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2016 Stories 82 - 95

Still attempting to catch up, here are briefer-than-usual thoughts on the contents of the anthology Dark and Dangerous Things III, edited by M.A. Chiappetta, Donna A. Leahey and Margaret Perdue:

82. THE MOST VULNERABLE MOMENT by Donna A. Leahey.  The set-up is familiar: a man and a woman flirting in a dark bar. Considering the anthology theme, you know one of them is up to no good. I liked Leahey's development of atmosphere and tension through the dialogue.

83. BREADCRUMBS by Adrean Messmer.  Another familiar set-up: a man wishes his wife and kids a safe start to their vacation and then goes to work. The question is, where will the story go: is it a technology-gone-bad story? A "one spouse is hiding something" story? Or an "outside forces wreak havok" story?  Messmer kept me wondering until the final twist.

84. THE ELITE by Margaret Perdue.  Ah, teenage boys. They will get up to shenanigans to prove how brave they are, and their gang pecking order will always create complications. While the characters themselves never really rose above the roles they play, Perdue's descriptive abilities had me right there in the woods with the boys as they find, and make plans involving, a witch's grave.

85. THE ADVERSARY by Robert Soul.  We all know the tale of The Devil and Daniel Webster. Soul gives an interesting twist to the theme, tying it into the curse supposedly placed on General (later President) Harrison by Tenskwatawa. The story has both a gothic and surreal feel to it.

86. AT THE INTERSECTION OF BLAKE AND IRVING by Jack Burgos.  Deals with crossroads devils never go to plan, right? Burgos' protagonist is a trans* woman who wants magic to complete the transition -- but at what cost? Strong characterization and a nice twist or two.

87. THE BLACKEST CAT by M.A. Chiappetta.  One of my favorite stories in the anthology. A "secret society coming of age ritual" story featuring a strong female protagonist and a very persuasive black cat. The main character's past and present interweave, and the decision she must make is not an easy one, weighing personal responsibility against family expectation. Chiappetta had me wrapped up in the tension from Matalan's first step on the path through to the final sentence.

88. MELT WITH YOU by Adrean Messmer.  Two words: killer snow.  That's about all I can say. I love it when an author can take something commonplace and make it sinister.

89. THE CLIMB by Donna A. Leahey. Another "coming of age ritual" story featuring a strong female protagonist, and my second favorite story in the anthology. The residents of this village climb the nearby mountain in order to bond with an animal; men bond with high-end predators, women with industrious prey animals. The society is ranked according to bond-mate. Our narrator doesn't fit in with her father's people, but must undergo the ritual anyway. Really wonderful world-building and characterization. I can't help but wonder if there isn't a whole novel to be set here.

90. TILLY BY THE SEA by Margaret Perdue.  A nice piece of flash fiction, told in first person, that feels very ethereal.

91. XINSHENG by Jack Burgos. Another favorite of the book. Captain Alyssa Arreguin is in a bad spot: when it came her time to wake up and take her turn piloting the colony ship she is on (which the colonists and the rest of the crew are in cryogenic sleep for the long journey), she discovers her predecessor has left things a bit of a mess. Actually, more than a bit. How far will she go to protect her charges and deliver them safely, and how will she deal with the aftermath of her decisions?  Burgos does a wonderful job of putting us in Alyssa's head, and the other two characters are equally well drawn given their situation.

92. PICTURES OF YOU by Adrean Messmer. A piece of flash fiction that turns dark very stealthily.

93. FADED MAGIC by M.A. Chiappetta. Children know magic is everywhere; adults doubt magic even exists. Chiappetta's second story in the anthology shows us one girl's journey from belief to doubt and beyond.

94. THE BERENSTEIN EFFECT by Donna A. Leahey.  A really interesting exploration of the nature of the multiverse, centered on a man whose world falls apart. Reminded me of one of my favorite Astro City stories by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson.

95. #283: A PARANORMAL TALE by Robert Soul. A story of demonic possession that has one of the most spot-on, and terrifying, descriptions of sleep paralysis that I have ever read.

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