Archive for the ‘October’ Category

Editors Discuss: Scary Stories

Join editors Kim Winternheimer and Sadye Teiser as they discuss what works in scary stories and what doesn’t, as our celebration of October fiction continues.

K: You and I love October so much because it’s the season of scary stories. And generally we try to focus our content on literary fiction that scares, disturbs, disgusts, or keeps us up at night. This month is particularly exciting because our Fall Fiction Contest  is open for submissions and is being judged by one of literary horror’s best: Brian Evenson. I feel like I have to mention here that he wrote a really creepy story called “Room Tone” for us last year, and anyone interested should check out his very dark collection, A Collapse of Horses, which will not disappoint horror-lovers. This year we have new fiction by Jac Jemc, whose story “Hunt and Catch” is also spine tingling. I’m so thrilled we have our own library of fiction that services scary stories, but more broadly I want to talk about why these kinds of stories are so appealing to us. Jac’s story is about a creepy garbage man and an unreliable world, Brian’s is about a dark obsession worth killing for, and “Linger Longer,” one of our Fall Fiction Winners from Jeff Vandermeer’s year, is about ghosts and the boarders between the real and unreal. Why are these so fun to read? Why do we like to be scared?

S: I think that scary stories offer a way for us to address fears that are just too difficult to tackle outside of a fictional lens. No one wants to sit down and think about death, or the violence that one human can exert upon another, or the secrets that the people we love most can keep from us. But we love stories about ghosts and zombies, horror stories, stories with the unknown lingering in every corner.

We have also published two, very different, ghost stories that I really like. In Double Exposure” by Megan Giddings, two young women move into an apartment where the rent is cheap because of one crucial fact: it is haunted. In fact, the downstairs neighbors are ghosts. As the women become friends with their neighbors, the line between the living and the dead is blurred in unnatural ways. You are not, after all, supposed to date a ghost, and you are not supposed to envy one. In Clean Hunters” by Lena Valencia, a husband and wife, who both have the Sense that can detect spirits, find it hard to bridge the widening distance in their marriage.

What are some of your favorite ghost stories? What do you think makes for an effective ghost story?

K: I have so many. As a kid I loved the Alvin Schwartz collection, Scary Stores To Tell In The Dark, particularly the ghost stories, and the truly gruesome illustrations only deepened the horror (and the pleasure) of reading them. As an adult I love the classics like The Haunting of Hill House, The Turn of The Screw, and Stephen King’s, The Shining. I also love “The Emissary,” by Ray Bradbury. What makes a ghost story effective, for me, is the suggestion of something scary and the suspense that comes from realizing, over time, that what you hoped wasn’t true has its hand on your shoulder or is standing just behind you, its reflection visible in the bathroom mirror. Ghost stories haunt all kinds of literary corners, but I think the most effective ones have what Henry James says are, “connected at a hundred points with the common objects of life.” I really don’t think there is anything scarier than your normal life being infiltrated with the horrible, especially a supernatural power that doesn’t abide by the rules of our physical world. Our lives are so governed by physics, when you are dealing with an entity that operates outside of those rules, well, nowhere is safe.

On the whole, and from a craft perspective, good ghost stories unveil ghosts and our interactions with them, with impeccable timing. Generally, suspense is being built from the suggestion of something scary to the full realization and occupation of that scary something, the apex of that interaction being the story’s climax. Most good ghost stories also ask questions about psychology and stability. It’s almost impossible to have a ghost story and not have a character ask: am I going insane? And lastly, I think a good ghost story evokes a strong sense of place, particularly a scary or unnerving atmosphere.

We recently took a closer look at Marjorie Sandor’s essay on the uncanny. Can you talk about the highlights of this essay and how it pertains to telling an effective scary story?


October Essay – Something’s Wrong in the Garden: the Uncanny and the Art of Writing by Marjorie Sandor

As All Hallows’ Eve approaches, we continue to examine stories that send chills up our spines. When people talk about scary stories, they often use the word “uncanny,” but what, precisely, does this word mean? Marjorie Sandor, editor of  The Uncanny Reader, takes us through the evolution of the word and provides tools that will help you write your own uncanny tales. Dive in.

