🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Five spine-tingling stars to the 13 authors featured in “They Walk Among Us: Malarkey’s ImaginOmnibus #1.”
They are: N.T. Anderson, Evelyn Chartres, S.J. Covey, Rose J. Fairchild, Jon Ford, Kayla Hicks, Chris Hooley, Samantha Kroese, Peter James Martin, A.C. Merkel, Melissa Rose Rogers, Halo Scot, and Ross Young.
Get your copy on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/They-Walk-Among-Malarkeys-ImaginOmnibus-ebook/dp/B0BWVGVQQ9
So Many Flavors of Chills and Thrills – I first learned of “They Walk Among Us: Malarkey’s ImaginOmnibus #1” through Rose J. Fairchild – one of the many talented authors in this goosebump-raising, shiver-filled anthology. While I’m familiar with Fairchild’s dark and captivating style, most of the other authors were new to me.
One of the pleasures of reading an anthology is browsing the stories and picking what suits your mood. Of course, my first choice was Rose J. Fairchild’s “Other.” As mentioned previously, Fairchild’s writing dips down into dark corners, exploring fear and examining human failings. The author chose to bring the reader into the story – the “Other” invites you to come along on a night of hunting. This being talks to you as you read, pointing out human weaknesses and the missteps they make. You are a part of this chase. You watch as the prey is targeted and led eagerly into the night(mare). Fairchild’s early lines, such as “humans taste like what they consume” and “Just sit back and watch a pro work. It’ll all be over soon.” add to the story’s tension. This night is *not* going to end well for someone.
Choosing to never fully reveal what the “Other” might be – instead listing different metaphysical beings as possibilities – was a nice touch. We are close to the “Other” in this story. So close, and yet we still don’t see. Without telling us, we also know that the “Other” sees itself as superior – the author reflects this subtly, like when capitalizing the first letter of the word when the being refers to its kind (We, Us). The ending is satisfying as a midnight gourmet meal. Fairchild *never* fails to wow me with her creativity!
I only knew of author Halo Scot through social media and hadn’t yet read any of Scot’s work. “Demontia,” Scot’s contribution to the anthology, was spectacular. A protagonist (Gio Luca) who is certainly “unlikeable,” an intimate group of criminals who surround him, and family obligations all crash together on one fateful day when Gio’s bad behavior catches up to him in the form of a demon. Scot is a master of putting a vivid scene in a reader’s head with short descriptions like: “Late fall in Boston was the Devil’s playground: windy, wild, frigid, a breeding ground for myth.” There were so many great lines in this piece it was hard to pick only one. Scot’s nod to medieval beliefs with regard to demons and disease was clever. The ending of “Demontia” was thought-provoking. Brilliant work.
“The Richest Red Velvet” by author Melissa Rose Rogers was a delightful surprise! In a book full of dangerous monsters and wicked acts, Rogers delivers a short story about dangerous monsters (vampires) and ordinary acts. One vampire in particular just wants her party to go off without a hitch. Protagonist Victoriene is having a rough day at work. We’ve all been there: deliveries are late, outside influences toss monkey wrenches into our creaking machines, and the mini-quiches end up burnt. And yet, this graceful vampire refrains from ripping off human heads while keeping her own. I particularly enjoyed the positive affirmations Victoriene “shares” with a couple of humans. Sweet touch! This story was a tasty morsel with a bit of humor sprinkled throughout. Well done!
On the other end of the spectrum, author Ross Young’s “Meet Cute” sent a wave of willies up my spine – because Ross brought on the macabre! What made it even better is I NEVER saw it coming. Totally and completely caught by surprise, my jaw dropped. Oh, the story starts out “cute” enough with a downhome, salt-of-the-earth storyteller relaying the moment he laid eyes on his true love. So sweet, you think; I wonder where Ross is going with this. And then the reveal comes – and it’s a REVEAL. Ross’ writing is flawless, and if you like a bit of gore with your family stories, you will love “Meet Cute.”
“Ghost Duty” by Peter James Martin was a favorite of mine. His take on the afterlife – and especially Limbo – was clever. Protagonist Josh Raymond can’t seem to catch a break, and yet determined to help out his latest housemate, keeps his positive attitude going – even in death. There was just the right amount of humor without turning into slapstick. The “Sorry You’re Dead” leaflet, angels throwing pens at unlifers (well, one pen at Josh), and wristwatches beeping out Bad Deed Debt increases for minor violations were fun comedic elements. I thoroughly enjoyed this short story. And the ending? To quote Homer Simpson: D’oh!
