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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Shadow Box edited by Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Angela Challis

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“The Ol’ Ferret Blues (or Weasel Rips My Flesh)” by Geoffrey Maloney
“Coming Home” by Rick Kennett
Image“Shadows’ Bride” by Marie Brennan
“The Ghost” by Eric Christ
“Cruel Summer (Sand)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
“Downpour” by Trent Jamieson
“Entwined” by Chris Barnes
“Counting Corpses” by Karl El-Koura
“Love Shot” by Ken Goldman
“The First” by Kylie Seluka
“Changing” by Susan Wardle
“Blurring” by Nathan Burrage
“Reclamation” by Deborah McDonnell
“Tattoo Ink” by Suzanne Church
“Business Week” by Samantha Henderson
“Clown Face” by Daniel Slaten
“Cruel Summer (Sun)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
“Organ Donor” by Stephanie Campisi
“I Can Make You Famous” by Lee Battersby
“I Watch” by L R Snow
“There Is A Light” by Deborah Crabtree
“The First Time” by Mark Smith
“Just Visiting” by Aurelio Rico Lopez III
“Playtime” by Martin Livings
“Listen” by Stephanie Gunn
“Erotica” by Susie Hawes
“A Little Homegrown Hollywood Magic” by Lon Prater
“Papercut” by Thomas Wiloch
“Steady” by Grant Watson
“Behind You” by Marty Young
“Cruel Summer (Sky)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
“Dark Waters” by Amanda M Hayes
“On The Ocean Wave” by Steven Cavanagh
“Saved By The Bell” by Shelley Lesher
“Baby Gal” by Charles Richard Laing
“Broken Vows” by Nadia Harmsen
“Sweet Josephine” by Liam Rands
“Hush” by Lyn Battersby
“Watching, Wondering” by Michael Kelly
“Custody” by Kathleen Jennings
“Shut Up” by Greg Beatty
“Blah Blah Blah” by Siobhan Bailey
“Say Goodbye, Again” by Mark T Barnes
“Anthills” by Karl Koweski
“Betrayed” by Mark Zirbel
“A Touch Of Bad Luck” by Samantha Joan
“Precious Cargo” by Michael A Kechula
“Sarkik” by Ellen Klages
“Head Count” by Andrew J Wilson
“Adaptations” by D E Wasden
“Cruel Summer (Surf)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
“Keep Tahoe Blue” by Stephen M Wilson
“The Last Three Questions of a Blindfolded Quintessential
Gourmand” by Joseph Paul Haines
“Gut Instinct” by Melissa Mead
“Sharp” by Josh Rountree
“Smooth Trajectory” by Esteban Silvani
“Thursday Afternoon, Just Past Three” by James C Bassett
“The Cellar Cleaners” by Stephen Clark
“Cats and Dogs” by Eric Marin
“It Comes To Us All” by Brian G Ross
“Elyssian Village” by Shei Tanner
“Afterlife?” by David L Kok
“Frederick Finds God” by E Sedia
“Under The Cushions” by Meghan Jurado
“Light” by Christian Girard
“Happy Hour” by Tony Williams
“A French Version of Me” by Gerard Brennan
“The Capture Diamonds” by Kaaron Warren
“Cruel Summer (Shadow)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
“Shadow Box” by Kurt Newton

A project attached to the Shadowed Realms E-zine, Shadowbox is a charity e-anthology of flash “dark fantasy” fiction.  While this anthology has sprouted out of the active Western Australian horror scene, the majority of the 66 included authors are from the US, Canada, and other parts of Australia, so there is a varied mix of talents and styles from around the globe. 

An enormous effort, this brilliant little e-book is touted as being “a fusion of dark art and flash fiction lashed together with multimedia nastiness.”  Indeed, it is presented well, with some truly scary pictures and sounds interspersed amongst these gruesome tales.  (Clowns…what is it with scary clowns?)

