My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author and former editor of Dark Valentine magazine, Katherine Tomlinson brings us Nightfalls: Notes From The End of The World, a collection of short stories themed around ‘the end days’… ‘armageddon’… ‘end of the world’… ‘sorry folks, we ran out of calendar, it’s been nice knowing you’. Contributors were asked to tell a story about the last day on Earth.
Katherine has brought together an amazing group of people… some of the most talented writers in fiction today. I am both humbled and honoured to be a part of this anthology. Proceeds from sales will benefit at-risk children and their families.
I’d like to take just a few minutes and say a bit about this fascinating collection.
“A few minutes, Veronica? Say a bit?” Okay, okay… maybe you want to pour a fresh cup before you settle in to read this.
Nightfalls: Notes From The End of The World begins with a story from the man who gave me my first ‘break’ in to the ‘print world’.
If memory serves, I first met Thomas Pluck over at Flash Fiction Friday. The thing is…
Memory can be a cruel mistress. She will taunt and tease… scattering words and broken thoughts, like breadcrumbs, on the floor of one’s conscious. If there are secrets that she is not ready to give up – and there always are – no amount of begging will help. Memory will reveal the bits and pieces of one’s past in her own fashion… and in her own time. And… she always wants something in return.
But, I digress…
For anyone who has ever read Thomas’s stories, Acapulcolypse is everything one has come to expect from Mr. Pluck… deftly written with a wonderful undercurrent of humour. I daresay none of us will look at an ocean cruise quite the same way again.
In Some Say The World Will End In Fire, Sidney Anne Harrison brings us a new twist on the ‘world ends in a big, blazing ball of fire’ trope with a revealing look into one man’s madness. There is a poignancy here that sets the mood beautifully. The symbolism is inescapable – “The vegetable just continued to stare down at his string beans, as if they held some secret meaning.” – and makes for a very compelling read. Sidney tells a frightening little tale that left me cold! Well done, Sidney!
“Ren wakes up to find he is scratching his balls.” And thus begins Chris Rhatigan’s premonition on how life on this big blue spinning marble ends. In Forward Is Where The Croissantwich Is, Chris brings us a quirky little tale, replete with wit and a rather disturbing look inside the mind of a man whose lift doesn’t quite make it to the top floor, if you’ll pardon the euphemism. At the end, Chris’s character puts the whole matter of the ‘end of days’ into a perspective that only someone who has seen too much truth, could truly understand.
Kit Laurange’s Somebody Brave conjures up the apocalyptic demise of an ‘other-world’, where ogres and goblins seek to destroy man and dragons eat the sky… where the rattle of ‘bones’ decide… but wait, I can’t tell you! That’d be giving away the surprise!
In Our Lady, by Dale T Phillip’s, an uncle does what he must to make sure his nephew has Christmas before… before los ángeles quemar.
Nigel Bird, one (of many, I might add… don’t want to be giving Nigel a big head, eh?) of my favorite writers, offers up Greene Day… a DJ’s reflections on the end of all things, good and bad, and waxes nostalgic over regrets too late to change now. Nigel’s brilliant sense of humour comes through perfectly with that last caller! Nice one, Mr. Bird!
Megan McCord’s Isabel is a heartbreaking tale of life, love and loss; a touching and poignant look at the ‘end of days’. This one left a lump in my throat and a salty dampness on my cheek.
Anyone who has read Sandra Seamans knows that her writing never disappoints. And so it is with The Memory Keeper… a memorable tale of… well, I can’t say too much without revealing the heart of the story. Let’s just say that there’s a warrior woman and a wise woman… memories to keep and an ending one won’t forget. Brilliant and imaginative, The Memory Keeper is one of my favorites!
Bon Appétit, Barb Goodman’s most welcome addition to this amazing collection, delivers the not-so-subtle message that one reaps what they sow and that no matter how much time man has left on this spinning orb, it’s never too late to stand up for ourselves. Great story, Barb!
Christopher Grant’s Déjà Vu is a wonderfully crafted story with a very interesting twist to the ‘end of the world’ theme… a nicely written tale that challenges one’s perceptions of forever.
Denial only works for a short while and then reality kicks it to the curb, as evidenced in Matthew Funk’s It’s Not The End Of The World. Sharp and tightly written, Matthew’s writing is always a pleasure to read.
A Sound As Of Trumpets offers up one woman’s rationalization for felicide. Unfortunately, for her, karma really can be a bitch. Berkeley Hunt writes a nice little ‘quiet horror’ here that is quite satisfying to read.
Col Bury – who let this bloke in? (just kidding, Col!) serves up the darkly humourous Supper Time… a gritty little tale that, were I a man, I would no doubt be squirming in my seat and touching parts of me for reassurance. Ahh… but look and see who gets the last laugh here!
It takes the end of the world for a son to reconcile with his parents in Alex Keir’s poignant Call The Folks.
