Best Horror of the Year: At the Riding School by Cody Goodfellow

Given that this month has been a bit crazy I’m trying to stick with a short fiction for a bit.  As a result the remainder of this week, and likely next, will feature commentaries on the stories in The Best Horror of the Year (Volume 3) and maybe a bit of Supernatural Noir.   I’m always bad at reading short stories (which I’ve said time and time again) so this is one of my few attempts to really buckle down with some short fiction.which, after a lengthy introduction, begins with Cody Goodfellow’s At the Riding School. 

Best Horror of the Year Volume 3 edited by Ellen Datlow
Best Horror of the Year Volume 3 edited by Ellen Datlow

At the Riding School by Cody Goodfellow

Awakened by a late night phone call a veterinarian is called in to a local private boarding/riding school to deal with an emergency.  She has dealt with emergencies there before, off the books, as it seems that the headmistress has some sort of dirt on her.  Goodfellow does a wondrous job at casting an air of anticipatory dread. Goodfellow has our lead lay out the fairly mundane details behind the history of the riding school and its headmistress in a fairly straightforward manner.   As stranger and more troubling elements are slowly introduced into the story that sense of foreboding coils like a spring in your gut.

That is one of the best and most enjoyable aspects of horror, though it seems weird to say so, the expectation of dread and the foreknowledge that something terrible lies just around the corner is what pulls you forward while simultaneously urging you to stop reading.  The tension between those two elements (I’m sure it has a German name or something) is one of those things that I look forward to most in horror and the element whose absence I always find the most distressing.  Thankfully, Goodfellow’s story is one of the best examples I’ve seen in handling that dawning sense of horror.  However, I also found that the inevitable payoff did not quite match the exquisite nature of the journey.  That isn’t so much a comment on Goodfellow’s talent as it is the nature of horror itself.  Revelation and truth have always been, in my eyes, the enemy of horror fiction everywhere.