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

Nightmare #49, October 2016

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Nightmare Magazine #49, October 2016

"Diet of Worms" by Valerie Valdes

"Wish You Were Here" by Nadia Bulkin

Reviewed by Nicky Magas

A shitty job can feel like it's taking up your whole entire life. In "Diet of Worms" by Valerie Valdes, this is your reality. You don't know how, but time is passing you by in a blink of an eye and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In a good example of second person done right, Valdes writes this horror story of life literally passing in an instant. Half way between a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and Groundhog Day, the second person protagonist is doomed to repeat the same, repetitive tasks as time inexplicably rushes by. It's a great piece of social commentary with just enough subtly introduced windows into the protagonist's life that the reader gets a complete picture of who he is. The time jumps are at first a little disorienting, mirroring the protagonist's own feelings of vertigo. Unfortunately Valdes gives the reader the concept of the story a little too blatantly, making it feel as if the surprise has been spoiled, but it doesn't necessarily take away from the overall enjoyment of the story, or the creepy feeling of living one's life in a blink of an eye.

Dimas knows the hearts and minds of tourists in "Wish You Were Here" by Nadia Bulkin. He's seen enough of them after all, running little tour groups through the mystical parts of Indonesia. He knows which ones are going to cause him trouble, and which ones just aren't going to give up on whatever spiritual quest they hope to fulfill. At first his latest group of four Americans doesn't seem any different: restless, slightly rowdy, arrogant—but Rose is a surprise. Quiet Rose, determined Rose, Rose who brought something evil with her to Bali.

"Wish You Were Here" is captivating, clever, and unmistakably frightening. It is suspenseful and bone chillingly reminiscent of all the good supernatural horror films. The lead up is slow in a rising crescendo sort of way, sprinkling the characters and the plot with not-quite-right misfortunes and coming together in a horrifying ghostly reveal. The use of Indonesia as a setting comes across as natural and fully fleshed out, along with each of the characters. Admittedly, the red herring is a little bit nagging in a story this short, but when compared to the actual monster it becomes a nice little bit of extra flavor. A line in the penultimate paragraph made me wish the story was longer, if only to explore the concept of a foreign supernatural entity destroying the spiritual ecosystem of a different land. All told, "Wish You Were Here" is a fantastic horror story that made me look over my shoulder more than once on my commute home.