Sunday, November 24, 2013

341 Days 'til Halloween...

Scare o' the Day!

Short Story

"The Spire in the Woods"

"The Spire in the Woods" by TheBoyInTheClock

There were already 192,622 subscribers to the sub-Reddit forum NoSleep when I logged on Thursday night.  I had heard that it was an excellent place to read a scary story, and apparently, I was already late for the party.  For my first read, I chose the winner of the October 2013 Short Story Contest, a long work of fiction called "The Spire in the Woods."

"The Spire in the Woods" is almost a novella.  It took me three and a half hours, but I read it in one, white-knuckled sitting.  It was moving and powerful and scary as Hell. I say this with complete honesty and without hyperbole, "The Spire in the Woods" is easily one of the best works of horror fiction I have read in the last 10 years.

And I read a lot.

I immediately emailed the author, telling him this, and asked if it would be ok to post a link to his story on That Halloween Blog.  He got back to me and said that it would.

All I know about him is his first name and that he calls himself TheBoyInTheClock.  All you need to know is that he’s the real deal.  If I was smarter, I’d have asked for an interview. Maybe that will come in time. Right now, you have the very great privilege to be able to read a stunningly scary work by an exciting new voice in horror fiction before it appears in the pages of a book.

For free.

"The Spire in the Woods" is equal parts ghost story, supernatural mystery, and coming-of-age journey.

It features one of my favorite genre tropes: the protagonist who is almost manically compelled to solve a mystery, even though doing so might get him killed. In this case, the protagonist is a likable teenage everyman who struggles with feelings of infatuation and love for a pretty classmate. She has a mystery that may be related to a scary old ghost story, "The Widower's Clock." 

Will solving it endear him to her?

As a coming of age story, "The Spire in the Woods" is shockingly relevant and filled with an ever escalating constellation of issues faced by today's teenager, from the mundane (first love, fitting in, rejection, and broken hearts) to the severe (bullying, surviving loss and mental illness) to the tragic (traumatic violence, rape, and teen suicide).

"The Spire in the Woods" also tackles some heavy duty themes for a work of genre fiction: fear as means of social control, the failure of religion, the loss of faith, the destructive force of guilt, and the damning effects of generational misogyny. 

Structurally, TheBoyInTheClock is an expert craftsman.  His set-ups and subtle use of foreshadowing make the story's pay-offs so brutally unexpected that they seem pre-ordained.  "The Spire in the Woods" also contains all the little details that serve to enrich a story and endow it with a sense of time and place, like how many gallons of water the Quabbin Reservoir holds, or the reason ice frozen on a lake makes a “cuh, cuh, cuh” sound.

Most importantly, TheBoyInTheClock's insights into human nature and the sweet pain and unfairness of life are so spot-on, nuanced, and perfectly communicated that at times I thought I was reading a story about myself.

As my buddy Ting would say, "TheBoyInTheClock KNOWS."

In our communication, TheBoyInTheClock said that he has plans to publish "The Spire in the Woods" on Amazon.  When he does, I'll be posting about it again, because he deserves to be paid for his work.  

Until that time comes, do yourself a favor, click the link below, and take a journey to...




Happy Halloween!!