You know how they say you can tell a lot about a writer by their work? If this is the case, then the next time I meet up with any of the authors from Night Shadows: Queer Horror I'm bringing a gun, an escape plan, and maybe a handsome young priest with smouldering good looks.
I say all that in jest. Mostly. Horror isn't a genre I delve into often, as I've mentioned, but about Lee Thomas, who has the first tale in this collection, I already knew a little bit: his book, The German was freaking disturbing, and he has a well-earned reputation in the world of dark fiction with his previous books as well.
The story Lee Thomas wrote is called "The Hollow is Filled with Beautiful Monsters."
I'll just let that sink in there a bit.
Beyond being incredibly envious of his title, I was intrigued from step one. Why are some people so capable of coming up with such great titles, while others - I'm asking for a friend here - just can't do it to save their lives? Anyway. I'm not going to spoil any plot-points. Stepping into this story was like slowly working your way into a cold lake: inching yourself out, step by step, knowing that at any moment the slow build of the uncomfortable is going to give way to a sudden shock. The main character's ex shows up and the narrative begins to wander ever closer to something you know is going to make you cringe, but the hints are few. When the character steps into a darkened and unexplored area, I wanted to reach into the book and slap him. Hard. But I couldn't disagree - he had to go there.
And what he finds? Gah.
What I think is most deft about this piece is that the horror that does eventually come to light has such layers. Yes, there's the obvious horrible reality of what is happening, but it's the internal horror - the problems rooted in the psyche of the characters involved - that give this tale the "two" in its one-two punch at the end. I shivered, grimaced, and finished "The Hollow is Filled with Beautiful Monsters" with a sense that this collection was going to be great.
And really, really disturbing.