When a story starts out, “You know he’s the one who made your beloved niece disappear,” how could you not want to keep reading?
The first line of The Button Bin in Mike Allen’s collection of horror stories, “Unseaming,” is enough to raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck. Allen, already well known as an editor and writer of speculative poetry, delivered “Unseaming” several years ago in all its luscious, spine-tingling dread and horror. I had no idea it existed until a member of my writer’s group mentioned it.
I want you to do something right now.
Just imagine standing in front of a window.
Then a brick appears in your hand.
What happens now?
You throw the brick through the window.
Glass shatters, showering you with glittering shards.
Now you step forward, your tennis shoes crunching on the random scattered pieces.
And what do you do now?
You press up close to the ragged, gaping hole where the brick went through.
You put your hand out and begin to lower it directly down toward a distinctly jagged piece jutting at a crazy angle out into the open air, aiming it closer and closer to that tender, sensitive point between your thumb and forefinger….
That, in my opinion, is what it’s like to read “Unseaming.”
If the elegant, serrated, melodic writing isn’t enough, then maybe the bizarre, mind-bending tales, often with an unexpected twist, will do the trick.
For example, enter the mind of a grieving woman:
Soon she heard nothing else. An absence of music, an opposite of laughter, as if a throat sculpted pure mourning, emitted waves that drained away power and life as they washed over whatever they touched.
If horror can be born somehow of lyricism, Mike Allen accomplishes that. And expect nightmares of all types: real and self-made. In one story, a hiker witnesses this:
The monster ascended the far side of the gully on legs like arched lighting, climbing into the murk at heart-wrenching speed.
I don’t know about you, but whose knees wouldn’t buckle just at the thought of seeing something like that? And then the other type of monstrosity declares this in the bookend of the collection:
To you I am a shriveled lump, but I speak with pride when I tell you that I’m a self-made monster, a Mandelbrot set, a Koch curve, a Menger sponge, and inside I have no boundaries.
It’s not so easy to find a book of horror, in my opinion, that opines the state of heightened primordial sociopathy approaching omnipotence in such deliberate language peppered with an alarming and passionate undertone.
As an added point of intrigue, his second collection of horror, “The Spider Tapestries,” came out just a few months ago, March of this year.
Enjoy these stories.
But be careful with that brick and the glass.
Don’t cut yourself….too deep.