Thursday, October 3, 2013

Short Story Spotlight: "10/31: Bloody Mary"

"10/31: Bloody Mary" by Norman Partridge

Think Bradbury's "Homecoming" crossed with McCarthy's The Road (or Dark Harvest meets "Lesser Demons").  The latest addition to Norman Partridge's canon of autumnal fiction (published online yesterday by Nightmare Magazine) is a Halloween-themed post-apocalyptic tale in which the world has been overrun by super-natural nemeses--monsters such as werewolves and witches, cyclopses and bat-riding goblins.  In the wake of 10/31 (a cataclysm-signifying date as infamous as 9/11 was in a former age), there are also some paranormal pumpkins to contend with, evil-seeded watch gourds:
They also sit on porches, but like sentinels.  Survivors call them Jacks.  They gleam, as if freshly waxed at the pumpkin patch.  Razor teeth bear the dewy shine of pumpkin sap, giving the illusion that a carving knife had touched them only seconds before.  And they scream just as twilight disappears, a signal to the new masters of this bleak world as surely as a cockcrow once marked time for those who trod an older and brighter one.
The narrative offers both a wealth of quiet detail ("the wet sizzle of a Jack's flaring eyes, the dragging whisper of a mummy's footfall as it passes through a dead cornfield, the crackle of storm-blown leaves as they crumble against a hungry zombie's unblinking face") and roaring action scenes.  A gun-toting, monster-slaying badass is a familiar figure in Partridge's fiction, but here the hero is given a fresh look in the form of the eponymous female.  No less intriguing is the unnamed teenage isolato whom Mary teams up with and tutors in survival skills.  The story concludes with a climactic plot twist that will spur readers to circle back to the beginning and traverse the textual landscape again in appreciation of the groundwork laid by the author.  An inventive, atmospheric, and colorful work of dark speculative fiction, "10/31: Bloody Mary" is further proof that Partridge currently dishes out the best October treats on the block.

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