Avenues Of Darkness is a short story collection with eight tales by Stuart Byng. There is an unpredictable twist at the end of each story. See if you can predict the twist at the end of each of the following stories. I predicted the ending of four of the eight stories. The unpredictable ending of the other four made this an interesting, although quick, read.
The Bridge ***** Bernard Crosswell crossed the bridge almost every day on his way to work. Lately, he had seen the bridge change. There was a kind of shimmering light near the center of the bridge. People walked through it with no seeming ill effect but Bernard was uneasy. But Bernard wanted to save time on his trip home so he navigated the bridge as quickly as possible. He noticed the shimmering light grew in size and intensity each day. No one else seemed to feel bad from the bridge experience. Not even the boy who disappeared. He had entered but not exited the light. Bernard was happy to enjoy a weekend without having to use the bridge but worried about the boy. Maybe he would send a letter to the boy’s parents. Would you have sent such a letter? What was the result?
TV Police ***** Colin wanted to spend more time with his family. He felt he was being robbed of quality time with his family by television. He had a solution in the form of several games, such as Monopoly. His wife Kaye was more enthusiastic than the kids about the time restructuring plan but in time even the kids went along. The only problem was Officer Rennick, perhaps an official of a quasi-governmental body. Rennick wanted Colin and Kaye to return to TV watching. Rennick wanted this a lot. Rennick was very insistent. Would you have listened?
The Key ***** Norm was a very talented dog. He was superb at fetching beer from the refrigerator for owner Merritt. In return, Norm got tasty treats and opportunities to go with Merritt on “walkies.” Norm didn’t bring Merritt beer during the “walkies,” but Norm occasionally fetched other items of interest. One day, there was a key. A few days later there was a note at his front door demanding that he return the key by means of depositing it in a specific book in a nearby library. He was to put the key in the book and walk away. He was not to try and see who picked it up. Would you have followed the anonymous orders?
By The Light Of The Laptop ***** Edwin was not happy in this world of structure, laws, and lack of personal freedom. There were too many demands. He had to clean his apartment. Forget it. He had to acquire, cook, and eat food. Forget it, alcohol, copious amounts of it, was good enough. He had to interact with others. That was annoying but it would not have been so bad if he could have pursued his hobby, killing a few of them now and again. His only escape from this world was through his laptop. He had found a great website promising escape from routine. In following links, he discovered a warning. Do not use the website too much, use it carefully, and do not click on OmniReal. What do you think happened? Would you have heeded the warning?
The Adventure ***** Oliver loved garage sales or “junk” sales. There was always something interesting to be found in the discards of others. When Oliver found an adventure board game he was a bit skeptical that it would be complete. Some pieces might be missing. But this was not true. The board game was in pristine condition. Instructions were clear and the progress of the game made it enjoyable for Oliver. There was one instruction that was in the form of a warning. “Beware of what you wish for.” Craig Jones should have been a better neighbor. What would you wish for?
In The Ashes ***** Butch Bodwell could find things. If you lost some personal item or even a family pet, Butch could find the lost item. It helped if Butch could touch something related to the lost item such as the collar of a lost pet. Butch had a remarkable talent. He was happy to help Detective Sergeant James Burrows in attempting to find the identity of a discovered body, the victim of a crime two years before. But sometimes helpful people become overly helpful with unpredictable results. Would you have helped the police in this case?
Black Hours ***** Ray Cropley was a fifty-eight-year-old security guard. His job suited him as he could indulge in his hobby, reading horror stories, at work. He liked to discuss some of them with his co-worker, Kirk Simms as he reported for each of his shifts early each day to relieve Kirk and catch up on gossip. One night, Ray sees movement on a camera but the figure disappeared. A review of security tapes showed nothing. On another night the same figure appears on another camera and, again, does not appear on security tapes. When the man appears to ask for help, Ray has to make a decision. Would you help a man who has the ability to not appear on security tapes?
Just Typical ***** Cooper Higgs is a computer programmer who works from home and that is just the way he likes it. He is his own favorite companion. He has no friends, has never had friends, and never wants to have friends. He occasionally goes to a pub but talks to no one. He would never talk to Glenda Ashton but she has rather aggressively begun a conversation with him. She wanted to give him a job that started at ten thousand dollars per month. Increasing to twenty-five thousand dollars per month after six months. Maybe Cooper should talk to her. All he had to do was complete training and run a company supplied program at specified times. And one more thing, although it was not clearly stated. Don’t ask too many questions. Would you have asked questions? (Hint … This is a morality drama.)
The eight short stories in this collection are easy and fast to read. The level of vocabulary allows me to recommend this as an interesting read for students of English as a Second Language. I gave this four plus Amazon stars and look forward to more short stories from Stuart Byng.