SLEEP PARALYSIS by Patrick Lacey (Great Old Ones Publishing)
Aside from a story or two, SLEEP PARALYSIS marks my first foray into the work of Patrick Lacey. It is a beautifully bizarre collection of stories both dark and bizarre. Lacey has a keen eye for dialogue and believable characters and he doesn’t shy away from the gruesome.
The collection opens with a tale called “Worm Garden” about a pair of amateur paranormal investigators, one with a secret that will have a profound impact on his partner. They arrive at the titular spot, an old Quaker graveyard that is said to be one of the most haunted spots in the country. Once there, things get very strange and incredibly creepy. This story is followed by “Operation Parasite” where paranoia is the main dish and that thing that may or may not be living in your stomach is the just dessert.
“Pen Pals” is one of my favorites in the book, it concerns a boy who, along with the rest of his class is assigned a pen pal. His pen pal, named Simon, fills him in on the horrors of his ugly life, his abusive father and the bullying. Then Simon informs him that he can make things disappear, and then the ugliness in James life starts to go missing. “Drowning in Filth” offers a not-quite-textbook reason behind a woman’s extreme hoarding. “Lost And Found” is a wildly surreal tale of a lonely boy, the murder he sees and the odd relationship he develops in the aftermath.
“First Bell” wins my vote for favorite in the collection. It’s is dark and almost sweet in its sadness. A young man who survives a terrible tragedy, wakes up to be at school and hour early every day, so he can visit with friends and fellow students who weren’t as lucky as he. “Send Your End” deals with a very sinister website, while “The Lynnwood Vampires” is almost the tale of a sub-sub-cultural virus of sorts. “Norton” is the bizarro re-telling of “Harvey” but with a stuffed rabbit with, um, handiness and a very dark effect on those around him.
“Critter Marrow” is another one about a weird website and how it bleeds from the monitor into the lives of those who’ve seen it. “Last Words” hands us the stark and horrific tale of an unspoken deathbed plea and the grisly discoveries it leads to. “Big Bertha” is a yarn about an ancient arcade game with a voracious appetite.
There are a few I didn’t touch on, which isn’t to say they weren’t good…Hey, I have to leave some surprises! SLEEP PARALYSIS is a solid collection of unsettling stories. Some of these will play on your mind long after you’ve read them, and there’s no higher praise for a writer than that. (John Boden)