It has to be understood that these are flash fiction tales, and as such they are brief tastes, not a meaty read in their own right.  If you like to savor your horror, this is probably not for you.  Lots of creepy ideas come rocketing along one after the other like horror bullets out of a nasty flash fiction machine gun. Most hit, but a few miss.  All told, the collection is worth reading for the novelty of the concept if nothing else.

At a whopping 70 stories there is quite a bit to digest, and the profits from the sale of the PDF are split between a charity (Mission Australia) and the Australian Horror Writers Association.  At the princely sum of $2.30 US, this is definitely value for your money!

(Note: while some of these reviews are quite short, they still sometimes exceed the length of the original piece, and are kept this way to avoid spoiling things for the potential reader)

“The Ol’ Ferret Blues (or Weasel Rips My Flesh)” by Geoffrey Maloney
Succinct and strange, this is a great opening and a definite hint to the flavor of this collection.  A bizarre little pet engineers a brilliant getaway after faking its death in custody.  Maloney slots some incongruous detail around an impossible situation.  A great example of flash.

“Coming Home” by Rick Kennett
A little predictable, this is still a great vignette and will make your skin crawl.  If you don’t think a scary story can be written in three sentences, give this a go.  Quality despite the quantity.

“Shadow’s Bride” by Marie Brennan
Intended to have a gothic flavor, this is an interesting image, but not a brilliant short.  The unnatural parentage of the bride’s child is neither a shock nor particularly innovative.  The “Sleeping Beauty” quality of the piece is delivered in a humdrum manner, which is a shame as it was initially quite evocative.  One nods, goes “all right then,” and continues.

“The Ghost” by Eric Christ
Very funny!  Definite overtones of Monsters, Inc. as a ghost attempts to haunt a boy with mixed results.  An unusually humorous piece for Christ, but welcome.  I feel this could have been better placed in the anthology to perhaps provide light relief after some of the more gruesome selections later on.

“Cruel Summer (Sand)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
The first of a quintet in this collection, the “Cruel Summer” stories revolve around beach and ocean.  This first slice of horror pie is innocuous on its own, a playful sand burial gone wrong, but as a part of the whole it leads into the sequence quite well.

“Downpour” by Trent Jamieson
A bizarre twist on a fantasy trope, “be careful what you wish for,” this is a competent effort.  A country town performs a dark ritual to break a twenty-year drought and draws the blood of the innocent, yet the wish gets twisted in its delivery.  Jamieson gives an interesting observation of the workings of local government in a twisted setting.  Not bad.

“Entwined” by Chris Barnes
This is a great descriptive piece detailing a real estate agent’s dream come true.  How to offload that bizarre house where all the murders happened?  Find someone just creepy enough to want it for that reason.

“Counting Corpses” by Karl El-Koura
A clever short (perhaps a bit too cute for some people’s taste), El-Koura gives us a bizarre scenario; the old count the young dead after a skirmish, an accurate count being the only way to decide the winner.  Funny but in an eye-rolling way.

“Love Shot” by Ken Goldman
A pastiche of murder-suicide, this one also slides into the anthology based on its black humor.  These aren’t too bad to break up the gore, but only in small doses and further apart from each other.  Again, perhaps a little too cute for some folks.  Some well crafted dialogue for flash fiction despite this.

“The First” by Kylie Seluka
A vignette that follows a twisted experiment in human behavior, a man stages the death of a family pet.  A fairly mediocre tale, its one saving grace lies in the sharply vivid imagery that Seluka depicts.  Quite frankly, she seems capable of more, and her talents are likely wasted in this short form.

“Changing” by Susan Wardle
Actually a little shocking for a short, it dabbles in S&M and sexual deviancy.  It seems tastefully done, in context, and serves its purpose in making you read it again, thinking “what the hell?” Wardle is spare and concise with her language in this riveting piece, and it is no surprise to learn that she is a graduate of Clarion South (Australia’s answer to the infamous sci-fi “boot-camp”).

“Blurring” by Nathan Burrage
A murder fantasy worthy of Nick Cave, this piece has a jarring and abrupt feel to it, and could possibly do with another edit.  Nevertheless, it is creepy and thought-provoking, which is all you can ask from short horror.  Where does the protagonist end and his victim begin?

