A Walk in a City of Shadows, the latest anthology from Alien Sun Press, is packed with fantastic and phantasmagorical takes on familiar urban legends. Tucked among the abundance of stories are poems from Phil Breach, Chelsea Arrington, Hayley Arrington, Maxwell I. Gold, Manuel Arenas, Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, and Frank Coffman. From playful to deadly serious, and from mythic to thoroughly modern, the monsters gathered here shed light on the human condition in some unexpected ways.
“Already Weeds are Writing” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy begins the collection with a haunting, Lovecraft-inflected piece about art and memory.
“The Other End of the Line” by Gordon B. White is a sad and frightening story of grappling with loss.
“Do Not Read This” by Sarah Walker is full of shadows and the sacrifices they demand.
“Market Price” by Can Wiggins takes a familiar urban legend and turns it into something devastating. With a few quick strokes we know every character in the story, which makes the ending hit like a fist. One of my favorites, here.
“School’s Out” by Jill Hand uses the old, haunted burial ground trope to great effect in a story of schoolyard mischief gone terribly wrong.
“Case #7:The Babes in the Woods” by Nora B. Peevy fuses Indigenous legend and Christianity into a syncretic tale of long-ago infant deaths.
“The Office on the Seventh Floor” by Malcolm Carvalho gives form to workers’ nightmares.
“The Bandage Man’s Way” by Wendy Wagner presents a new monster that proves just as forboding and dangerous as any of the older ones.
“Blucifer” by Carolyn Kay has wicked fun with the big blue horse at Denver International Airport.
“Along a Rural Highway” by D.L. Myers gives us a brief, sharp, and effective warning about stopping for hitchhikers.
“Face the Music” by Duane Pesice is a slice of life of the parent of teen boys, until it isn’t.
“Half-Sick of Shadows” by R.W. Moffat unveils a gorgeously tangled mystery of haunted mirrors, witches, and old magic that persists in even older places. Another favorite.
“Mother Will Be Displeased” by David Barker threatens us with weird, vampiric children haunting the night.
“Fish Story” by Scott J. Courturier is told by the survivor of a cosmic predator, and flavored with faerie lore and hints of Brian Lumley’s “No Way Home”.
“Third Eye Delight” by Jennifer Caress moves from silly to grim and back again on its quest for enlightenment.
“Mrs. Saltonstall’s Dybbuk” by Adam Bolivar sets an occult detective against an unclean spirit.
“Invoking a Playmate” by Laura Davey is a brief, ominous primer on being careful what you wish for.
“Midnight Train from Tokyo” by John H. Howard mixes ghosts, terrorism, and revenge fantasy into a nightmare.
“The Yellow Man” by Shayne K. Keen is another Lovecraftian piece, using a neighborhood haunted house as a strange gateway.
“The Legend of Johnny Nepkin: A Home-Grown Bogeyman” by A.P. Sessler tells what feels like a real folktale, complete with Johnny’s origin, strange and terrible habits, and mysterious retreat from his usual haunts. Another favorite.
“Necker” by Grant Bright captures the dangers in a bleak industrial landscape as effectively as Lumley or Campbell, without ever dispelling the mystery of his monster. Another favorite.
“The Visitors” by Michael S. Walker is very much a bit of Creepy Pasta.
“Danse de L’Amour” by Ivan Zorich mixes dark history with ballet and philosophy.
“The Snakes of Errington or The Legend of Specky Eggy” by Russell Smeaton turns tropes on their heads to create an unnervingly charming modern monster who is fully in control of the situation. Another of my favorites here.
“You Will Know Not the Hour” by Sean M. Thompson brings an old desert phantom into the nuclear age.
Richly illustrated by Alan Sessler, Sarah Walker, and Russell Smeaton, with a cover by Dan Sauer, A Walk in a City of Shadows is well worth exploring. I recommend it highly.