“The sensation of uncanniness is, at its core, an anxiety about the stability of those persons, places, and things in which we have placed our deepest trust, and our own sense of identity and belonging. And what’s exciting about this for writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, is that it invites us to practice uncertainty.”

I’m eight years old, and my parents have gone out for the evening, leaving my older brothers in charge. This explains why I’m parked in front of the television set, watching a movie well beyond my tender years: The Innocents, based on Henry James’ unsettling ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.

A good twenty minutes into the film, the governess is in the garden, all in white and snipping white roses, still aglow with her good fortune in landing this gig at a big country house. The camera comes to rest near her voluminous skirts, on a small garden-statue nestled in the shrubs. It’s a cherub, but it looks deformed somehow, and there’s something hideous about its smile. That’s when, from out of its mouth, there issues a plump black bug. The bug dangles briefly on the cherub’s lip, waves its little legs, and drops out of sight.

A weird, sickish feeling wells up in my chest, both awful and exciting. It’s that insect, coming out of what appeared to be solid plaster. I don’t have words for the way I feel.

There is a word. I just don’t know it yet.

 Uncanny. Look it up in a standard collegiate dictionary, and you’ll get a brief, unhelpful definition.

Seemingly supernatural. Mysterious. [orig. Sc & N. Engl.].

But the slippage has already begun. Seemingly.

Scholars have traced the word back as far as 1593, and found it wobbling from infancy. In fact, the Scots/Gaelic word from which it emerges, canny, meant not only what you’d think—“safe” and “cozy” and “prudent”—but also “sly of humor,” and “having supernatural knowledge.” You might go to “a canny man” to have a spell cast on an enemy, or to have one reversed. So you might say that from early-on, “canny” secretly contained the seed of its own “un.” A shadow-word just waiting to emerge.


New Voices: “Katie Flew Again Tonight” by Trent England

Each October, we showcase otherworldly stories that send chills up our spines. Trent England’s “Katie Flew Again Tonight” is one such tale. It is written from the perspective of a man whose wife, Katie, can fly. As Katie’s flights grow longer, they both know that one day, she will fly out of their apartment window and never return. Neither of them knows precisely where she will go, but it is certain that she will no longer share her husband’s rooted, domestic life. “Katie Flew Again Tonight” is a beautiful and chilling examination of how we all deal with finality.

“I understand very little about how my wife flies; she does not have any physical qualities associated with creatures of flight, and for all other intents and purposes, she is entirely human.”

Katie flew again tonight. She woke me up when she crawled into bed, and soon after she fell asleep, I quietly slipped out of the room. I saw evidence in our apartment of her flight: black yoga clothes shed on the floor made a trail down the hallway toward the living room window, where under the sill lay her ballet flats, haphazardly shed in the sleepy stumble to the bedroom that she makes after a night of flying. Her discarded clothes had taken on the scent of the Manhattan grit outside our windows. Katie absorbs the city’s smells when she flies; they cling to her the way a telling perfume clings to a guilty shirt collar.

I returned to the bedroom, lit blue from the alarm clock, and I slid under the sheets, inching my way toward the bare outline of her sleeping body. I had already seen the time, and couldn’t avoid calculating how long she’d been out. As she slowly breathed, I watched the violin curve of her body rise and fall to its own musical time. I reached out and I fell asleep with one arm resting on her. It is in moments like these that I feel as if I, too, have flown.

To read the rest of “Katie Flew Again Tonight” click here.

Celebrating October at The Masters Review

October is a month that is uniquely suited to fiction. As people hang ghosts on their porches and decorate their front yards with skeletons, graves, and witches’ feet, the divide between the real and unreal feels more pliable. Kids, and many adults, don Halloween costumes and pretend to be someone else for the night, to tell another person’s story. Fiction, too, exists on this line between real and imagined worlds. That is why we dedicate every October to a Scary Story Showcase, focusing on the fiction that sends chills up our spines: stories that scare us, that surprise us, that make the boundary between our world and the unknown seem a little smaller. We have lots of goodies lined up for you this month, including original fiction by Jac Jemc and an interview with Carmen Maria Machado. But, to get in the spooky spirit, start by taking a look at some of the highlights from our October archives. Check out Brian Evenson’s story “Room Tone” about the horrific consequences of a filmmaker’s perfectionism. We are proud to have Brian as the judge for this year’s Fall Fiction Contest, now open to submissions. Take a close look at the difference between horror and terror, with this brilliant essay by Lincoln Michel. Let Marjorie Sandor walk you though the uncanny in this deeply unsettling essay. Don’t miss our interview with award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and horror editor Ellen Datlow. Or, read Adrian Van Young’s discussion of Laura Benedict’s supremely creepy story “When I Make Love to the Bug Man.” Hungry for more? Don’t worry. This is only the first week of October. There is lots more otherworldly fiction, essays, and interviews to come.