“Reclamation” by Deborah McDonnell
With a brief hint of dystopian setting, “Reclamation” is resonant of Blade Runner, all in a few short paragraphs.  Crime doesn’t pay in this story, particularly when the perpetrator’s organs get harvested.  Not bad, although McDonnell doesn’t build up the tension enough, nor display the stark fear of the doomed criminal.  This can hardly be faulted given the length of the piece, but it reads like the man is donating blood rather than having his vitals stolen.

“Tattoo Ink” by Suzanne Church
Fantastic!  This is what it’s all about!  The protagonist wonders what tattooed skin tastes like and finds out as they eat his victim alive.  There are some brilliant lines in this short, and this is clearly one of the best stories in this collection.  Read this, cringe, and enjoy.

“Business Week” by Samantha Henderson
The editors follow with another good one, set in an office of all places.  A co-worker scarfs the cookies, eats all the cake…and simply keeps eating.  There’s one in every office, and this was too close to home for comfort.  A great idea successfully translated to flash fiction.

“Clown Face” by Daniel Slaten
Why are clowns so sinister?  This is Slaten's attempt to answer that question.  The ending was ultimately unsatisfying, the allusion to the biggest clown of all simply quite predictable.  A serial killer of clowns works; a vandal at the McDonald's drive-through doesn’t.

“Cruel Summer (Sun)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
The second part of the “Cruel Summer” sequence, “Sun” raises the horror notch significantly from “Sand.”  A little boy, lost at the beach, simply wants an ice cream.  What he ends up with is truly disturbing in a skin-crawling way. It doesn’t help that this page has a cheerful beach-scene for a backdrop…and a sinister looking ice cream.  Once more the superiority of the PDF shows through; this would have lost some impact printed in black and white.

***INTERVAL***

“The X-Ray Gallery”
This isn’t fiction per se, but it deserves a mention.  A series of slides is inserted into the PDF at this point, a truly disturbing set of x-rays.  Broken bones, skulls, a snake with something in its stomach, a knife lodged in a rib-cage, some sort of bizarre walking bird, close-ups of teeth, a crab. This section is enough to do your head in out of sheer creepiness.  Not for the faint hearted.  Now, back to the fiction:

“Organ Donor” by Stephanie Campisi
Okay, here we stumble across the obligatory Tooth Fairy story.  Not bad as far as these go, but certainly nothing innovative.  Campisi presents us with some competent imagery and a nice turn of phrase.  Perhaps this would be better served in an original setting as far from Faery as possible.

“I Can Make You Famous” by Lee Battersby
An interesting take on capital punishment and copycat killings, this short thunders along and does what it has to.  A killer is dissected one millimeter at a time, but the protagonist is prepared to beat this by any means necessary. The reader gets a setting, and in a heartbeat gets the creepy twist and the end.  Efficient and polished, this story is utilitarian.  Like a jeep.

“I Watch” by L R Snow
Apart from making the obvious Monty Python references, this story about witch hanging/burning is little more than a prop holding up a punch line at the end.  Someone hit the snares and cymbal please?  DA-DOOM-CRASH!  Having said that, it is a pretty cool punch line, but Snow could only get away with this as a short-short.  Any longer and there could have been another Salem-style lynching, instigated by a collective of irate reviewers.

“There Is A Light” by Deborah Crabtree
Following "I Watch," we have another witch-killing, yet this one is of a serious mien.  Dark and thought-provoking, Crabtree has given us a masterful short, and this is easily one of the better pieces in this work.  Well worth the read.

“The First Time” by Mark Smith
Another pointless murder fantasy, this is a simple, linear tale—a meaningless plod from point A to point B.  Smith may have been better served putting a twist of some sort into this tale, or at least some sort of internal conflict for his protagonist.  For what purports to be the launching of a serial killer, this effort was lackluster.

