I have said it before, and I will say it again, I think Dark Chapter Press are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years. They put their heart and soul into the books they produce and it shows.
Kids is one I was looking forward to because it has some authors I read before in the aforementioned anthologies but it is also co-edited by Stuart Keane. I wanted to see what he could produce from the other side of the table given the fact his writing is superb. There is also the fantastic input of Mr Jack Rollins, a man proving himself to be a big force in both the writing and publishing worlds.
So what did I think? Let’s see!
BAD LITTLE BOYS GO TO HELL BY JAMES WALLEY
The Big Fella is a huge tree in the middle of Harpers Meadow. The meadow is where all the kids play. Four thirteen-year-old friends, Wilson, Tonk, Beanie and Gerbil come with a plan to take over the meadow by building a fort in The Big Fella.
The four sets of green eyes in the darkness beg to differ.
Cracking way to open an anthology. This tale is all about boys and their strive for control and to be the kings of the castle.
It is also about how vulnerable they become when faced with the unknown and they lose some of that control.
This is super creepy and will have you squirming in your seat as you read.
THE BONES OF BABY DOLLS BY FEIND GOTTES
Cassie is four years old. She has a fascination with what’s inside the human body. She cuts up her dolls to find out but never gets any answers. She asks her Mom and Dad but never gets any answers.
She wonders does her baby brother have any answers?
Can you hear that? That’s the sound of this story flying up the Confessions Short Story charts on the back of a rocket!
This is an anthology about horror kids. This story should be in the dictionary as the definition of horror kids. This is horrific and brutal and cringe worthy and awful and beautiful all at the same time.
You know what’s possibly going to happen from early on. The writing gives you that clue. But it has you thinking “please no, please no” the whole way through.
This is just superb.
THE BOY IN THE APARTMENT BY JOSH PRITCHETT
Gareth has had to move to France with his mum and dad. He doesn’t like it there. He can’t speak the lingo and the other kids make fun of him. He makes friends with another boy in his apartment building, Bergen.
Bergen may not be his friend after all though.
Now this one was good and bad. I loved the idea behind the story. It had a sort of a Twilight Zone feel to it. It also had a dark, almost sepia toned effect to it. That part I really liked.
The writing style, to me, left me scratching my head though. Sometimes it felt a bit disjointed. Very hard to describe but short sentences at times made it feel sharp rather than punchy.
Didn’t flow very well for me but I liked the idea.
LITTLE ANGEL BY SHARON HIGA
Cynthia and Martha are mother and daughter. They are on a bus. Gloria is another passenger on the bus and strikes up a conversation with the pair, but something just doesn’t feel right.
Ever read a story that has something hidden, something just bubbling under the surface but doesn’t quite make it to the top? That’s what this story felt like to me. It was like it was building and building to something but never quite got there.
Like watching a game of football (soccer for you American types) and the team has a perfect build up from their own goal line, twenty-four clean passes, and then hits the post.
Something was missing. I’m just not sure what it was.
THE APOTHECARY’S HICCUP BY DOUGLAS F. DLUZEN
Paige and Henry are visiting their country faire. They go into the apothecary and are served some sample tea by a young boy called Sam. They both agree it’s delicious but neither of them expect the effects it will have on them.
This is one that takes you into a different world. Almost another realm, where evil exists forever and you cannot escape it.
This had a lovely feeling to it. Very dark and detached. Had an almost Silent Hill feeling to it.
Beautifully written to be both entrancing and haunting at the same time. One of those stories that plants a seed and lets your mind go wild.
RAW BY ERICA CHIN
Tim has taken his daughter Sarah to hospital feeling very unwell. After being checked out, it’s nothing serious. Just a high temperature. Or is it?
This is another that I so wanted to like more but there was just something missing. It missed a bit of explanation as to what was actually going on so you’re left feeling a little bit in the dark with it.
Good plot idea though. Maybe expanded a little it might have hit the mark.
TWINS BY ANDREW LENNON
Nicole and Georgia are twin sisters. They do everything together. Good things and bad things. They want to play the Visiting The Darkness game. No one else does though.
This was good. This is what punchy should read like. To the point and brutal.
The girls in this are genuinely scary. They have a sort of feel to them that Damien had in The Omen. Quiet and unassuming but bloody evil and doubly brutal.
One part of this made my jaw hit the ground then close my mouth very quickly again putting both hands over it!
A big improvement Mr Lennon!
THE LADDER BY PETE CLARKE
A man lives in a house with a huge tree in his garden. He never noticed the spiral ladder on the side of it until his son did.
His son climbed the ladder. He came back, but he’s been gone 3 days this time. He will be back though. Won’t he?
This is what I’m talking about people. Dark, mysterious, intriguing, hauntingly beautifully written horror that is so atmospheric, you realise when you finish it, you’ve not even noticed someone has been in and cleared your house out apart from the seat you sit on!
BORN BAD BY MARK PARKER
Claire and Joanie are friends working together in their garden. Bobby is a young lad who lives across the street. He is forever torturing them and generally bullying them. When Claire loses her temper with him he turns even nastier. How far will his bullying go?
This was really good. It was cantering along very nicely and was building the tension perfectly, leading up to the big ending.
Then it just seemed to fall flat on its face. It had huge potential for a massive reveal at the end. It just didn’t come for me.
Very disappointing in the end.
