Twice the Terror: The Horror Zine, Volume 2
Jeani Rector, Editor
Trade Paper, 374 pages, $17.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
“Fear of the dark is only a fear. It isn’t anything real. But what about things that really do hide in the dark? What about the coat on the back of your chair that isn’t a coat at all? What about your dead friend standing in the corner, next to your wardrobe, waiting for you to wake?” This quote from Graham Masterton’s story “Underbed,” is an example of the spooky sensations to be savored in Twice the Terror: The Horror Zine, Volume 2. The inspired collection of tales, poems, and illustrations were selected from the e-zine by its founder and editor Jeani Rector. Treats include: Poetry from the always smart and superlatively sassy Joe R. Lansdale and the venerable Ardath Mayhar; and short stories of renowned writers Masterton and Bentley Little. What is particularly striking regarding the material assembled in the volume, though, is the strong talent exhibited by lesser known writers.
In “We Zombies,” Jonathan Grey Chapman explores dormant emotions rekindled. When the protagonist becomes reanimated, he once again experiences the sensation of love. The tale is rife with irony and pulsates with poignancy; lyrical and powerful in the depiction of loss and subjugation. Loss of love is also explored in Chris Castle’s “The Flock,” in which a farmer confronts the unhappy truth about his marriage: “They rarely spoke to each other, if he faced the facts of it. Instead the one body collided with the other, a frenzy of kissing and reaching, movement and force and then it was nothing more than silence, half sentences rarely finished.” Exacerbated through suspicion, the relationship erosion escalates; a diabolical deterioration of an uneasy union. Macabre, metaphorical, and menacing in its telling; the story builds beautifully.
In a sort of literary collision between Clive Barker and Oscar Wilde, Kurt Jarram’s “Beheld” plays with the demonic object of art premise. In this taut piece, a man who possesses “dark collections of ghastly and terribly morbid items” obtains a painting with a horrid history. The canvas is covered with the cranial remnants of its former owner, who committed suicide; he shot himself, splattering the work. That, however, isn’t the most dreadful aspect of the painting: It’s what lies beneath the dried blood, brain fragments, and tissue that is truly disturbing. Jarram executes a Dorian Gray variation that is contemporary and expertly crafted.
Sharing the pages with the fine stories is some excellent poetry. Looking at W.W. Jacob’s famous short story “The Monkey’s Paw” from a poet’s point of view, Richard Hill chooses to examine it from resurrected son’s perspective. Here’s a segment from the eerily evocative “Going Home:”
Bump into wailing people, objects, as you make your way home
Memory leading you safely to the house
Imagining your family’s sweet delight
As you thump your almost hand against the door
Twice the Terror displays the e-zine editor’s keen eye for acknowledging writing that reflects and respects the strengths of the genre. Jeani Rector has made splendid selections in this anthology.