“Just Visiting” by Aurelio Rico Lopez III
This was good, disturbing if only for the everyday way the story unfolds.  The protagonist’s initial behavior is such a non sequitur when compared to his actual circumstances.  Without giving any more away it’s a real treat and worth a read.  Just don’t blame me when you get the tune from Cheers stuck in your head.

“Playtime” by Martin Livings
What starts off as a pastiche from the Home Alone series takes a sharp turn towards the strange.  There is an image in this story so bizarre that it's best not to ruin the surprise.  Livings succeeds in making skin crawl, eyes start, and the reader say “what the hell was that?”  Brilliant!

“Listen” by Stephanie Gunn
A great little fast-paced horror short.  Not bad, and one can’t help but feel that Gunn wrote this after watching the crime documentary The Staircase and thinking, “What if?”  What if indeed, with a nice little twist at the end.

“Erotica” by Susie Hawes
An ok piece, again touching on the copycat killer theme, this time in a courtroom setting.  There is bound to be a one-in-twelve chance that a sicko of some sort gets on a murder jury, and this is a real thought-provoker.  Imagine if they were organized. All told a competent work, not the best in this volume but certainly not the worst.

“A Little Homegrown Hollywood Magic” by Lon Prater
Ooh, snuff films!  This is some pretty disturbing stuff, but a ripping read.  Short, sharp, and oh-so-deliciously horrible, this is great.  A real Blair Witch approach to homicide.

“Papercut” by Thomas Wiloch
This purports to be a story about the writing of a poem (in blood), and in itself it is poetic, the writing beautiful.  The editors have done well in picking this piece. It shows mastery of the difficult short-short-short form.  Very nice.  Read this one!

“Steady” by Grant Watson
If this doesn’t make you flinch, I don’t know what will.  You don’t know quite what point Watson is making until the very last line when you'll wince, shake your head, and reach for a drink.  Go on, tell me I’m wrong!  This is oh-so-very-disgusting.

“Behind You” by Marty Young
Or by its other title, "The Attack of The Thing."  Not bad, just another variation on the bogeyman tale, told in a modern context.  In the nicest way possible, this is somewhat pedestrian and linear, though Young is clearly a good writer and certainly capable of more.  To his credit he maintained the tension throughout “Behind You,” it just needed something a little extra to push it over the cliff.

“Cruel Summer (Sky)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Number three of five, “Sky” is not the best tale of “Cruel Summer,” but for what it is, a segue, it's adequate.  A girl sunbathes and loses the plot, the summer sky entering her head.  A brilliant descriptive piece, but apart from warning you against taking magic mushrooms before sun-baking, the point is a little bit hard to find.

“Dark Waters” by Amanda M Hayes
Oedipal to the extreme, this is a top little tale, self-contained yet with an amazing depth considering its length.  Hayes shows a proclivity to using nothing but character, but in this format such focus has served her very well.

“On The Ocean Wave” by Steven Cavanagh
Cavanagh masterfully paints the villain/protagonist and his motivations in this story.  A freighter on a tight schedule intersects with a human tragedy.  What do you do when your job is on the line?  The scary thing is the truth of this tale, and the certainty that this travesty has probably happened before.

“Saved By The Bell” by Shelley Lesher
Rich in irony, this is the obligatory buried alive tale.  Our heroine: a Victorian damsel in distress.  The situation: the claustrophobic is buried alive.  The solution: a rope attached to a bell, as per her last will and testament.  She reaches for the chain…

It’s irony, people!  Look it up if you’re unsure.

“Baby Gal” by Charles Richard Laing
Haha!  Trailer trash finds its way into this anthology (just when I'd given up hope).  “Baby Gal” is a humorous piece, and breaks up the nastiness at just the right point.  An undercurrent of disturbingness pervades in this tale of a nasty new arrival.

“Broken Vows” by Nadia Harmsen
A succinct revenge fantasy, “Broken Vows” ends on a creepy and evocative note.  One of the shorter pieces in this anthology, and while not killer, it is certainly not filler.