MILK BY MICHAEL BRAY
Dillon can’t wait to get back to school after the summer break. That is until he remembers his nemesis, Ron. First day back and Ron immediately makes Dillon’s life a living hell.
Sometime later Dillon is made milk monitor for the day. The day he has been waiting for. The day that he is the one making the decisions.
Loved it. Slow. Methodical. Tense. All this in a build up to an ending that you could never see coming. You know Dillon is the underdog. You know he wants revenge. How he gets it is both satisfying and brutally alarming.
Brilliant ending twist.
ANNA BY MATTHEW HICKMAN
Anna’s mum is very worried about her. She is being bullied at school and people know who’s doing it, but no one can do anything about it. Should she really take matters into her own hands?
A story driven by the purest thing on the planet. A mother’s love for her child. It can make them crazy and it can make them do things they would never normally do. Matt Hickman gets this point across very well in this story with a wicked twist at the end.
It’s told almost like it’s a police statement. A bit stop, start at times but it actually works.
DIG BY ALICE J. BLACK
Connie and Ben are retired. They love to take things easy and Connie loves her garden. Jessica is the little girl who lives next door with her mum. She has started to dig in her garden. Connie is concerned that her mum doesn’t seem to be about. Jessica says she is ill.
Things will be OK though. She has a plan.
This is one of those stories where you know what is going to happen. It is pretty easy to figure out. It doesn’t affect the enjoyment though. The build-up of tension in this is perfect. An unassuming little girl just having fun digging. Totally innocent. Or is it?
Really good story. Not the first time I have read Alice J. Black and not the first time I have been mightily impressed.
OMENS BY CHANTAL NOORDELOOS
The Dokhio are coming. They need their sacrifice. No one knows why, or what the sacrifice will be. Some want to give it freely. Others will refuse claiming it is nothing but a myth. Who is right.
This was an interesting one. I’m sort on the fence a bit with it. I did like it. I enjoy stories of ancient tribes and myths and monsters.
This one again just seemed a bit rushed at times. If felt like it deserved a longer story and would have coped very nicely with more detail and more tension. I know that’s not the idea of a short story but hey ho.
THE BOX BY GARY PEARSON
Oliver can be a very naughty boy. When he is, he is put in the box. It’s basically the shed but he is locked in there for periods of reflection.
Oliver has had enough of his dad. He doesn’t treat him or his mum very nice. The voices he hears in the box want to help.
This is more or less a story about a kid being driven over the edge by punishment. Is the punishment warranted? Maybe not but what’s the alternative?
Another one that left me wanting a little bit more. It had the potential to much scarier.
SOCIAL SACRIFICES BY SHAWN DIXON
Sam is fed up moving house. He has to because of his dad’s job but finds it hard to make friends.
Walter and Greg come calling and offer to take him to see their toads.
Maybe these are friends he could do without.
Sam just craves friends and fun. Can meeting up with new people make you like them even though you know they are wrong. This is an interesting take on peer pressure and what it can do to the weak.
Creepy tale full of mental torture and horror.
THE BUTCHER’S APPRENTICE BY DAVID BASNETT
Aidan has been befriended by Nathan. He’s a bit of a weird one and has a reputation for being quick tempered and nasty.
After a trip into the forest with him, Aidan discovers Nathan has been keeping a lot more secrets. Deadly ones.
This is great. Its every timid kid’s nightmare. The bully makes friends with you and no one can see the danger in that but you. This is a tale that gets more brutal and scary as it goes on culminating in an ending that I doubt you would see coming. These are kids after all.
THE SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT BY BRIAN BARR
Joseph’s son has gone missing. He thinks he has joined a gang in Baltimore. After seeing riots on television and what looked like his son in the middle of it, his search intensifies.
Not sure what this one was actually trying to achieve. Fathers frantic search for his son with a bit of a psychedelic dream sequence in the middle that I don’t think I totally understood.
PREGNANT WITH FREEDOM BY CHRISTOPHER ROPES
Told from the position of a husband excited at his wife’s announcement of being pregnant, this is another bit of a weird one that I don’t think I totally understood.
No idea where it was supposed to go or what it was trying to achieve.
Bit lost with this one.
In Conclusion: After reading this anthology, you may be put off for life. This is full of stories of, not the cute gurgly type of kids but the kids of nightmares.
You would think that giving the criteria for stories in this collection, namely kids, that the stories may be predictable and all of the same vein. You could not be more wrong. The variety between the covers of this one is immense. No two stories deal with the same subject. No two stories are even remotely similar. That is, for me, a huge pat on the back for the people who put it together. Stuart Keane and Jack Rollins deserve a lot of credit for taking a single subject and making if so varied.
Of course it wouldn’t be this way without the wonderful authors contributing their wonderful stories and trusting them into the hands of the DCP.
In terms of an overall book this one leaves me with a bit of mixed opinion. There are some fantastic stories in this one. Bad Little Boys Go To Hell, The Bones of Baby Dolls and The Ladder are examples of short story writing at their very best. The Ladder is up there among my list of favourite ever short stories. It is just superb.
But there were a few that disappointed me as well. Now I always say that the world of reading is the greatest world around because what I will love, you may hate and vice versa. For that reason alone, you must buy this anthology. The mixture of stories will keep you glued to the end and you will read some stories that make you want to strive to find everything the author has ever done because they are that good. You gotta take the rough with smooth. That’s why this is one you have to pick up.
Reviewed by: @nevmurray