SIX SCARY STORIES Selected and Introduced by Stephen King. Cemetery Dance Publications, 2016. 126 pages. Trade Hardcover $24.95. ISBN #978-1-58767-571-3. http:www.cemeterydance.com
Upon the United Kingdom release of Stephen King’s collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, publishers Hodder & Stoughton and The Guardian ran a short story competition. The major requirement was that all stories provide a “quick, unsettling encounter” for a “shorter, more intense experience.”
Stephen King agreed to review the six entries that made it to the finals and declare a winner. He was so impressed with all six finalists that he suggested they be published together in one book. SIX SCARY STORIES from Cemetery Dance Publications is the result; and all six stories are premium quality works. They are truly ‘short’ stories, and each includes an intense jolt. The longest story of the bunch is just 24 pages; while the shortest story is 12 pages.
The winner of the competition is the well-deserved and eerie travel narrative “Wild Swimming” by Elodie Harper. Wild swimming enthusiast Chrissie, traveling through some remote regions of Europe, decides to ignore the warnings and take a dip in a Lithuanian reservoir. Author Harper, a journalist, utilizes email messages to tell the story and builds the suspense and tension nicely.
The other stories in the collection are not ranked, but we are going to mention them here in our order of preference.
“Eau-De-Eric” by Manuela Saragosa, another journalist like Harper, relates the tale of a widowed mother raising her young daughter. Mother buys a teddy bear at a second-hand shop and daughter names it after the deceased father, because it “smells like Daddy.” Mother is then unable to separate the toy from the daughter, much to her chagrin, and this drives a dysfunctional wedge between them.
“The Unpicking” is written by Michael Button, a former software developer and teacher, and relates what happens with toys while children are sleeping. A young boy’s stuffed animals and dolls creep out of the toy chest at night and play games. The toy called Nobody suggest a new and dangerous game with dreadful results.
In “The Spots”, by multimedia writer and director Paul Bassett Davies, a subordinate is assigned by the head of government to count the spots on a leopard. He has difficulty completing the task.
The last two stories are from full-time fiction writers.
Neil Hudson tells a post-apocalyptic tale in “The Bear Trap.” The remaining survivors are farmers, and neighbors are few and far between. A young man is left to tend the farm while his father searches for relatives. He encounters a wandering stranger with bad manners who invites himself to stay, and makes fun of the homestead’s resources.
“La Mort De L’Amant” by Stuart Johnstone, the shortest story in the book, presents a stylish scenario with secondary themes involving local colloquialisms. An older man waits on a bridge over a waterfall, about to complete his mission when he is interrupted by a younger police officer.
True to the introduction by Stephen King, these stories are short and sweet, and reach their end result quickly. SIX SCARY STORIES is a fun collection, providing engaging entertainment, and a few jolts along the way.