Elements of Horror, Book Four: Water- a review
Elements of Horror was released earlier this month, and I am honoured to have one of my stories “High Tide” in the collection. I am neither humble nor arrogant enough to review my own story, but I’ll write about the others and include a short excerpt from my own. The collection is available in paperback and for Kindle and is published by Red Cape Publishing.
“Elements of Horror Book Four:Water, is the fourth in a series of four horror anthologies based on the Elements. Within these pages you will find a variety of stories from some of the best independent horror writers on the scene today. Immerse yourself in tales of shipwrecks, evil spirits, terrifying aquatic creatures, and much more.”
Two of the stories really stood out for me. Interestingly, these were positioned as the first and last stories and so gave a lovely rounded feeling to the collection.
Final Demand by Lee Smart is a very clever short that seems to deal with a universally felt sense of despair and failure due to a failing business. However, the deeper truth of the tale is subtly woven between the lines from the early stages of the narrative. In spite of this Smart still manages to present a dark and disturbing surprise when the truth is revealed. This is my joint favourite story in the collection.
Black Orchid by Theresa Jacobs manages to lift the mood with plenty of humour in this tale about behaviour-altering bath-bombs.
Fishing by R C Rumple follows the metamorphosis of a narrator who feels the very literal call of the wild.
High Tide by Carmilla Voiez. I was pleased with this story when I wrote it, but I do think many of the others in this collection are even better. I’ll include an excerpt at the end of the review.
Hydronic by Monster Smith. A group of sun-loving teenagers disturb something terrifying in the lake.
The Bridge by David F. Gray is another brilliant and original tale that is subtle in its delivery. It’s delivered perfectly and reminds me a little of the stories by Thomas Ligotti. I suspect this is a writer to watch.
Water Goblins by Jaq D. Hawkins is set near the Thames river after an apocalyptic event. What risks will individuals take when their community is running out of food?
Forsaken by Nils Visser & Jovannah Bar is set in 250 BC in a community of warriors. It’s about growing older and feeling left out and unfulfilled. It’s a well-told story about mid-life crisis.
Time and Tide Waits by Andrew Bell is a dark comedy about a man who murders his wife.
Home by P. J. Blakely-Novis includes a very creepy doll and a deep-dark well.
The Wreck of the Cartagena by O.D. Smith is an excellent and action-packed tale about how crew and passengers cope on a sinking ship. While the sea itself is the main antagonist here, the people range from hero to villain as well.
Test AIB4.1 Iteration 82345 by Daren Callow is my join-favourite story in the collection and rounds off the anthology beautifully. The protagonist is a puzzle-solver with a brilliant mind who finds him or herself in a strange and deadly game.
I cannot recommend this collection highly enough. I plan to read the other three books in the collection in the near future as well. As promised I leave you with an excerpt from High Tide by Carmilla Voiez.
A dark oval rose from the water, chestnut hair plastered against the crown. A narrow but prominent nose added a look of strength to her otherwise soft features, but it was the ocean deep blue of her eyes that captured attention. Water flowed through her parted lips, drawn down at the edges in a melancholy frown. Shoulders followed, purple tinted from the cold. Momentarily the glistening face aligned with the rising sun and was surrounded by a golden halo, then Mel rose fully from the waves and strode through resistant water onto a beach of sand and rocks. The neoprene swimsuit clung to her slender torso. She grabbed her towel, tugging it free of the stones she used to weigh it down, and dried her face. Blinking crystals of water from her lashes, she saw the windows of her late Aunt’s, no, Mel’s croft house, lit by the amber glow of the climbing morning. She knew now that it wasn’t a house fire that made the glass blaze brightly and remembered with a smile that first morning swim two weeks before, when she emerged from the sea and faced the cottage, thinking it was burning.
She shivered and her teeth clashed against each other, rattling her skull, as her body attempted to warm itself. She wrapped the towel around her shoulders and covered the short distance between high tide and the croft in less than a minute. There were no other houses to be seen. The nearest village lay beyond the cliffs. Her only neighbours were gulls and seals. However, between the barking gulls, the churning waves and the howling sky, it was at least as noisy as the city street she recently vacated.
The house, small and squat, crouched resolute against the elements with only a low wall between it and the beach. Course grass covered the sandy soil and Mel wondered again whether the vegetable garden she intended to plant would have any chance of feeding her or if she was fooling herself with hopes of self-sufficiency. At least she had solar and wind generated electricity. Her aunt became adamantly anti-fossil fuels in the late eighties after losing her husband to the Piper Alpha disaster.
The blue paint on the front door crumbled from constant sand-blasting and a tile or two on the low roof rattled in the wind. It would take most of her savings to repair and maintain the cottage. Her mother told her she must sell it. That was reason enough to try and make this work. That and the blissful solitude.
It was a small traditional dwelling built for a fisherman. The rooms were on one level and the attic space had once been used to store fishing nets. There was only one bedroom, a sitting room where she had slept as a child, a kitchen and bathroom. The ceilings were low, a tall man would not be comfortable here and even Mel had to walk around some of the ceiling lights. The windows were narrow, but these things made it cosy rather than cramped. As a child she hadn’t noticed how meagre it was; now it felt romantic, somewhere between a doll’s house and a witch’s cottage.
She headed for the tiny bathroom and switched on the shower. As steam started to rise she stepped under the pounding water and embraced its warmth. The bluish hue of her flesh reddened as heat blasted her body, washing away grains of salt and sand. After drying and dressing herself she completed the thawing out process with a mug of coffee and was ready to face the day.
Sat at the kitchen table, she felt absolute contentment. She knew this extended holiday would have to end, that she would need to find work to buy food until she could grow and catch her own, but she felt grateful for every moment, just like when as a child she would be packed off in the summer to her Aunt’s and escape the tension of her family home for six glorious weeks. Perhaps that was why swimming in the icy North Sea seemed like the ultimate freedom. She had learned to swim here, under her aunt’s patient tuition, and when August arrived and she was torn from the house and dragged back to the city, she would shed the beloved saline as tears.
Today she was going to dig in the garden and prepare the soil for planting.
This year, when August arrived she would harvest vegetables.
The city and her mother were in the past.
Her future was here and it was as bright as the orb rising in the east.
Another shiver rippled down her back and arms. This time it indicated pleasure rather than discomfort.
By August Mel had settled into a routine. Morning swim, shower and coffee followed by whatever sewing projects she needed to complete. After lunch she worked in her garden while she waited for the post van to collect completed work and drop off new orders. She checked the ropes that anchored the bean poles and frame again. She’d lost an entire crop to a strong easterly wind six weeks earlier. The polytunnels seemed to be holding up better, sheltered as they were by the cottage, and her crop of bladderwrack was drying well. Not bad for a few months of hard work. It would be heaven were it not for the nights.