Shadowed Realms, #7, Sept/Oct 2005

Saturday, 10 September 2005 05:39 Scott M. Sandridge
"Nothing of Him That Doth Fade" by Poppy Z. Brite
"Triad in the Key of Lies" by Joseph Paul Haines
"Malik Rising" by Paul Haines
"Autopsy" by Robert Hood
"Downpour" by Trent Jamieson
"Professional Responsibility" by Nathaniel James Parker
"Flight" by Josh Rountree
"Paper Cut" by Thomas Wiloch

Shadowed Realms is an online magazine that caters to lovers of dark, psychological speculative flash fiction. Edited by Angela Challis and Shane Jiraiya Cummings, the intro to the magazine sets the mood with deep, bass music, a heartbeat, and the crowing of ravens. The thematic cover art (this issue starting a "Pathways" theme) beckons the reader in and gives warning to the darkness on the horizon and inside the mind. I half-expected a sign reading “Enter at Your Own Risk,” but if you haven’t turned away by this point then you’re not going to.

“Nothing of Him That Doth Fade, Part 2” by Poppy Z. Brite is the second part of a serialized story. If you prefer reading a series at the beginning rather than some part near the middle, have no fear; for a link below the title sends you straight to Part One in the previous issue.

Jack and Theo are a gay couple who have been together for twelve years, and like any couple, they have the usual problems that can strain a relationship. They take a trip to Sydney together hoping it might patch things up, only to be forgotten by their scuba diving instructor and stranded at sea.

The story switches back and forth between past and present events. Though I dislike constant flashbacks, Brite managed to do it in a way that did not distract from my enjoyment of the story… much. This being only “Part 2,” I’m left waiting for the next part, wondering what’s going to happen to Jack and Theo.

Another story with constant flashback, “Triad in the Key of Lies” by Joseph Paul Haines is about a policeman haunted by the specter of a woman who died in a car wreck, a wreck he witnessed and blames himself for. He captures the theme of guilt well, although the constant back and forth left me asking the same question the woman did, “Will I be ok?” But overall, it’s worth a read if you don’t mind the flashbacks.

“Malik Rising” by Paul Haines opens with Malik and three volunteers sitting around a table, waiting to be injected with a mysterious substance by a masked man named Taurus. This story about religious zealotry in present tense would be better if extended into a longer piece, but the ending is sure to send a chill down your spine.

The second serialized story in this issue, Part 3 of “Autopsy” by Robert Hood opens with Flanagan, a demented sicko searching for the “source of life” by cutting people open and rooting through their organs, standing over his newest victim, Nancy, who is strapped down naked to an operating table. He’s determined to find the source this time, even if it means cutting open a living person without anesthesia.

Part psychological horror, part splatter-punk, this story is not for the squeamish. Fortunately, very little gore is in Part 3 (though there is a disturbing erotic element to it); so if Parts 1 and 2 made you groan with boredom, have no fear, Part 3 is where the story gets interesting. Unfortunately, it only gets interesting at the end. The writing flowed well enough to keep me reading, and I am curious about what’s going to happen in the next part; so overall it’s an ok read. At least there are no constant flashbacks.

Call me sick and twisted, but “Downpour” by Trent Jamieson made me laugh. Twenty years of drought in Carramudga have left the inhabitants desperate for rain, so they turn to dark magic to get it, and we all know how well that tends to turn out.  The sentence structure is choppy, but it served to enhance the mood. This little piece of macabre humor is worth the time to read if you’re morbid and jaded like me. If you’re not, then you’re probably better off reading something other than a horror zine anyways.

“Professional Responsibility” is the first published story by Nathaniel James Parker. Doctor Keene, psychologist, finds himself in a terrifying predicament: tied to a chair bolted to the floor with duct tape on his mouth, hostage to a pervert who used to be his patient. The story is done as a series of dialogue spoken by said patient, making you feel as if you’re the poor doctor. It brought me into the tale in a way that second person stories attempt to do but fail at, perhaps because it still left me with that tiny bit of distance I need. Of course, other readers might not like the feel of being “spoken to.”

In “Flight” by Josh Rountree, Ray wants to fly and the street witch gives him a way to do it.  All it takes is the deaths of several dogs, a few children, and the use of their bodies to craft the wings. Like with “Malik Rising” this story is a warning against getting overzealous with faith. Or maybe Ray is just a nutcase. Either way, Rountree's fast pacing whisks you along right to the end. I didn’t care much for the ending, but maybe that’s just me.

“Paper Cut” by Thomas Wiloch is the shortest short short I’ve ever read—almost poetry in the way it’s written, yet I’m sure it’s a story. In fact it’s so short I don’t want to tell you what it’s about out of fear of giving away the ending. Um, a poem gets written in blood; there, that’s all I’ll say about it. My hat's off to anyone able to tell a story complete with a beginning, middle, and end with just four sentences. It would be nice if it were a little longer, you know, add a little substance to that witty piece…