Literary Halloween Treats from The Masters Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! It really is our favorite holiday, and we have dedicated the month to celebrating spooky, surreal, and unnerving fiction. Here are some highlights from our October content. Of course, you can also browse the archive to check out all of our past creepy stories, essays, and interviews.

Variously sized spiders hanging from websStories That Teach: “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict – Discussed by Adrian Van Young

In the October edition of our Stories That Teach series, the estimable Adrian Van Young deconstructs the creepy craft elements of Laura Benedict’s masterfully haunting tale “When I Make Love to the Bug Man.”

shirley-jackson-haunting-interiorsShirley Jackson’s Haunting Interiors by Kim Winternheimer

It’s impossible to discuss horror without mentioning Shirley Jackson. In this essay, founding editor Kim Winternheimer examines Jackson’s uncanny ability to write eerie fiction from the perspective of unreliable narrators.

AdobeStock_38524641Featured Fiction: “Room Tone” by Brian Evenson

This month, we were honored to feature an original story by the Brian Evenson. In “Room Tone,” Filip is working to finish his movie, but he can’t quite seem to perfect the room tone. Don’t miss this quiet and terrifying tale.

editor-interivewInterview: Award-Winning Editor, John Joseph Adams

It was a true honor to speak with John Joseph Adams, editor and publisher of the magazines Nightmare and Lightspeed, and editor of a new science fiction/fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, among many other projects. Here is a teaser from our chat: “I have a kind of weird relationship with horror, especially as someone who publishes a horror magazine: horror never scares me.”

Five Micro Ghost Stories

This October, we asked our readers to send us their scariest tales of 250 words or less that played with the traditional notion of what a ghost story is. We published five of the most unique and subversive entries.

fall-fiction-contest-creativeFall Fiction Contest, judged by Kelly Link

Even though our favorite month may be coming to a close (sigh), it’s not too late to submit to our Fall Fiction Contest, judged by Kelly Link, which is open until November 15. The winner receives $2000 and publication and second and third place winners will receive $200 and $100 respectively, as well as publication on the site. What are you waiting for?

<<Submit to the Fall Fiction Contest here.>>

Thank you for a great October! Keep the creepiness coming, because the Halloween spirit is something that should last all year long. 


Five Micro Ghost Stories

We asked our readers to send us their ghost stories of 250 words or less, and we were honored by how many people answered the call. Thank you to everyone who submitted their spooky, subversive, and haunting tales. We had a great time reading them, and they sent a tingle up our spines. Here, we present five of the most unique submissions we encountered, all of which play with traditional ghost story tropes. They are sure to get you in the October spirit. We kick things off with the winner of our $50 prize, “Kittens” by Tasha Coryell.



There were kittens living in her walls. Josette had never seen the kittens, only heard their yowling and scratching. She told herself that they needed the warmth of her pipes to stay alive as they banged around the borders of the bathtub while she showered.

Along with the kittens came the fleas. It wasn’t common for fleas to stick to people, preferring instead a nest of animal fur. Josette had fleas though, little things that bounced around and bit her skin. She sprayed and she picked and she scratched and the fleas wouldn’t leave.

When the cockroaches started appearing, she assumed it was the cold weather that was ushering them in. She sprayed the borders of her walls and in the morning she would wake up and find them there, dead.

When the noises stopped, Josette hoped and wished that it was because the kittens had found a new home. One with a food and water bowl and a litter box. Then the ceiling started caving in, first in flakes and then in giant chucks until the wood was exposed.

Josette called a plumber. She thought it was water damage, something ordinary and expensive. She wasn’t prepared for the plumber to find a man. An emaciated body with long fingernails and toenails and a giant beard. A man who wormed his way through the crevices of her house. Who banged against the wall as she showered, his fists saying, “Please come closer to me.”

