"Agony of Being" by Tommy B. Smith. Appearing in Caught by Darkness: An Anthology of Dark Tales. Edited by Chris Bartholomew, published by Static Movement. Pages 99-111.
4 Vampire Bunnies out of 5.
SYNOPSIS: Jack Redmond is shot in the head whilst defending a convenience store clerk. During recovery, Jack begins to experience strange visions, nightmares and thoughts. Meanwhile, a cop is going through his own kind of deja vu. And Jack's wife, Julia, just wants her husband. to get better. It's only a matter of time before the fates of these 3 characters collide.
The theme of Bartholomew's Caught by Darkness anthology is exactly what it says on the tin: dark events and dark characters caught up in them. Smith's tale is precisely that. It depicts a seemingly normal man, who only wanted some aspirin for a headache, being warped from the kind of hero who would take a bullet for a stranger into something dark and unrecognisable. The characterisation is clever, with Julia in particular being a character whom the reader can come to genuinely care about. I found a particular fondness for Julia and I think she shone in the end scene, which I won't spoil (I'll just tell you that it was my favourite bit!). Similarly, the character of Robert Brennan is an interesting parallel to Jack's inner torment. Overall, an intriguing tale which Smith described to me as a mix between psychological horror and cosmic horror and I can't find any better way of describing it myself. The cosmic horror aspect of it does take a bit of thinking about and the philosophical elements aren't what I usually go for in a horror (I'm a trash and pulp gal), but this gives the story a literary angle which is often missing in more scare-hungry horror fiction. What I particularly liked about the story was the structure. It's set out in 3 clear sections, breaking up the longer-piece into 3 distinct chapters. Each section focuses on a different character: Jack; Brennan; Julia. This is what interested me the most. The shift in focus kept the story fresh and meant that it didn't drag at all, which is something it could have done with it being a 12 page story amongst a collection of much shorter fiction (most of the stories in the collection are between about 3 and 7 pages with a few longer ones interspersed).
THOUGHTS FROM THE RABBIT HOLE: A fast paced yet thought-provoking tale with a unique format. A stand out piece in a dark and frightful collection.
Visit the writer online at http://www.tommybsmith.com/
Upcoming reviews: Sean Monaghan in The Shadow People and Dorothy Davies in Oil. As soon as I get hold of those anthos I'll get these reviews up.
If you want your story to go through the above Bunny-critique drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with VAMPIREBUNNYREVIEW in the subject line.
Thank you to Tommy B. Smith for letting me read and review his fantastic story.