The first remarkable thing about Small Horrors: A Collection of Fifty Creepy Stories by Darcy Coates is that this author is the writer of all fifty short stories; stories that vary in content and endings. It would seem that the endings would become predictable. Somewhere after story number twenty, for example, the reader would be able to predict how the next one would end after reading the first couple of sentences. Nope, that did not happen. Every story is fresh, some end with a sudden, surprising stop in a way that I did not see coming. Some end in a mild, pleasant conclusion; there is a twist, but not a shock. All are only two to four pages long and I am going to accept a frequently heard writer’s complaint; short stories are hard to write. Where is the room for any character development? Coates carries this off well in this 364-page collection of fifty stories. The stories were published over time and this collection came from different published sources by Coates. That does not diminish the quality of the work. This collection was made available in December 2016 on Amazon and I read it for free with my KU subscription.
While there were no disappointments in the collection, I will depart from my usual custom of commenting on each story and will only comment on the ones that impressed me as particularly good. The rest are merely good.
Story One: The Dog’s Grave Digger Rick’s wife was gone. Rick was driving around in a rather distracted manner, perhaps thinking of the last time she had kissed him, only earlier that morning. Maybe that was why he hit the dog. Rick felt bad about hitting the dog; it reminded him of a pet he had lost as a child, a dog, one that had been hit and killed by a driver that hadn’t bothered to stop. That act had been very disrespectful and Rick decided this dog, although a victim of an accident caused by Rick, was going to be treated with more respect. Rick would bury the dog in the woods in a hole deep enough not to be discovered by animals. At the end, we all need a peaceful rest.
Story Eleven: Music Box Colette received an unexpected gift from an anonymous giver. She didn’t really want it, especially after the birds started appearing. She tried to get rid of it in many ways. Her mom tried to get rid of it in many ways. Maybe they were a bit too disrespectful toward the anonymous donor.
Story Fourteen: Hazard Lights Sometimes you can shed too much light on a problem.
Story Fifteen: The Resident Allie hadn’t had the house that long. It was time to explore a bit and look at that boarded-up crawlspace. It would make an excellent storage area. Some places should be left alone and not examined. Not all the unexplained sounds are rats.
Story Twenty-Two: Angel of Mercy What was the name of the “Angel?”
Story Thirty-Seven: Skin House You know you are not crazy when others see the same thing as you. NOTE: I feel this is the most descriptive of all the stories, the one that will scare a reader the most based on a description.
Story Thirty-Nine: Radio You don’t have to believe everything you read or hear. But this news station became increasingly credible as Luke listened. NOTE: I felt the average reader would see the end coming in this one. That makes me less than average. I didn’t see it coming. This was the scariest for me based on an unexpected ending. And… the reader has to know the meaning of “ute” in the context of the story; the meaning of that word confused me.
Story Forty-Three: 99 Messages This is a “count-down” horror story, as in some things are going to happen from number 99 to number 1; there is a nice, even, suspenseful build-up in this tale.
Story Forty-Six: Growth Emma was Mary’s best friend; she wanted to share a new discovery somewhere in the woods. Mary found the new discovery fascinating, so she wanted to share with the new farm girl who lived nearby. Sometimes paying it forward does not pay off.
This is a collection of what I would call “gentle” horror stories. There are surprises, twists and some gruesome descriptions but none so bad as to trigger warnings. The collection is devoid of content requiring graphic sex warnings, also a plus. This is a collection I will forward to my son’s Kindle reader.