A few must be sacrificed for the greater good in Dellani Oakes’ Blackened, a futurist tale of an alien-wrought Armageddon. I’m not a huge sc-fi fan, but I really enjoyed this story!
The End of Everything is AJ Hayes’ poetic ode to the end of… well, everything! Beautifully paced verse brings startling imagery to one’s mind’s eye as AJ unveils mankind’s fate.
Last Shift, Steven Luna’s darkly humoured tale, reminds us that, in the end, we get what we deserve… and sometimes, more than we deserve. Written in the voice of an ego-driven male, Last Shift is definitely on my short-list of favorites. A little insight into the male mind is never a bad thing, right?
Curse you, Steven… now I can’t get the image of that hot chick in black tank top and shredded jeans, blowing white vapor over her red-painted lips, out of my head!
Into The Night, by… oh, wait… I can’t write about my own story; that’d be a bit self-serving, wouldn’t it? I will say this though. In writing Into The Night, in order to bring the emotional depth to the story that I had in mind, it was necessary to resurrect a part of my past that has taken me a long time to come to terms with. Such are the ‘sacrifices’ a writer makes for their craft.
There is a quiet, building horror to Richard Godwin’s Blackout… from the opening lines with the two protagonists discussing proper language use – I’m paraphrasing here: ‘just because the world is ending, is no reason for sloppy language’ – to his description of a naked woman in the street and two men eating her legs, Richard builds on a theme… inevitability. Blackout is one of Richard’s ‘quieter’ stories… it is also one of his most powerful stories. Poignant and reflective, Richard Godwin delivers!
“… Val Sweeney had been present at the beginnings of a few too many apocalypses…” And with that rather cryptic remark, Scott J Laurange’s Amidst Encircling Gloom captivates the reader, pulling them into Scott’s intriguing tale of Earth’s last days. There is a thread of subtle humour throughout that strikes just the right chord, woven in with some beautifully descriptive phrasing…. “Val’s smile had fallen into his scotch…” … I can almost hear the splash! Brilliantly macabre, Amidst Encircling Gloom is a ‘must-read’!
Devotee, G Wells Taylor’s contribution to this little soiree, is a haunting look at one man’s ‘world’… a world that slowly fades away… a world where not even the eternity of love can stop the inevitability of time. Devotee is truly memorable. This is a story that is going to stick in my mind for some time.
R.C. Barnes’ Princess Soda and the Bubblegum Knight is the powerful and moving story of sisters facing the last day… and granting one last wish before… night falls and not even an echo survives in the darkness.
In The Last Wave, Kaye George gives us a look at an ‘end times’ precipitated by a shift in government. It’s a cautionary tale… “Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it.” After reading this story, I may cut back on my blogging.
In Allan Leverone’s The Dogs On Main Street Howl, not even an apocalypse can keep Kate from making it to Broadway. Only thing is… there is no one to share her success with. Except for the overdue baby nestled in her distended womb, Kate is alone in the ‘Concrete Jungle’ … just her, the baby and…‘The Things”.
The Knitted Gaol-Born Sow Monkey, by Peter Mark May, offers a ‘last day on earth’ look on prisoner Anthony Slaven… who exchanges one prison for another. Dark magic blended with dark imagery, Peter’s story left a chill over me. Nicely done, Peter… nicely done!
We always think… hope, rather… that there is time enough to reconcile past regrets. Christian Dabnor’s Crossfade explores this hope, bringing to the reader a deftly written tale of human frailties and failings.
Jesse James Freeman brings us The Tasting, a tautly-written plague apocalypse tale. There is a dark poignancy here that rather tugs at the heartstrings. Brilliantly descriptive and evocative, The Tasting is a memorable read.
The Annas, by Patricia Abbott, is a haunting story… a morality tale, really… of a future doomed before its inception. I must admit, the feminist in me finds a certain appeal in the concept presented in The Annas. I probably ought not say too much more though, lest I give something away. Patricia has written a wonderfully imaginative story with an ending that gave me goose pimples! I enjoyed The Annas so much I had to read it again… and then, again! Brava, Patricia!
Jimmy Callaway’s Night Train To Mundo Fine is a quirky little tale with a fine erotic touch. I suppose there are worse ways to spend your last day on Earth. Nice one, Jimmy!
Thank you, Katherine, for your tireless efforts in bringing this all together. I’m sure I speak for everyone involved in this project in saying how much we are honoured to take part in this with you, especially one done for such a worthwhile cause. Knowing that the proceeds will go to benefit at-risk children and their parents was all the incentive we needed to ‘put pencil to paper’ and bring a story or poem to you. And, knowing that we are helping others is all the ‘thanks’ we could ever ask for.
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to, if I may borrow a few words from your introduction to Nightfalls, ‘light a candle against the darkness’.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
12 January 2013
Cannon Beach, Oregon