REVIEW: “My Life” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “My Life”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 51-94 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Many of the characters in the other stories in Walsh’s anthology felt very shadowing and fuzzy, but in “My Life” I felt like I had a chance to see multi-faceted people with names and lives and backgrounds. This was due in part to the length — a good solid story rather than a 1-3 page gossamer bite.

Erickson and Taylor were college roommates, and unlikely — but believable — friends. (They’d be more than friends if Erickson had his way, but Taylor always laughed off his overtures.) But now things are changing — Taylor’s moving out into his own place, Erickson’s getting a new roommate. Neither is quite sure how to begin navigating this new chapter in their lives, so when Taylor finds a name scribbled on the wall underneath some pealing wallpaper, and a notebook in his bedroom with the same name inscribed in it, he assumes it’s Erickson playing some sort of joke, a parting gift (if you like). First Taylor ignores the notebook, then he starts writing in it, imagining what the story behind the name — Nicholas — written in it is.

But of course, Erickson hadn’t give him any notebook. What follows is Taylor’s plunge into the uncanny as he continues to write Nicholas’s story, getting more and more involved in the fantasy he’s creating than in the reality he’s supposed to be inhabiting. As the lines between reality and fiction blur, what really comes to the fore and shines is the relationship between Taylor and Erickson, complex, delicate, full of pathos, and beautiful. It made the ending even more horrifying when it came.

REVIEW: “And Then There Were One Hundred and Twenty-Eight” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “And Then There Were One Hundred and Twenty-Eight”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 33. — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story totally wins the “best title” award! It immediately intrigued me. There’s the clash between the familiar “and then there was one” phrase and the unexpected “one hundred and twenty-eight”. Then there’s the “one hundred and twenty-eight what??” Coming in at not even a full page, Walsh doesn’t have much space to play with here, but she uses each word to its fullest potential. From the very first sentence, I know the setting — where it’s at, what time of year. I know what the 128 are, but only that: The question of why there are that many, and how they got there, is still to come.

My only complaint is that one of the main characters, Keegan, gets named, but his wife is only “his wife”. I always feel a little bit let down when the only explicitly female characters in a story are relegated to their relationship status.

REVIEW: “Lurking Status” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Lurking Status”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 39-45 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I love it when a story can take something I usually dislike — in this case, second-person POV — and mould it and adapt it into something brilliant. This story isn’t strictly speaking second-person, because there is a definite “I” telling the story, but the “I” spends its time describing what “you” are doing. Rather than feeling like my actions and my thoughts are being dictated by the narration, I felt like I was lurking along with the “I” who narrated, and thus got to see the ordinary “someone is being plagued by some unnamed, unidentified horror” story-line from a completely different angle. I really enjoyed the result.

(Originally published in Siren’s Call no. 25.)

REVIEW: “Footprints” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Footprints”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 17-23 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

One common thread to many of the stories in this anthology is that of someone who is haunted or hunted by something unknown. Sometimes it’s real, sometimes it’s psychological, never is it clearly articulated or identified — either what it is or why it is hunting.

Nick’s hunter leaves footprints in the snow that seems to only fall in his backyard; but how many times it comes and circles his house when the snow is not there, Nick does not know and cannot tell. What he does know is that this is the first time the footprints have lead to his front door, and he cannot bring himself to go inside.

Instead, he runs away, to stay with friends, but even the presence of other people is not enough to protect him from what it is that makes the footprints.

Another common thread in these stories is that the lack of resolution that they have at the end. In a single instance, this can certainly heighten the disquietening feeling one gets reading the story; but when so many stories in the same anthology end in uncertainty, the overall effect is diminished. I think this story would have stood stronger on its own legs than in the anthology.

REVIEW: “Frostbite” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Frostbite”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 10-16 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The opening scene is of a man driving along a deserted winter highway early in the morning, and Walsh uses few words to effectively evoke that sense of emptiness and desolation and cold. But as the man drives along, it becomes increasingly clear that he is not as alone as he thinks — or hopes — and that no amount of turning up the radiator will keep out the cold.

This story hit a sweet spot for me — it was short enough to be a quick fix before bedtime, but long enough to really sink my teeth into — and the carefully placed miniature illustrations contributed nicely to the feeling of foreboding that grew with the story.

REVIEW: “In the Pipes Below” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “In the Pipes Below”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 5-8 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Something is lurking in the pipes. The narrator can’t quite come out and say what it is, can’t even name it, merely calling it it. It slithers out of drains, and hides in toilets, and it is drawn to places where the scent of sweat is heavy.

That’s one problem with it. The other is that no one other than the narrator seems to know that it exists. That doesn’t make it any less fiercesome — and indeed perhaps makes it even more! For how can one escape something that maybe isn’t even there?

This is a straight-up creepy-crawly horror story, ending on a “what if” cliff edge. I didn’t find it particularly scary myself, but for anyone who has their own fears of what lies in the pipes below, this would probably be quite an unsettling story to read.

REVIEW: “Toothache” by Jessica Walsh

Review of Jessica Walsh, “Toothache”, in Little Creepers (Sewn Together Reflections, LLC, 2018): 30-32 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content note: This story is not for those who dislike dentists!

I’m not someone who dislike dentists (I worshipped my childhood dentist, who pulled 11 of my teeth and yet I still always looked forward to seeing him!), which means that I whole-heartedly enjoyed this story of someone waiting in the dentist’s to have an aching tooth removed. It was one part horror and one part humor and the two parts fed into each other beautifully. Gold star to Walsh for this one!