Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. This time, we’re doing something different and reviewing horror short stories all month long. Some of these might be scary and inappropriate, so caution is advised. Today, I review Don’t Turn On The Lights by Cassandra Khaw.
Fiction Friday Spook-a-thon: Don’t Turn On The Lights
Warning: This short story contains strong language.
Happy Friday the 13th. Hope you’re having a lucky day. Let’s have some fun this month and review an array of horror short stories. Today, I’m reviewing Don’t Turn On The Lights by Cassandra Khaw, featured in Nightmare Magazine. You can find it here. This is a tale, or a series of witness accounts, of a supposed murder, and the narrator gives a handful of variations on one singular tale. It’s short, but it gives an unnerving feeling the whole way through and even adds some slight humor to it.
The story is a witness account of a tale about a college campus murder. Supposedly (and I say this because it’s a witness account that has multiple ways of telling this story), a woman found herself in the college basement and discovers strange noises. When she returns to her dorm room, she finds someone’s body chopped up like meat. Gruesome, but then again, this is horror. However, the fun of it is that the narrator has multiple accounts of how the story went down, kind of like a collegiate urban legend. Something a senior would tell freshmen to scare them off. It’s a classic and I can easily imagine the campus having their own tale.
As far as the story itself, it’s alright. What makes it unique is the idea that the narrator acts like they’re saying this, again, to the new kid on the campus. Throughout the story, there are hints of “okay, some people recall it this way, but this is how I remember it.” I love these kinds of stories that the narrator isn’t telling the whole story.
At the same time, though, while I like the whole “multiple ways of telling it,” I would have really liked it if it was one singular story. Again, going with the classic urban legend tale, it would probably have effect if the author went with the whole “this is how it really happened” from the start. Like “Those stories you hear about the student getting chopped up. This was how it really happened.” While I still enjoyed the story overall, I felt the alternate takes was a little too much.
The story itself wasn’t that scary, either. I mean, yeah, it did get a little gruesome at times, but it’s not something I’d have nightmares over. But this story wasn’t that kind, and I thank it for it.
I won’t go too deep into the characters this time since only one mattered. The narrator calls her Sally because that’s probably what her name was (the narrator doesn’t seem too confident). As far as I know, she’s your usual horror character who gets herself into the mess. Towards the end, you realize she might not be who you suspect and it adds a nice twist to the story. I won’t spoil it, but it’s not something you’d normally expect in a horror story featuring a scared protagonist.
The writing was good and I felt the narrator had personality. The narrator acts like she isn’t sure of some things and leaves minor details out like they’re telling it during a lunch-time discussion. And that’s what I like about the writing. It feels authentic without being too distracting. Again, I love stories like that where the narrator acts like they’re a person in a conversation with you and I think this story handles it well.
So that’s about it. The story is short, around 2000 or so words, so this review is also. It’s a fun, yet creepy story if you’re looking for something a little tame this Halloween.
That’s all for today. Take care, beware the full moon, and remember, the inn is always open.