When the Zombies Win by Karina Summer-Smith
I’m only going to spare this story the barest of space. It isn’t scary in the least. It is certainly fun and amusing but there is a tongue-in-cheek cuteness that makes me question its placement in this anthology. A weird choice that is thankfully short. It reminded me of the story about Santa Claus from Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors.
–30– by Laird Barron
I’ve had experience with Laird Barron’s work and am particularly fond of his Old Virginia from The Imago Sequence and Other Stories. –30– is a lengthy story that combines a lot of interesting elements that work well together just about as often as they don’t work together at all. The story takes place at an isolated research post in the middle of a former farm community now reclaimed by the wilderness. What they are researching involves the area’s coyotes but hints of the area’s dark past and the ominous information gleaned about the group funding the outpost call the true designs of the station into question. There is a bit of a Lord of the Flies element here as well and the isolation and monotony of the two researchers begins to eat away at their sanity. Or does it? –30– manages to walk that fine line between outright supernatural presence and more mundane explanations. Barron combines strong elements of psychological and emotional tension with classic horror tropes (something knocking on the door in the night, brief glimpse of something on a recorded video, etc) to heighten the tension. The story sort of disintegrates at the end, I expect deliberately, and while there are certainly lingering questions when all is said and done the story is still satisfying.