Tasha Coryell lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and hopes that the things living in her walls really are kittens. More work from Tasha can be found at

“After the War”


I had polished the floors, repainted, and installed new copper pipe, but the tenants began to complain within weeks of moving in.

The husband would walk in to find his books rearrangedat first gently alphabetical and later boldly, by theme or the color of their jackets, as I had sorted our books as a child.

I wondered if my mother was haunting the place, but the tenants said it was only in the library. My mother was never much of a reader.

It couldn’t be me. I had a baby named Annalise. I had a closet full of dresses, not pretty ones, but a closet full. I had rouge, and a wooden table covered in flour from dumpling dough. I had soup that scalded my throat and a husband who understood my silences. There was nothing left of me to haunt my childhood home.

One day I went to look in on the tenants, and they’d gone. The place sat empty and clean.

As I turned to leave, something moved. The house flickered, showing me the red rug I’d played on before we had to stop laughing for fear of being heard, the yellow walls pockmarked with glaring white squares, soft light from the green lamp before we all hid in the dark.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, for I understood then.

We all remade ourselves to survive the war, and the house haunted itselfbecause someone had to remember.

Sarah Beaudette is a nomadic writer, currently living in Mexico. Her fiction appears in Necessary Fiction and Trigger Warnings, and she can be found online at and on twitter @sarahbeaudette.


Our Favorite Scary Stories Featuring Animals

A furry rabbit or the family dog may not be the first creatures that come to mind when you think of a scary story. However, animals are principal characters in some of our favorite bone-chilling tales. We were inspired by Friday’s story “The Boomslang Coup,” by Joel Hans, in which an otherworldly taxidermist creates a cast of menacing hybrids. Think: a donkey with the venom of a snake. So, we put together a list of some of our favorite frightening tales with animal stars. Dive in.

MADRAS PRESS“Stone Animals” by Kelly Link

It’s hard to compile a roster of scary stories without including Kelly Link’s “Stone Animals,” a story with a cult following. In it, the bunnies are introduced as a domestic issue: an increasing number of them populate a family’s lawn. By the end of the story, they have transformed into creatures of bizarre menace.

the-price“The Price” by Neil Gaiman

In “The Price,” Neil Gaiman takes the age-old trope of the black cat and turns it on its head. A family takes in a stray cat who appears to bring a series of misfortunes into their home. However, it becomes apparent that the cat may be all that stands between the family and much larger forces of evil.

the-october-country-2“The Emissary” by Ray Bradbury

A true classic. In this story, published in Ray Bradbury’s aptly named collection The October Country, a dog brings back abstract tastes of the world (such as the smell and feel of autumn) to a bedridden boy. The boy attaches a sign to the dog that asks that he please bring visitors by. However, eventually, the dog becomes the carrier of something far less comforting.


Variously sized spiders hanging from webs“When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict

Adrian Van Young recently contributed a brilliant essay on what makes “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” so darn terrifying. Young’s analysis made us appreciate Benedict’s creepy worldbuilding all the more. In this story, a woman’s house is infested with multiple species of spiders, and that is not nearly the most terrifying part.

Stories That Teach: “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict – Discussed by Adrian Van Young

Today, we present the October edition of our Stories That Teach series, in which authors discuss effective craft elements of a particular story. We are proud to feature a contribution from the venerable Adrian Van Young, who dissects Laura Benedict’s masterfully unsettling tale “When I Make Love to the Bug Man.” In Benedict’s creepy story, a woman becomes mysteriously enthralled with the exterminator hired to rid her house of a spider infestation. You won’t quite believe what happens next.

Variously sized spiders hanging from webs“The narrative world holds itself in suspense, threatening to go either way, any moment. The narrator’s voice is that world’s only constant, insisting again and again: ‘I am here.'”

Read “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict here.

I often tell my writing students, as some eminence in the past once told me, that a first-person narrator must be essential.

As opposed to third person, limited or omniscient, which gives the writer greater freedom in choosing how to tell a tale, a first-person narrator tells it directly: with her unique bias, in her unique voice, with her unique way of perceiving the world. The narrator’s voice is the sum of this work—calling consciousness out of the gibbering void, arraying it before our eyes.

