Help Wanted and Dark Blessings

I have read two anthologies recently that I want to talk about. The first one is Help Wanted: Tales of On The Job Terror from Evil Jester Press. This book is edited by Peter Giglio and has short stories by Joe McKinney, Gary Brandner, Henry Snider and many more. As if work wasn’t already scary enough, this book gives you more reasons to be scared. Help Wanted is an excellent anthology that includes some great stories by some master storytellers.

One of the stories includes Agnes: A Love Story by David C. Hayes, which tells the tale of a lawyer named Jack who feels unappreciated at work and by his wife so he starts a relationship with a photocopier. They get along well until the photocopier starts wanting the lawyer to kill for it. The thing I liked about this story was how the author makes you feel sorry for Jack. His two co-workers are happily married and love their jobs while Jack is married to a paranoid alcoholic and he hates and works at a job he can’t stand. You completely understand how he can fall in love with a copier because he is a lonely soul that no one understands except the copier of course.

Another story in Help Wanted is Work Life Balance by Jeff Strand. In this story a man works for a company that starts to let their employees do what they want at work. It starts with letting them come to work a little later than usual, then the employees are allowed to hug and kiss on the job. Things get really out of hand though when the company starts letting employees carry knives and stab each other, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job. This story is meant to be more funny then scary but still has its scary moments. Jeff Strand does a great job mixing humor and horror in this story.

Another good story in Help Wanted: On The Job Terror is The Chapel Of Unrest by Stephen Volk. This is a gothic horror story that takes place in the 1800’s and has to deal with an undertaker who has the duty of capturing and embalming a ghoul who has been eating dead bodies in a graveyard. Stephen Volk through his use of  imagery in describing the graveyard, the chapel and the clothes of the time, transports you into an 1800’s gothic setting that reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

One more story in this anthology that I have to mention is Expulsion by Eric Shapiro which tells the tale of a mad man going into a office to kill his fellow employees. This is a very short but very powerful story that gets you into the mind of a disgruntled employee but manages to end on a positive note. Though there were stories I didn’t like in Help Wanted, all in all its a very good anthology. I highly recommend this book but if this one doesn’t appeal to you the people at Evil Jester Press have some other good anthologies available including: Evil Jester Digest Volume 1  and Attic Toys.

The other anthology I want to mention is from Biting Dog Press called Dark Blessings by John Paul Allen. Included here are short stories dealing with a road trip to hell, a child with an unusual appetite and a closet lover with deadly intentions. Dark Blessings was really a surprise for me, I hadn’t heard of John Paul Allen but I read some good reviews and decided to give it a shot.

The first story in this anthology is called Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow which follows a young couple on their way through West Virginia who have made a career out of scamming the elderly out of money. During  a stop at Poogan’s Pass they end up where they didn’t expect to go and pay for their misdeeds. While this story is not bloody like some horror stories, it manages to scare in away you wouldn’t think about and makes a point that even if you think you are going to get away with something, karma will get you in the end.

The next story in Dark Blessings is called Runs Like Rabbit and follows the story of a native american boy named Runs Like Rabbit that has to give up his heritage and move with his family so his father can take a job in the white man’s world. The family gives up their names and rejects the gods that they once worshiped in search of a better life. The family soon finds out its not easy to leave their heritage behind as they become isolated. Runs Like Rabbit leaves the family and they all pay in the end. The thing I love about this story is it makes you feel the pain and loneliness that Runs Like Rabbit feels but then the story leaves you with a surprise ending that changes your feelings.

Keeping with the theme of John Paul Allen’s anthology which seems to be that all humanity is good but there is a dark self destructive side to it that makes us suffer. My favorite story in this book a love story called Marquee which has to deal with mistreating the ones you love, paying for your mistakes and letting go. The story follows a man named Scott who mistreats a mentally handicapped person named Duffy, but later finds out that he is connected to him through past lives. Duffy holds the key to Scott fixing his relationship with his wife. To talk to much about this story would give it away, it’s a different kind of love story that shows that sometimes to prove you love someone you have to let them go.

Each story here is a gem and shows humanity at its worst and best. Another story here that I found disturbing but illustrates how good comes from something bad was Prader-Willie which tells the story of three boys left to watch a girl with special needs. The story shows that things aren’t always what they seem. Dark Blessings is psychological horror at its best and I look forward to reading more from John Paul Allen.