A Dark Collection: 12 Scary Stories
By Mark Lukens
I downloaded this for a random read. Despite the generic title I liked the cover art. It reminded me of an old style collection of Halloween tales I once had as a youngster. Much like Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf, there is a tale for each month of the year in this collection. Many of the stories demonstrate the kind of horror that men can inflict upon each other, be it for jealousy, sport, ritual or power.
In the first story, Crow Manor, the longest (and strongest) tale in the collection, a young couple is hired to house-sit over the winter months. Despite some strange rules, the couple agree because the pay is more than they would make in a full year of working. They soon discover they are being hunted by a master hunter and trophy-man. The story was very tense and had me rooting for the young couple’s escape.
The psychological implications of oppression are demonstrated in the story Tank, where the captive becomes ultra-reliant on the captor. In Welcome to Paradise, a small desert town becomes a prison when some young couples are lost and can’t find their way back to civilization. I also enjoyed the humorous Halloween poem/ limerick for the October entry, Halloween Spirit. And the Western horror of Skinwalkers was a paranormal tale, a creepy entry based upon Native American folklore. I find the last two stories in the collection to be the most original and creative. Rat Trap starts with a familiar struggle and ends the way I love short stories to end, with a terrifying twist. And the December story, The Vending Machine, is more like a weird tale that encompasses Christmas themes, childhood memories and family struggles wrapped in horror. It’s a perfect story to end the book
Although the stories are good, there’s nothing wholly original about most of them. Crow Manor has shades of You’re Next and The Osterman Weekend. Welcome to Paradise has the feel of The Hills Have Eyes. You’ll find familiarity in most of these tales. However, they are well written and quickly paced, making them enjoyable to read. Whether you want to read one story a month or plow through all the stories in a month is your choice, but it will certainly entertain.