How to Eat a Human Being
Release Date: May 30, 2012
Reviewed by Darkeva
With a title like How to Eat a Human Being, author Dan Dillard brings to mind the Halloween episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa is trying to convince her family that the aliens who have abducted them are, in fact, trying to kill and eat them. The first story in Dillard’s collection, “Refractions,” starts off from an interesting viewpoint.
Daniel is a frustrated full-time writer married to a gorgeous woman. In an interesting twist, he attributes his success to her because he drew the inspiration for the novel that became his bestseller from a nightmare she told him about. Things aren’t so rosy for Daniel as he’s desperate to write the second book, a follow-up bestseller, though he has writer’s block. His publisher demands that they have a meeting to discuss his situation, even though he feels like he’s reached the apex of his success and he just can’t seem to write anymore.
After his meeting with the editor results in him having an even shorter deadline to deliver a manuscript, one of the younger employees, Anna, seems to re-light the spark in him to continue writing, and the editor has some more lewd suggestions for how she can become his inspiration.
Writers have all been there, staring at a blank page and blinking cursor that seem to mock the person on the other side of the screen. But suddenly, his writer’s block isn’t the problem. His reflection starts watching him, and talking to him. He starts to think the plot of his first book is coming true. As the mirror Daniel explains, “the image is a lie, just like in your book. All mirrors are different. There are anomalies. There are imperfections, scratches…little lies in the looking glass, buddy. It’s just an approximation.” The mirror Daniel says he can help the real Daniel write again. The mirror Daniel says that real Daniel needs to unlock the next story from his wife’s brain. He resolves that he must scare her to produce more inspiration for his new book, so he suggests they drive up to their cabin, only they stop at an inn along the way that Anna’s folks happen to own. If you’re a fan of tales that mess with your head and make you re-read the ending and try to figure out what really happened, you’ll enjoy this macabre story.
Some other notable tales include “Tenfold,” as well as “Organ Donors,” which will definitely make you question your stance on the matter. I also enjoyed “Strays,” which involves a father who lets his son keep a stray dog, until he finds out it has a tag and a name so they have to return their new pet to the rightful owner. The dog makes it no secret that he’s not happy, and that he won’t rest until he finds his owner. Definitely an interesting ending. And for those who enjoy a more religious slant on things, “Eye for an Eye” presents a different perspective. Dillard takes a diverse and interesting approach to his short fiction.