|Art by Vitaly Alexius|
"The Red Light is Blinking" by Kealan Patrick Burke (5135 words)
This story is about trolls and trolling and, I suppose, revenge. It's the kind of horror story that I'm not always particularly comfortable with, because it's about torture and "justice" in some ways and I'm not usually cool with revenge/torture stories, no matter how vile the person being revenged upon/tortured. Then, I'm not even for the death penalty so I suppose my own views rather cloud the issue. On the one hand, the idea of forcing internet trolls to troll each other basically until they break down as they have made others break down can be a satisfying idea. The people suffering in the story have done truly horrible things. And the story does a decent job of making them a little more complicated than just internet trolls. Of course they all have reasons for doing what they did. For trolling. But it doesn't excuse the hurt they inflicted. It never does. But then, The Troll Killers aren't really the answer to that. Again, the group is reactionary and not concerned with the victims. They are just looking for more "acceptable" targets to torture. The story might deal with that a little, with showing the TTK as inhuman, and the story certainly shows the parallels between captors and captives, but it didn't, in the end, seem very satisfying to me. I mean, some interesting ideas, some disturbing writing. Yes. As a horror this story works, because it is squirmy and dark. But I'm not sure it does enough to show the horror of what the TTK is doing. That it focuses just a bit too much on the revenge fantasy aspect of setup. Worth a look if only to struggle with the story's message and style, this one definitely forces the reader to confront the ugliness and pain of trolling.
"Rules for Ordinary Heroes" by Sandra McDonald (3300 words)
Here's a much more grounded story (hah, plane pun!) about a man stepping out on his family who finds himself in a very unpleasant situation. And then in an even less pleasant situation. The story is told rather interestingly, narrator to Tom, the main character, and telling him all the ways that this is not going to be like the movies. All the things this is not. His character and situation are slowly revealed. He has a wife and a very handicapped son and is taking some time for himself with his girlfriend on the side for a vacation. It's a rather terrible thing to do, and the story really doesn't excuse it, just states as part of his backstory, that he wants to be a hero, an important person, but doesn't really succeed in his own way. His life has left him disappointed and down and though he feels saddled by responsibility to his son he still is looking for ways to get away. Only in a Miami airport things are not exactly going well. There's something he doesn't know about, something that he only begins to guess as he starts feeling sick, as he starts making his own horror story of the airport bathroom. Things he will never know about have happened, the airport compromised with a new virus. And still he seems to cling to the idea that is a hero, that the story is about him. The story winds down with him trying to escape quarantine, which doesn't really work too well for him. More, though, the story is about how he missed the ways he was already a hero, the ways that he already made a difference, and how his trying to be the action movie star led to a profound sadness that he won't even know. An effective story with a neat style and a powerful punch.