“Sweet Josephine” by Liam Rands
This is filthy!  Right away this tale grabs you with its disturbing premise: a man murdering his children.  Rands uses some excellent descriptors and blends this with a somewhat spare and informal narrative.  Quite disturbing but a well written piece. 

“Hush” by Lyn Battersby
Following up on the theme from the last story, “Hush” possesses a dreamy, lullaby-style voice.  It follows the nightmare vision of a frazzled mother as she comforts the child that won’t stop crying, 'till it sends her quite mad.  While “Sweet Josephine” covered this theme, “Hush” is more subtle, the nursery rhyme repetition making it all the more sinister. 

“Watching, Wondering” by Michael Kelly
Just like “Steady,” this is a horrid tale that will make the reader flinch and draw a breath through gritted teeth.  Continuing the children/family theme, a new arrival in the home confuses his older brother, who approaches the crib with a sharp pencil in hand.  Kelly has adopted a poetic approach to this tale, and the horrible point is driven home through his Hemingway-esque narrative.

“Custody” by Kathleen Jennings
The background to this story (unless I’m mistaken) is a shot of the undead baby from Dawn of the Dead—a suitable illustration for a tale that dabbles in the same concept.  A murdered woman’s ghost warns her husband to care for their dead child, and as the police arrive at his flat, he unwraps the cocoon to look on his son. Truly disgusting stuff, but on par with many other stories in Shadowbox

“Shut Up” by Greg Beatty
Ah, dark Biblical humor.  This reads like it was lifted from an unscreened episode of The Simpsons, and as such it should be treated as harmless fluff, not the controversial poke at religious institutions it could have been.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Beatty has Cain and Abel back to front in his piece.  This sort of bad joke should be kept to the pub or locker room, and not as padding in anthologies you pay good money for.

“Blah Blah Blah” by Siobhan Bailey
Again we find an inter-familial killing story; the editors seemed to have lumped them together as a loose theme.  “Blah Blah Blah” is adequate, with some great characterization.  But the final and violent ending, while in keeping with the standards of a short, the shock of the final murder is not convincing enough to suspend disbelief.

“Say Goodbye, Again” by Mark T Barnes
A revenge tale doused with the supernatural, “Say Goodbye, Again” is a little indifferent.  While Barnes has sustained quite a bit of tension and unraveled his story at the right pace, the basic premise is a little hard to swallow.  A woman avenges herself on her husband’s killer again and again and again. The Möbius strip of this tale seems pointless; if the woman can bring her husband’s killer back to life, why not just bring back her husband and be done with it?

“Anthills” by Karl Koweski
This should have been called “Attack of the Pissed-Off Killer Ants” and consigned to a B-grade chapbook.  “Anthills” is little more than a turgid take on themes covered in Arachnophobia.  The concept is weak and the writing average.  It is disappointing that this crept past the editor’s desk.

“Betrayed” by Mark Zirbel
“Betrayed” is a great little ripper of a read, and a relief that the series of lukewarm stories has ended.  A paranoid protagonist, a demented mother who doesn’t know what she’s saying—it’s a recipe for disaster, and a good thing you’re on the other side of the page where this guy is concerned.  Zirbel has given a great ending to a story that is half nasty, half laugh-out-loud.

“A Touch Of Bad Luck” by Samantha Joan
A girl buys a sinister Buddha statue for a birthday present, a vicious little piece with an appetite.  The concept is so ridiculous it works.  A funny little tale that weds the humor with a dark undercurrent of horror and gore.

“Precious Cargo” by Michael A Kechula
This is wrong, funny and disgusting, all wrapped into a putrid ball of obscenity.  A smuggler is caught stealing a zombie, but told that if he is married to the corpse he is breaking no law.  The ship’s captain is summoned to perform his duty.  At the risk of personifying the review, this reviewer nearly wet his pants with laughter after reading this.  Absolutely bloody hilarious and a must read if you get Shadowbox.

“Sarkik” by Ellen Klages
What?  This makes absolutely no sense at all.  Not weird enough to be slipstream, and not coherent enough to be humorous.  It simply is, and remains, the most confusing short I’ve had the misfortune to read for some time.  For someone with the talent and success of Klages, this story appears to be an unfortunate accident.

