And once again for something completely different. A few days before pumpkin day, here are a few of my favorite horror short stories.
And if you twisted my arm, my top five would be:
1) The Events At Poroth Farm by T.E.D. Klein
2) The Night They Missed The Horror Show by Joe Lansdale
3) The Last Feast of Harlequin by Thomas Ligotti
4) I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
5) The Jaunt by Stephen King
“My death will only be fitting. And after my death, many more. We are all, I’m afraid, in
danger. Please, then, forgive this prophet of doom, old at thirty, his last jeremiad: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
The River Styx Runs Upstream by Dan Simmons
Sometimes the dead come back. There are revenants, ghosts and assorted undead. Sometimes they have been brought back by the living rather than choosing to come back themselves… and sometimes it is uncertain exactly what has returned.
Nightcrawlers by Robert McCammon
‘Nightcrawlers’ features a drained and breaking Vietnam vet whose ability to project hallucinations and desires gradually draws those around him into his tortured psyche.
Cold Print by Ramsey Campbell
Campbell is one of the finest contemporary Lovecraftian authors. Here there are dark, corrupted churches where deeds have shunned the light of Christianity, ancient, reptilian gods buried deep in the ground struggling to reemerge with the help of frightening, unthinking zealots.
The Pear-Shaped Man by George R. R. Martin
From Patton Oswalt: “Everyone knows a Pear-Shaped Man. I read George R.R. Martin’s story in OMNI, during my senior year in high school. A friend’s parents were going through a nasty divorce, and the mom had moved to a new apartment building nearby. So I’d go and visit him there.
And in the apartment complex was a Pear-Shaped Man. I’d spot him, little glimpses of his bulk, darting out of the slats of sun that shone in the mailbox alcove, scuttling back into the afternoon gloom of his apartment. Luckily, I’d read Martin’s story, so I didn’t get close. Because everyone knows a Pear-Shaped Man. Even though there’s only one.”
Sticks by Karl Edward Wagner
There was something here–a large table-like bulk in the center of the cellar. Where a few ghosts of sunlight drifted down to touch the edges, it seemed to be of stone. Cautiously he crossed the stone paving to where it loomed – waist-high, maybe eight feet long and less wide.
A roughly shaped slab of gneiss, he judged, and supported by pillars of unmortared stone. In the darkness he could only get a vague concept of the objet. He ran his hand along the slab. It seemed to have a groove along the edge.
His groping fingers encountered fabric, something cold and leathery and yielding. Mildewed harness, he guessed in distaste.
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
As we careen down the path of ever more complex and complicated computing, what paths might it go down?
And what does our digital servants think (yes, think) about their endless, programmed servitude?
The Last Feast of Harlequin by Thomas Ligotti
Our investigator is never given a name, but we are told that he an anthropologist who is obsessed with the historical portrayal of the clowns. This obsession leads him to the town of Mirocaw where they celebrate an annual Fool’s Feast.
When he arrives in Mirocaw, he is very excited to participate in what he thinks will be jovial tomfoolery. He has brought his makeup and high hopes for the Yule time celebration. However, the festival is not what he expected. The deeper he involves himself in the festivities the more he begins to question his own sanity.
The Jaunt by Stephen King
Teleportation has solved all the world’s energy and hunger problems. But what is on the other side of The Jaunt?
The Night They Missed The Horror Show by Joe Lansdale
In the dedication for this tale, Lansdale dubs it “a story that doesn’t flinch.”
And good gravy is that true. This story not only refuses to flinch, it stares with unblinking intensity at an evil so mundane, so casual that it’s far more unnerving than most werewolves or vampires could ever hope to be.
The Events At Poroth Farm by T.E.D. Klein
The story of a college professor who takes time off to prepare for a class teaching horror, all while the world in which he lives is slowly becoming more horrifying. He gradually realises that genuine supernatural horror is taking place around him.