Yes, another October has passed, which means the time to have read these two short horror stories has passed too, so it’s a good thing I’m always in the mood for a good mind-screw of the twisted and ghoulish variety, no matter the time of year. Even though they’re not very long on word count, these two tales are still the sort that made my hair stand on end and sent me around the house, turning on all the lights so even the deepest, darkest shadows couldn’t hide all those sinister things that only seem to go bump when you’re home alone.
J.M. Snyder’s Infected Heart is the story of a college laboratory experiment gone wrong. It’s the story of a brilliant young man, Rich Murdoch, whose grandiose scheme to find the secret to immortality ends up becoming a cautionary tale about the dangers of playing God and attempting to outmaneuver Mother Nature.
Trust me when I say there’s absolutely nothing natural or godly about what happens when the serum he develops makes its way into the human population. It’s a devastating and terrifying blow to mankind—and to his lover, Donnie, an unintentional casualty of genius gone horribly wrong.
It’s a race against time for Rich, as he culls victims from the ever-dwindling herd of uninfected, who become unwitting sacrifices to Rich’s higher purpose as he works to find a cure for the human holocaust he’s wrought. But this isn’t a story of good versus evil; there is no evil here, only a tragic mistake that he’s working diligently to put an end to.
Infected Heart was creepy to me in the same way books like The Stand and I Am Legend messed with my head. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, who really knows what freakish and nightmarish viruses might be lurking in test tubes around the world, just waiting for a single slip-up to set them free on the unsuspecting masses? That’s the truly scary part of it all.
What made this one even more twisted was the way J.M. Snyder chose to end it. If there was any evil to be found in this story, I’d say that’d pretty much be it.
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Clare London’s Perfection was just frightening, in an “it rubs the lotion on its skin, I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti” kind of way. ::shivers:: No, there’s no cannibalism here, but if it’s murder you’re looking for, with a side of miscreation to up the creep factor, then this is the story for you. It’s a psychological spine-chiller about obsession and possession, and a man with a broken mind and unhinged ideas about love and commitment.
This is the story of James, a man who doesn’t do romantic entanglements. He’s more a co-workers with benefits kind of guy, who wants nothing to do with Vic Ellison on a permanent basis. Vic’s the kind of guy you see and think he’s basically harmless but you don’t necessarily want to socialize with him outside of work. In fact, he’s so unremarkable as to be nearly forgettable—unless you’re looking for a quick screw, like James, then Vic is perfectly serviceable. Until he becomes a bit too close and clingy for James’ liking. Then Vic just disappears, and James realizes, much to his surprise, that he misses him. Oh James…
But like the proverbial bad penny, Vic returns with a new position in the company, looking to take up where he and James left off. But Vic is…different too: more confident, more polished, fitter and a lot less forgettable looking than he was before he went missing. He’s, for lack of a better term, put together in a way he never was before. Unfortunately for James, he’s about to find out how very put together Vic truly is.
In a world that’s become increasingly narcissistic and appearance-centric, Perfection becomes a cautionary tale about the obsession with the façade while overlooking all those little cues that should warn you to be very careful what you wish for. James finds out the hard way not to play fast and loose with the quiet ones. Especially if you’re not prepared to throw your whole self into it.
There’s no happy ending here. Except, perhaps, for Vic. He does end up stealing James’ heart in the end, after all.