Voice, in first-person narration, is story. Without it, an “I” might as well be a “she.”

When you tell a scary story with first-person narration, you’re doubling down on that notion of “voice.” You not only have to hear the voice, as you do with Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita or Celeste Price in Alissa Nutting’s Tampa, rooting through its biases to uncover some semblance of narrative “truth,” but the voice begins to function as a shadowy veil between what the narrator perceives and what’s hidden, drifting this way then that way, brightening then obscuring.

This ripple effect builds pervasive suspense.

Take, for instance, the narrator of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” who begins the tale: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Or, “Merricat” Blackwood of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle: “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance . . . I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenent, and Amanita Phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

When I first read “When I Make Love to the Bug Man” by Laura Benedict in the process of blurbing Richard Thomas’ anthology The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, I came away ashen and wildly amused. I couldn’t have told you, at first, why this was. The story terrified me, aroused me, confused me, repulsed me, disarmed me and made me crack up.

Principally, though, it held me in suspense. This seemed especially remarkable for a story in which nothing outwardly suspenseful ever happened—for a story without even much of a plot. The delivery-method, in that case, was hidden. How had Benedict worked such a startling mix?

On the surface, Benedict’s is a kind of horror story, deeply psychological and supernatural at once. When it opens, an unnamed suburban homemaker with a “cheerful, shiny family” and a sexual uber-mensch of a husband, Robert, has shed her perfect life to serve a shadowy figure whom she refers to only as the Bug Man.

“Bug Man, Bug Man, who came to save me from the spiders,” she chants in the story’s opening passage. And then: “I am in love with the Bug Man. I cannot leave him.”

Verily, we learn that the Bug Man is just that: the narrator’s exterminator, who she has hired to take care of the panoply of spiders living in her attic (“wolf spiders, jumping spiders, daddy and granddaddy longlegs, cave cricket spiders . . . orb spiders, brown recluse spiders”). Her description of the Bug Man is glib, yet disarming: “You wouldn’t call the Bug Man handsome. Hair steely gray, push broom mustache, mature belly straining confidently against the fifth button of his tidy uniform shirt. He’s the barber, the shoe salesman, the produce guy at the grocery store. Polite. Not a professional man, but someone who knows a day’s work. His eyes are clear and dark and steady. Infinitely calm. I never act rashly, or ask for more than I need, they say. His uniform agrees: Above his neatly pressed black pants, his starched white shirt . . . bears a logo with a spider emerging from a cave. Below it is his name in machine-perfect script: Darrin.”

Though clearly the Bug Man is more than he seems.


The Masters Review – Call for Micro Ghost Stories – $50 Prize

There is nothing like a good, old-fashioned (or experimental) ghost story. This October, we are calling on our readers to share their spooky tales. Send us your most haunting stories of 250 words or less (in other words: micro fiction). Whether it is the narrative of a translucent figure appearing in the kitchen or the saga of a less traditional specter, we want you to play with the notion of what a ghost story is. Entries can be fiction or nonfiction (no need to specify). Submit your chilling tales by October 19, and we will publish our favorites on the blog on October 28. One lucky winner will receive $50. So go ahead. Freak us out.

ghosts hand

If you need a little inspiration, we present the following quotes:

“. . . we need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts.” –Stephen King, Danse Macabre

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” – Charles Dickens

<<Submit Here>>

The Masters Review October Preview 2016

White Scary Halloween mask on the ground

October is just the best month. The Masters Review with stories selected by Amy Hempel is out, and it is time to kick off our annual Scary Story Showcase. This year, we have four weeks of spooky fiction lined up, including an original story by Brian Evenson and the otherworldly winner of our Short Story Award for New Writers, which is coming up at the end of the week. We’re interviewing kickass editor John Joseph Adams of Lightspeed and numerous other publications about the intersection between horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. We will feature an original essay by none other than Adrian Van Young. We’ll also take a look at effectively insane narrators. We will tackle the contemporary ghost story, and ask our readers to contribute their own scary tales. On top of all that: our Fall Fiction Contest, judged by Kelly Link, is open all month long. So get excited. We can’t wait to freak you out. October is on.