“Head Count” by Andrew J Wilson
With shades of Re-Animator, Wilson paints an amusing tale of a macabre scene involving a man, his dead mother, and an embarrassing early attempt at the “procedure.”  Nicely written and right up there with the other dark humor in this collection.

“Adaptations” by D E Wasden
A reverse on the definitive man-meets-and-marries-mermaid tale, Wasden flips the tragic sub-genre on its head to produce something, well, quite odd.  This is a flowing piece, neat and concise, and the twist at the end is worthy of attention, though to give it away would be unfair.  I would dedicate this story to every lawyer I’ve ever met.

“Cruel Summer (Surf)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
Number 4 in the “Cruel Summer” series brings us back to the horrifying beach in the depths of Cummings’ subconscious.  A little boy lost, far from the shore, tempts his young friend away from safety, and then it touches him, oh, the horror!  These pieces are easily the flagship of the anthology, and are consistently icky.

“Keep Tahoe Blue” by Stephen M Wilson
While this story begins on a high note of sinister gore, it rapidly descends into a pale pastiche of the Cthulhu experience.  The protagonists' dialogue is clichéd and awful.  This gun-toting occultist seems to have been wrenched from a role-playing game and dropped kicking and screaming into a short story.

“The Last Three Questions of a Blindfolded Quintessential Gourmand” by Joseph Paul Haines
With a quirky title almost as long as some of the stories in Shadowbox, “Last Three Questions etc.” is a descent into a very odd situation. The food lover of the title is fed a mystery meat and asked three questions (which turn out to be his last).  This piece is 99% dialogue and crafted excellently.  It won’t creep most readers out but will provoke an “Aha!” and a nod to the author’s skill.

“Gut Instinct” by Melissa Mead
This short takes the concept of self-mutilation for wisdom (a la Odin plucking out his eye) and takes it one further.  What body part would an author sacrifice to win a short story contest?  How much is it worth, and how far would you go to master your craft?  A top notch little piece, reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s underrated adult work.

“Sharp” by Josh Rountree
A brief glimpse into what appears to be a trailer-trash psychopath, “Sharp” is gore and horror and everything good about this anthology.  Rountree speaks with an authentic voice, and matter-of-factly describes the mutilation of a dog as if writing about a trip to the shops.  For some reason, this makes the story all the creepier, and this works. 

“Smooth Trajectory” by Esteban Silvani
This is horror poetry, and indeed it is truly horrible.  Not in the “I’m-a-goth-and-I’m-miserable” way, and not in the “I’m-the-next-Poe-despite-lack-of-talent” way.  This is simply a lump of over-the-top, needlessly profane, sadly talentless rhyme-work.  It could be forgiven if Silvani’s gory imagery evoked a true sense of horror, but it just comes out as a pretentious attempt to impress someone, anyone.
Don’t believe me?  Try this:

“Anal cavities spewing blood
Shaking about like Elmer Fudd”

Do yourself a favor and skip this, and you won’t end up beating your head against the desk like I just did.

“Thursday Afternoon, Just Past Three” by James C Bassett
This is a beautiful piece, showing the horror of isolation without the need for gore, or indeed for characters.  Witty and clever, Bassett has painted the perfect scene, an abandoned house piling up with mail and newspapers, the answering machine receiving messages that will never be answered.  Creepy in the most subtle of ways, this is masterful.

“The Cellar Cleaners” by Stephen Clark
This story is adequate, the cellar cleaners of the title a bunch of flesh-eating nasties beneath a church.  It’s not great, it’s not exciting, it’s not particularly anything, but it's not the worst piece in this collection.  Clark might have improved this piece by scratching out all references to the priest and the church, adopting a minimalist approach.  This would have improved the story significantly, as neither of those details were necessary.

“Cats and Dogs” by Eric Marin
Marin serves us a side dish of slipstream in “Cats and Dogs.”  In his signature style of weird, we get a quirky and bizarre scenario, a man walking to divorce court through an actual hail of cats and dogs.  It’s a very good slipstream short (not so sure about the horror content), but it’s definitely nice to see a story from the talented Texan in this anthology.

