Dark Screams: Volume One

Dark Screams: Volume One - Brian James Freeman, Kelley Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark, Richard Chizmar, Stephen King

This collection of short horror stories, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, both of Cemetery Dance Publications, was both creepy and thought provoking. Some stories were definitely better than others, namely the one by Simon Clark which really stood out for me, seeing as he's an author I hadn't come across before.

WEEDS by Stephen King
Jordy Verrill wasn't all that bright, but when a meteorite lands on his farm one night, dollar signs flash before his eyes. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary rock, and it seems as if the life force inside has found it's first victim.

This was a decent short story, reminiscent of classic King, not surprising seeing as it was originally written back in 1976. But that said, I didn't care for it all that much since I didn't really relate to the main character. He was a bit of a lughead, by his own admission, and there wasn't a whole lot else going on.

THE PRICE YOU PAY by Kelley Armstrong
There's always a price to pay... just never pay more than you owe. Words Kara Snow has attempted to live by after the traumatic events of her childhood. Unfortunately, certain habits are hard to break, relationships in particular, and Kara finds herself in hot water all over again when her childhood friend Ingrid comes back into to her life.

I'm a fan of Kelly Armstrong and I found this short story more to my liking than the previous. The main character was quite relate-able and the circumstances surrounding her story all too real. The surprise ending indeed took me by surprise, but still delivered a closing I was quite happy with.

MAGIC EYES by Bill Pronzini
Edward James Tolliver lives his life among the criminally insane, convicted of a crime for which he insists he's innocent. Adamant in his innocence, yet constantly pressured by his doctor to accept responsibility for his actions, how can he do so without revealing the presence of these spectral invaders that have been visiting him... when doing so would only prove he's exactly where he belongs.

This was a creepy tale about an inmate who sees demons in the people around him. It's conducted mostly in monologue as the protagonist Edward writes in his journal, and I found that got a little tiring after awhile. But I suppose this type of delivery helped to emphasize the crazed mind behind the story. Overall, I found it just alright, but nothing special.

MURDER IN CHAINS by Simon Clark
The best of the bunch. A gripping story reminiscent of old Saw movies. John York awakens in a large underground sewer, having no idea how he got there, and chained by the neck to a large, scary killer. How far will he go and what will he do to save himself?

I really enjoyed the suspense with this one, never knowing where it was going to lead next, the crazed killer a mere 10 feet away from the protagonist the entire time. The author did a really good job building the suspense, especially for a short story, and I found myself really empathizing with the main character. Simon Clark is now a name I will definitely watch for in the future.

THE WATCHED by Ramsey Campbell
Young Jimmy meets a man in the woods on his way home one day. Claiming to be a local policeman, the man asks Jimmy to keep an eye on the house next door. But why would a policeman have a young boy running errands for him, and why does this man look like he hasn't slept in days? What Jimmy discovers over the course of the next few days will impact his life forever more.

Though not nearly as suspenseful as the previous Simon Clark story, this one had enough going on to command a different sort of suspense. Keeping secrets, yet never quite sure what was really going on, Jimmy's actions leave the reader constantly searching for clues, just as Jimmy is himself.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.