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Fleen Book Corner: The Crossroads At Midnight

Boy howdy, I have determined that if there’s one thing in this world I do not want, it’s for Abby Howard to be mad at me, since it’s obvious that her mind works in ways that could devise — as Benedick would have it — brave punishments for any that crossed her.

I’m getting ahead of myself a little.

Received this week after considerable delay¹ in fulfillment of its Kickstart, was Howard’s latest book, The Crossroads At Midnight. It was supposed to have been in backers hands and stores at Halloween time², as one would expect for a horror anthology, but honestly? Waiting for the Spring and the beginnings of hope that the Great Plague may finally be receding from our shores³ probably put me in a better brainspace for reading it, particularly because I opted to do so right before bed.

Genius move, Gary.

The stories range from mildly creepifying but ultimately affirming (wherein an old woman who has always been alone by choice becomes friends with some reanimated corpses from the local bog) to emotionally damaging (a classic come-away-to-Faerie tale, only at the seashore, with sisterly love and regrets) to modern fears that are literally skin-crawling (just don’t — repeating, do not — take a stained and possibly murderous mattress home from the sidewalk, no matter how much it appears to be free to a good home).

The two that stuck with me, though, were the ones that dipped into splatter territory — if Howard ever gets a job storyboarding a horror movie, they better do her dismembering eviscerations justice — because they both dealt (in a roundabout way) with the same theme: what happens when your friend is something monstrous? In a moment of crisis, will they use their monstrosity to protect, or act according to their nature in ways that to human sensibility are an unimaginably cruel betrayal? And who is at fault then, the monster or the hubris?

Howard’s characters encompass a range of ages, genders, types, and personalities; nobody is a victim because of who they are, but rather because of what they choose to do. Sometimes it’s foolishness, sometimes it’s love that precipitates the fall. Sometimes, it’s a salvation of sorts, as the ordinary evils of people who are human contrast with people who are … not. Howard lets you know who each and every one of them is, with just a few lines of dialogue or a panel’s worth of expression4.

If you didn’t back the Kickstart, you can get The Crossroads At Midnight from major retailers, and I imagine it’s just a matter of time before it shows up in Howard’s store and that of publisher Iron Circus. It’s decidedly not for kids, but if you’re up for a good scare, Howard’s damn near unmatched at spookification.

Spam of the day:

Welcome.To.Your Life Insurance Offer

Those extra periods are making you sound rather creepier than you intent, methinks.

¹ Fucking COVID.

² Ibid.

³ But not all shores. Help out the people of India if you can, as they suffer from the malicious incompetence of an authoritarian leader who has better things to do than deal with the death befouling his land, just as we did.

4 My favorites: the grabby hand and the eyes. The first is the protagonist’s roomie who deals with sickness in the apartment by getting out the mechanical grabby hand to maintain three feet of distance at all times; the body language instantly tells you this isn’t the first time. The second involved the girl who sacrifices herself and later comes back with distant, disinterested eyes to show how indifferent she now is towards the sister she protected so fervently.

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