add fire damage to the list of troubles brewing in her life. 

But she picks up the pieces and moves on by attending a Halloween party dressed as Dorothy... with red stilettos to finish the look. Not intentionally, though. She was so obsessed with getting back at this guy, Joel, that she didn't even bother to check to see if her costume fit. Now's she stuck dressing a little more slutty than she had probably planned, and catching the eye of... yep, Joel, the guy that's been avoiding her. 

Turns out Joel's got a little secret, though, and Rachel's about to meet the Red Shoe Killer. Dang, where's a real witch when you need one?

*****

One thing I really love about short stories is their ability to have an element of surprise in such a short amount of time. I mean, really... for some it takes an entire novel to spin a story with a surprise... which isn't a bad thing. But a short story that can give a surprise ending that leaves your mouth gaping open, well, that's just pure genius in my book. And Anne Frasier (pseudonym for Theresa Weir), does just that with her short story The Replacement.

In The Replacement by Anne Frasier we meet Grant Vang, an eighteen year old college student in need of a replacement. You see, Grant's been brought back from the dead thanks to his uncle and a reanimation kit.  His Uncle is a doctor... I think he's a witch doctor, actually. Regardless, Grant's Uncle wants him to find a replacement and soon... the younger the better. But Grant doesn't want a young replacement, and finding the right one takes time when you have a certain standard to uphold.

And in a walks the perfect standard... a frat boy. The frat boy might seem pretty skeptical about the place, but he's curious enough to take a piece of paper containing a spell for his heart's desire.  The instructions are to memorize the words and eat the piece of paper. Then "after the sun sets below the horizon and the moon is silver in the night sky," he's supposed to stand with his back to the foot of a fresh grave, close his eyes, and repeat the spell three times. Oh... and he's supposed to go alone.

Yeah, I don't know. There's something about my heart's desire being found in a cemetery that doesn't really add up. But the frat boy doesn't seem to be bothered by this and actually goes to cast the spell. As for the fresh grave? Well, the frat boy decides to stand with his back to the fresh grave belonging to a college student he killed three days ago. Any guesses on who's waiting in the dark for the frat boy? Yep! The reanimated body of Grant Vang.

Anne Frasier did a wonderful job of setting this story up. The death of a college student is mentioned briefly at the beginning of the story, but the way Grant and his uncle discuss finding a replacement, as a reader,  I was under the impression Grant was looking for a new employee for his uncle. Even the mention of the reanimation kit is so casual that the reality of Grant's situation isn't made clear until he meets up with the frat boy at the cemetery. This was written so cleverly that I couldn't wait to go back and find all the obvious hints to the end of the story. This is one of my favorites in the anthology.

I'll be back later with the final stories from Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic, and Mayhem. Until then, feel free to pick up a copy from the following links below...




Deadly Treats is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

1 comment:

jason evans said...

After all that tea, there was much time in the bathroom. (Free bit of backstory.) ;) Thank you for the review!! It's a treat to hear your thoughts on all of these stories.