DeadCades is a horror anthology where all the stories are broken up by decades. They start in the 1880s and travel through time to the 2020s. Each decade starts with a list of notable “horror events” such as wars waged, natural disasters, and murderous sprees. Directly after the list of horror, a piece of flash fiction introduces the time period and then a story follows, set in the decade.
Overall, the book is a big mixed bag of horror. The stories are all so different, I think there is something for everyone in there. Because the stories were all so different, not only by subject but in style as well, I found the book a bit hit or miss. If you’re someone who likes variety in your horror, you will love this book.
I’m generally not a flash fiction reader, but I found many of the mini tales enjoyable. They were little bites meant to incite fear or terror and a lot of them had that creepy chill crawling up my spine. There were also some interesting format ideas in the flash, such as displaying the text backward, like a riddle to be solved.
Some of the shorts I enjoyed the most were “Trapped in the Century” by Michael Carter, “Swing Time” by Pattyann McCarthy, “Doffer Boy” by Andrea Allison, and “We Are Not Alone” by C.R. Smith. Because of their length, I will not give descriptions.
Now, on to my favorite stories in the group. Please be warned, there may be spoilers below.
My absolute favorite story in this book is Stephanie Ellis’s, “Winter of Discontent.” She brings the chills as she tells a story of a town that can’t bury its dead until the ground thaws. Growing up in Alaska, that was a reality and I always thought it was super creepy, so I was excited to see her explore the subject. Her story takes it a step further as the young guy who has to watch over the bodies in a warehouse overnight, experiences strange occurrences that culminate with him hiding on a shelf inside one of the body bags. The madness that unfurls as he awaits whoever (or whatever) is in the warehouse to reveal itself was enough to have me hiding under the covers. Stephanie’s command of story development and resolution is magic.
Another great one was “The Tailor of Bernu” by Christopher Long. This story appears to be about a lost camera and one man’s trek to recover it, but when he gets to the house of the man who is supposed to have it, it’s unclear where he’s gone. Strange mannequins are placed in odd positions about the rooms and the man himself is nowhere to be found. The secret to the story is too precious to give away, but it’s definitely one you’ll be thinking about long after you finish the story.
I got a great sense of the 80s in Stuart Conover’s story “The Shortcut.” A bunch of kids try to take a shortcut through a haunted house, and well… We all know that is not a good idea. Fans of the 2017 It movie and Stranger Things will dig this throwback tale of exuberant and foolhardy youth. I especially liked the creepy suits of armor that seem to move around the rooms.
“Beyond the Veil” by Richard J. Meldrum was a fun jaunt into the spiritualists (and con-men) of the 1900s. As a pretend spiritualist that is more showman than gifted psychic, Dr. John Lansing is offered a big payday to visit a wealthy (and dying) man’s house to speak to the dead. What occurs after he arrives is a surprise to both him and his client.
In the 2010’s story, “Time of Death” by Marie McKay, there were some really fantastic images brought forth in the language she used. The story on the whole made me uncomfortable in an interesting way. My brain kept trying to guess where the pieces fell and I couldn’t. The style was almost like a serial killer story “dissected” but in the end, wasn’t what I thought at all. Delightfully surprising.
The 1920’s “Mr Dandy” by Alyson Faye tells the story of a ventriloquist dummy who causes his operator a heap of trouble when he continually abducts and feeds on women. The creepy dummy-murderer story had some chilling moments as he spoke directly to the girls, seemingly on his own. But was the operator schizophrenic? Or was the dummy truly possessed?
If you like horror fiction in many different styles and subjects, you are sure to enjoy DeadCades.