Title: Pray Lied Eve 2: Further Tales of the Untoward
Author: Lydia Peever
Genre: Horror – Short Stories
This collection of six unrelated short stories spans a few subgenres of horror from the psychopathic to the fantastical. Death, however, circulates as a recurrent theme with tales hitting on different aspects or relationships to deaths both tragic and unnatural. Fittingly, Halloween is central to several tales which update existent folklore to create single-sitting reads of dark urban fantasy.
“The Ringer” opens the collection with what at first seems to be an absurdist tale of a doppelganger. Only a few pages in length, the tale soon morphs into a potentially first-hand look at a schizophrenic or psychopathic mindset. The transition from viewing the second character as a doppelganger to merely being an innocent participant mistaken as a doppelganger is jolting. The implications of Lucas doing something about his “doppelganger” are even more disturbing.
In horror, unsettling is good. It’s interesting that a few of these tales arrive at being unsettling by shifting the sub-genre. “The Ringer” seems to be a dark fantasy, but then reveals itself to quite grounded in reality, with the small exception of the main character’s mindset. And that’s what makes it truly disturbing. A couple other tales take the opposite turn shifting from seeming reality to something far worse. And they both borrow the apt setting of Halloween.
In “Hopscotch Halloween,” Brent, a convicted offender, is tethered to home by his ankle monitor. Despite his role in horrific crimes against a young family including detainment, sexual assault, torture and murder, Brent’s free to practice his golf swing in his own backyard. Even worse, it’s Halloween. And Brent eventually stops the golf practice to take a seat with a bowl of candy at his front porch ready to welcome the costumed kids. This is nothing short of every parent’s worst nightmare.
The nightmare becomes Brent’s however when his own young female victim comes calling. She’s like a modern day rusalka, a vengeful water spirit derived from the ghost of a sexually wronged young girl. She’s not there for the candy.
A similar shift from dark-yet-realistic to fantastical-and-horrific happens in “Midway Park,” also set at Halloween. Liz, costumed as a witch, finds herself bored and alone with her thoughts at a Halloween party with multiple exes in the crowd enjoying themselves. However, like in the Samhain myth of Celtic lore or more currently on an episode of Supernatural, the veil between her world and the spirit world proves perilously thin on Halloween.
Even for a collection of short stories, these tales are very quick reads. They’re short on development and completely absent world-building or wallowing in themselves. In general, the tales rely on a certain confluence of characters and events and then apply a situational shift turning the uncanny and uncomfortable into something more.
Perfect for campfire stories or a chilly Autumn night in the build up to Halloween, “Pray Lied Eve” provides big twists and turns in six little packages. From weird and woeful ingredients, it delivers grotesque and twisted tales.
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