Author Evelyn Chartres’ “Mirror, Mirror” totally freaked me out because I fear this is how I will meet my own end. Well, perhaps not, but my point is the author took a totally realistic scenario and led the reader like a lamb to slaughter. Laura, the story’s main character, is driving through a horrible storm and is detoured into an unsavory part of the city. She is alone and wary – and that’s when she gets a flat tire. Stranded, she heads for a neon light. Out of place in a nightclub, Laura senses something is off, but she can’t quite place her finger on it…until she puts her foot in her mouth. The ending isn’t exactly what I expected – and isn’t that great? – and I’m still unsure of Laura’s ultimate fate, but “Mirror, Mirror” hit all the marks for me. Laura was totally relatable, and I could see each scene in her journey like I was watching a movie.
“Small Town Pack,” by Kayla Hicks, lured me in even though I sensed not all was as it seemed below the surface of this hospitable locale. Main character Samantha Green is starting over after the end of a bad relationship. And who hasn’t fantasized about moving away and beginning a new life? At first, she can’t believe her luck as good fortune falls her way. But be careful when you choose not to heed a warning. Samantha’s choices lead her right out under a full moon and under the watchful eyes of beasts she’d rather not meet. The ending of this short story surprised me, and I continued to think about it long after I finished reading. Hicks’ story got under my skin.
“Harmony of fire: The Rise of the Sleeping Giants,” by S.J. Covey is the epic short story in this anthology. I’m amazed at how the author managed to pull this off! The story begins with a bit of a routine scene of a cop (main character Lottie) chasing a perp through a city. When the ground shakes and shudders under their feet, you know something very bad is about to happen. And it does. Citywide. Some people are changing; others are scared. I loved “watching” this scene unfold, and the nod to Frankenstein’s monster was appreciated. Covey’s short story could easily transfer to the movie screen. Applause!
“Saviour of the Lost,” by Samantha Kroese, was like watching a dream unfold while sensing it was really happening. I’m reminded of the theme of this anthology: they walk among us – and we don’t even realize it. The protagonist in “Saviour of the Lost” offers us a glimpse into her world (I’m assuming it’s a female main character) with great lines like: “They walk among us, disguised as I am. Still, when I see them in reflection, I can see the shimmer of their magic…” The halo on the homeless person was touching. The violence in this story is “off page,” but we know about it. We can imagine what happened. The protagonist knows it, too. Certain horrors visited the most innocent. This story surprised me with its direction and ending. There is sadness, but there is hope, too. Heartstrings pulled!
N.T. Anderson’s “There’s Romance Afoot” tickled me! I won’t reveal why, but I will say the “being who walks among us” in her story is one of my favorite mythological creatures. (I totally believe the creature exists, by the way.) This was such a natural and pleasant read. In fact, I’d read this story if it were fleshed out into a full novel. Main character Marisa is likable, and I want to know more about her. And I want to see the paranormal romance with mystery man Sam play out. While I know this anthology explores monsters, Anderson’s addition proves some are just hairier versions of us. Loved it!
“A Cross and a Girl Named Red,” by author A.C. Merkel was a compelling read. What is *really* going on slowly unfolds throughout this short story. It’s as if a mystery (to unravel) and a fantasy had a love child. Red, the main character, struggles to remember who she is. Mer, the woman leading her forward in this adventure, is also a mystery. This short story definitely had a superhero flavor to it, AND I loved the fantasy aspects. I grinned while reading little comedic nods such as the brain-blank vampire wondering if she was actually Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ending to this story was as a reader would hope, but is clearly not the end of Red’s and Mer’s adventure – or relationship. (Fans of Julie Embleton’s “Rogue Assassin” will love this short story!)
Chris Hooley’s “Ginny the Witch Grants a Wish” leads the reader on quite the winding path. At first, we feel sorry for Hooley’s sadsack protagonist. He’s the butt of jokes – a true target. As he ruminates on life as a loser, he concludes he needs to seek help from a local witch. He makes the sacrifice, and the rewards that follow are anything but. If Ginny were the devil, she’d have a second contract for him to sign dangling from her fingertips. Instead, she takes another ounce of flesh, and the agony ends. Mr. Loser might have become Mr. Mate in the pub, but I’d like to see how he picks up a coin now. 😉 A romp of a read!
I’m ending this anthology review with Jon Ford’s “The Night Before.” In this short story, main character Steffany is in a bad way. She’s alone and afraid. Hunted. She’s fled her house and has nowhere to go. Ford eases the reader to a particular perspective, then adds in a storyline you didn’t see coming. Expect a bait-and-switch, a human who fights tooth and nail, and a brave otherworldly stranger (Serlia). As I finished reading this story, I was lulled into the sense that it was over – again the author expertly led me on. However, Serlia’s last words were chilling, and yes, they gave me actual goosebumps!
And there you have it! Five stars to “They Walk Among Us: Malarkey’s ImaginOmnibus #1” and the 13 authors who flexed their creative muscles! Thank you for making me laugh, gasp, and shiver.