I’m on something of a Short Sharp Shocks! bender at the moment. I’m devouring these tales and this short story is yet another superb entry in the growing list of great titles.
This story had me from the very first paragraph and thankfully it kept its grip on me throughout. Small towns with strange goings on in the woods are one of the horror tropes that creep me out the most. It’s that they’re so believable. It’s what makes Hereditary such a scary film.
Just imagine if all your friends and relatives were members of a subterranean cult with the power to manipulate everything that happens around you. It sounds ridiculous, but can you ever be totally sure? The concept is just so unnerving.
In this excellent story we’re introduced to Owen and his son David. David lost the sight in his one eye when he was just a kid in a car crash. The accident also took Owen’s wife. So it’s understandable that Owen’s a bit of a grumpy old bastard.
But when David returns to his father’s home claiming he can now see perfectly, it’s all too weird to be true. David claims he found some markings on an old tree in the woods, and he was instantly cured.
Owen is dubious, however. Although delighted that David is ‘better’ he can’t help being a little skeptical of his son’s account. Some strange writing on some old tree? Naah!
Before he knows what’s happening the whole town knows David’s news. The interactions between Owen and the locals in the town are a little off. There’s no in-your-face confrontational or scary behaviour, but there’s a creepy vibe lingering disconcertingly in the background, seemingly just biding its time before striking.
A journalist contacts Owen, requesting information about David’s wild claims. The case certainly sounds like a good story. Owen begrudgingly agrees to an interview but ends up receiving information that causes him to rethink exactly what’s going on around him. Is he about to start believing in the cure-tree?
As with any short story review I don’t want to say too much about it, apart from buy it! There is a reason the town know so much, and the folk horror genre is very much in play here. I was reminded of the film Kill List, which is certainly worth checking out if you haven’t already, but only after you’ve read this gem.
This unnerving story will have you moving to the big city in no time. It really creeped me out anyway. And that, is a wonderful thing.
Categories: book review