By CHRISTINA F. KENNISON
Special to the OBSERVER
What do readers' fears become when they're examined? Top-notch tales, poems, and images will horrify and delight readers in this anthology called "What Fears Become." Each feature rips through reality, plunging readers into frightful situations deep enough to provoke a bag full of nightmares. It is unlikely readers will set aside a single whisper-read word. Like stepping onto a monstrous scene, their wide eyes can't look away. Thirty-one finely honed eager narratives, 18 delicious poems, and 18 visions touch all who dare venture inside.
The foreword is by Simon Clark, and he has nothing but positive comments about "What Fears Become." He titles this foreword, "A Small Matter of Life and Death."
Besides penning horror fiction, authors are teachers, radio personalities, newspaper reporters, editors, gardeners, musicians, poets, reality TV contestants, aides at mental hospitals, technical writers, volunteers, graphic designers, inventory clerks, writers of chapter units for history textbooks, receivers of prestigious awards, founders of martial art systems and have had films produced from novels.
The collection opens with "Bast," by Christina A. Larsen, which is about a man who visits his dying grandmother. Do cats really take breaths away? Marty finds out in this eerie yarn. Descriptive.
"Next Time You'll Know Me" is told in first-person by a paranoid person who threatens others because he believes they are the reason for all his bad luck. He focuses especially on someone who stole his stories and killed his mother. An unusual story.
Another narrative sure to raise hackles is "Ouija" by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff. Liza doesn't like the Ouija board she's had for years and decides to be rid of it once and for all, but her friend, Sharon, is overcome by curiosity. She disregards Liza's warnings and asks the board a question. Suddenly, evil things begin to happen and the women decide to destroy it. By itself, the board reveals who will die and then they do. One night the women's names are spelled out. Now, they're determined to rid themselves of this evil once and for all. Wickedly scary, suspenseful reading. Tardiff doesn't disappoint.
Scott Nicholson contributes a narrative readers cannot set aside. Their thoughts are held afterward too. His character, Kelly, becomes pregnant by Chet, the kind of man no woman should ever be with. Kelly decides that even though she's the last of her family, she'll soon have someone to love, to carry her family's name, and to inherit her family's humble farm house. Another infant hovers near Kelly. From the family cemetery Kelly realizes the ghost baby grows at the same rate as the one in her belly does. The white shape hangs around the old Stamey Cemetery, not far from the old Cherokee ceremonial mound. When Chet comes back to Kelly, he cruelly decides she and her baby shouldn't live, yet the ghost baby decides they should.
Poetry in this collection is respectfully good. Not only are the author's imaginations powerful, but it is evident they've studied poetry form.
When examining "A Guide for Ethical Zombie Murder," by Emon Anthousis, readers find six stanzas written in blank verse, and written as a "how-to" accept becoming a zombie. He explains the whys for each step, and the necessary cautions during this change. Authousis ends his rhyme advise on a humorous note.
"Bugs," by Dennis Bogwell, features ten stanzas. The rhyme scheme begins with abab, goes into cdcd in the second stanza, and then into fgfg for the remaining eight. Each line is short, carrying punch, not only creating a sense of squittering like a bug, but by bringing urgency to the exasperation the character feels about dealing with bugs. Readers will squirm themselves with this poem.
Peter Steele carries a recommendation for those who consider resisting their morbid circumstances with a rhyme called "City of the Dead." The first three stanzas help readers realize their state and how much is changing. The last turns to sharing sentiments of empathy and reveals how the poem's author knows. This is because he was once there himself. Steele knows pain and advises readers a final resolve. Though 16 lines and the rhyme scheme doesn't fit neatly into the English or Italian sonnet, The City of the Dead" is in fixed form. Each line in the four stanzas tries to stick to ten syllables. Each stanza contains two couplets and goes: aabb, ccbb, eebb, ffbb. No one can argue that Steele studied poetry, or that he has a sense of humor.
Besides writing poetry, poets write biographies, songs, screenplays, comic strips, novels, short stories, and non-fiction. They come from all over the world, won prestigious prizes, and have multi-published. Aside from the writing profession, other vocations of poets include Navy engineers, chemists, musicians, and financial systems analysts.
Artwork in "What Fears Become" is in black, white and shades of gray. Each conjures up feelings of loneliness, deep thought, boldness and a dark slice of freedom. Each dares a peak into crevices and borders, into eyes and into open body parts, and of their situation of thought. Artists include graphic designers, poets, writers, sculptures, tailors, and work in pencil, crayon, pen and ink, watercolors, digital and oil paints.
Jeani Rector is the editor for "What Fears Become." She is also the founder and editor of The Horror Zine (www.thehorrorzine.com). Multiple publications have featured her stories. A novel called "Around a Dark Corner "was released by Graveyard Press in 2009 by Rector.
Dean H. Wild is the assistant editor of The Horror Zine. He has written love stories, and been a freelance copywriter.
"What Fears Become" examines the horrors of humankind, dares to lift the lid, dares to step into the headlights and to follow dark whispers. Why examine nightmares? Because they remind us that monsters and horror lurk just under the surface, and by examining them we gain strength. Determination to keep them at bay is renewed when we realize horror resides only inches away. What do readers' fears become if not examined? Reality.
Christina F. Kennison, a book reviewer, is a South Dayton resident.