Theresa offers us 2 short story reviews for the price of 1!
Want to read about two characters who have absolutely gruesome holidays? Then, Calvin Demmer’s short stories are the ones for you…
Happy Dark Year
Cody Wheeler wants to enjoy New Year’s Eve. He wants to catch up with friends he hasn’t seen since going off to college. But his girlfriend, Kendall, is back to throwing fits and nagging him, ruining his break at home. He decides she needs to be taught a lesson. Nothing serious, just a little reminder that she should act her age. Cody, however, gets carried away and doesn’t foresee the horror that awaits him at her favorite spot by the lake.
This is another easily digestible story that reads quickly. One of the things Demmer does really well is he plants details along the way that are important to the grand finale. You don’t necessarily realize it at the time you are reading, but if you look back there are some very interesting tidbits. Sometimes those details are weird and you’re scratching your head, but they’re there for a reason. It’s refreshing that Demmer trusts the reader enough to get those clues and to give him a chance to unfold the plot, which involves two romantically involved college students home on vacation.
The couple seems mismatched as they bicker, prompting Cody to act like a jerk and go off to a holiday costume party without his girlfriend, Kendall. As he sets his sights on another girl, we don’t mind that he’s about to pay a serious price for his betrayal. Demmer seems to like putting the power in the hands of a supernatural female character, which often comes to a grisly conclusion. Much like my remarks about “Dying Valentine”, I feel like this story could have been expanded a bit more as well. I would have liked to know more about the family dynamic. Demmer introduces a set of parents, but doesn’t really delve into their role in the lives of Kendall and her sister. And, I don’t want to give anything away, but I would have liked to have seen some more description at the end—one I wasn’t expecting.
Daniel Hill was on edge. He was meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and they had to go and make Valentine’s Day evening the date. Who did that? Wasn’t Valentine’s Day for couples and not families? Then the girl in the white dress wandered in front of his vehicle. At that moment, Daniel knew his night was going to take a wrong turn…If only he knew the new course would lead him down a dark one-way path.
This is a smooth, fast-paced read. The action speeds along so much so that I was done with story in what felt like the blink of an eye. One thing that I found most enjoyable is that I started predicting what was going to happen to the main character. I love that Demmer takes the plot somewhere I wasn’t expecting. It’s like he sets you up to anticipate the same old ghost story, but then pulls the rug right out from under you. My only complaint is that the piece could have been longer with more details about the characters and their backstory. Oh, that would be some weird material right there. So, maybe one day Demmer will expand this. Nonetheless, I recommend “Dying Valentine” as a fun, eerie horror experience. And, a humorous moral of the story: never forget your wallet at home, especially on Valentine’s Day!
To make a long story short (ha, ha), I look forward to more of this author’s writing. If you have a craving for horror that can be read in one sitting, you need to put Demmer in your TBR pile.