“It Comes To Us All” by Brian G Ross
Urban horror, a sense of the overwhelming evils that pervade society, and a man’s descent into the dog-eat-dog world—these are the general themes of this tale.  It is clever that the protagonist, initially appearing to be the victim, turns out to be the bad guy, but it’s not enough to make this story special.  It’s just competent, which is still better than horror poetry, I guess.

“Elyssian Village” by Shei Tanner
What happens when the Angel of Mercy fills in for Death?  Tanner presents an amazing scene, a mass hanging that is somehow beautiful and touching.  The horror of the anonymous viewer as they see the last death is simply brilliant.  I continue to be amazed at what true masters of flash fiction can do within the limits of the sub-genre; this is really good.

“Afterlife?” by David L Kok
Here we trip across the obligatory “what-really-happens-at-the-pearly-gates?” tale.  This premise has been done to death; everyone’s had a go, yet the day someone can retell this and knock my socks off is the day I eat my hat.  Unfortunately, my hat remains uneaten.  “Afterlife?” gets a thumbs down due to unoriginality. 

“Frederick Finds God” by E Sedia
What you think is one character’s admission of being born-again becomes a revelation of a different kind in this piece by Sedia.  Frederick does find God; in fact it’s amazing what you can find in the couch sometimes.  A cute little piece, but I’m surprised it got into the anthology.  It isn't horror or even slightly dark fantasy, but a well written speculative short that works on its own merit.

“Under The Cushions” by Meghan Jurado
Once again the editors have put two stories together with similar themes. This time we meet a more ominous kind of couch, a build up to a punch-line of sorts.  But it is a little sinister and really works as black humor.  Not bad!

“Light” by Christian Girard
An interesting exercise, “Light” is written entirely in one word sentences.  Yes, one word sentences.  This is initially annoying, while at the same time intriguing.  There's impetus to buckle down and give it a go.  Girard is certainly brave and definitely clever for having attempted this, but the story isn’t there, despite the gimmick.  It’s a very ordinary story wrapped up in a gimmick.

“Happy Hour” by Tony Williams
Why?  Oh why?  This story is a collection of bad vampire jokes as two vampires prepare to, uh, paint the town red.  See, they’ve got me doing it now!  Just appalling.  The background is a picture of the Count from Sesame Street, in case you thought they were serious.

“A French Version of Me” by Gerard Brennan
A slipstream short, Brennan’s piece is a fast-paced pseudo-comical piece.  Not bad for what it is, an attempt to do the reader’s head in with reverse logic.  Brennan succeeds.

“The Capture Diamonds” by Kaaron Warren
This is a bizarre little piece, with shades of the earlier “Gut Instinct.”  Sarah is trading her body parts for Capture Diamonds, crystallized remnants of the cremated.  This surreal transaction is given credence by the everyday handover, and the condescending manner in which the protagonist makes the trade.  A really nifty little story, though a bit strange and hard to follow at first.

“Cruel Summer (Shadow)” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings
The final segment of the five-piece sequence, “Shadow” is perhaps the strangest and certainly the most fitting way to end the series.  Linked to the other tales, it is a poignant glimpse of a little girl, left behind and wondering where her entire family has gone (see stories 1-4 to find out).  This is the flagship of this anthology, and Cummings displays his mastery of flash-fiction with all of these.  Shadowed Realms (which Cummings assists with in the capacity of Creative Design Artist) has produced serial stories in the past, and it is good to see him continue that tradition.

“Shadow Box” by Kurt Newton
The title piece of the anthology, “Shadow Box” is not the best story in this collection.  Having said that, it is an interesting read, where an old man collects shadows in, well, a box.  It is a think-piece and certainly a good way to end the collection, with a creeping horror that lingers long after you’ve clicked the “close” button.

Publisher: Shadowed Realms
PDF Price: $2.30 (CD $5.00)