The Masters Review’s Halloween Reading List

Halloween is upon us, and to get you in the spirit we have compiled a list of chilling stories from The Masters Review archives. From ghosts to zombies to dark fairy tales, we’ve got you covered. These scary stories will help you gear up for the best holiday of the year.

 “The Punk’s Bride” by Kate Bernheimer

Last October, we were proud to publish Kate Bernheimer’s “The Punk’s Bride,” which demonstrates the darkness inherent in the fairy tale genre. This chilling imitation of “The Hare’s Bride” involves punk musicians, a straw doll, and an unexpected wedding party.

kate banner_d3The musician said, “Just get on the back of my bike, and we’ll go to my house and listen to records.” He gestured toward his three-speed. It was white and rusted and had a kickstand. It had a Gordon Lightfoot bumper sticker on it and one of the tires was flat.

Read the story here.

“In Ribbons” by Paul McQuade

“In Ribbons,” our October contest winner from last year, is an exquisitely eerie story, told from the point of view of a child. It builds to a moment of horror you will never forget.

In ribbons‘It’s fox-work,’ Hiro’s grandmother says, her eyes gleaming like jaspers, her thin fingers winding a needle through thinner cloth, closing a rift in father’s shirt. Each week grandma washes the clothes so hard her knuckles redden, but still some specks of coal-dust twine themselves into the weave.

Read the story here.

“Other Dangers” by Ben Hoffman

In “Other Dangers,” a teacher tells her third graders that every minor misbehavior—each yank of a girl’s ponytail—brings the Clock that much closer to doomsday. But when the class reunites after decades apart—they decide to pay their old teacher a visit.

other dangersHer Doomsday Clock! Always it leaned against the blackboard, resting on the dusty ledge beside the chalk, taking up valuable board space on which we could have learned grammar or multiplication. Instead we learned obliteration: how to spell it, what it meant, and that we were on the brink of it. We had to learn, for the clock to terrify us as it did. We had to understand the stakes.

Read the story here.


October Fiction: “Double Exposure” by Megan Giddings

Today, we are pleased to present “Double Exposure” by the wonderful Megan Giddings. In this story, two recent college grads move into a new apartment. The landlady is required to disclose one crucial fact: the downstairs neighbors are ghosts. In the world of this story, the lines between the living and the dead are constantly blurred. Trust us, you’ve never read a ghost story like this one before.

Woman Walking Through Countryside, Anxiety Concept, Double Exposure, Abstract Composition

“Double Exposure”

We were young and poor and the apartment was six hundred and fifty-five dollars a month with heat included. Yeah, the refrigerator and oven were small and outdated. But there was a large window made for growing plants and looking out into the park across the street when feeling wistful. I could already see myself holding a cup of hot chocolate and watching gray sky and snowfall on a January afternoon. I would have deep thoughts about light and color and be inspired.

“I do have to disclose the following as per state regulation 970,” our potential landlady said.

Anna and I exchanged a glance, wondering if the other knew what state regulation 970 was. I lifted a shoulder, made a huh face. She smirked.

“About ten years ago we had an old woman die on the grounds. She slipped on the ice and fell. It happens.” She spoke with her hands as if she were a magician trying to distract us from the true mechanics of the trick happening around us. “No one’s seen her or anything. There’s a ghost cat or two wandering the hallways. I also have to disclose the apartment below you is occupied by at least two ghosts. But they’re great tenants. And they might even offer to split internet with you.”

The landlady’s eyes were on the park. I turned. A pack of young men were throwing around a yellow Frisbee and trying to tackle the person holding it. One leapt over a black bench in an attempt to get the Frisbee. He fell and the landlady and I laughed.

“Ghosts are fresh. Very right now,” Anna said. She had the smile of someone who was considering whether her bedroom would look better with swimming pool blue or pistachio ice cream green walls.

“Are they? The ghosts. Are they?” I paused trying to think of a way to make the question reasonable, but not rude.

“Have they ever hurt anybody?” Anna blurted out. She wasn’t embarrassed by the question like I was.

“Well, honestly I don’t know. I mean the most we’ve ever heard them doing is making the cable go out or making objects float.” The landlady’s wrinkles reminded me of a colander full of spaghetti. “But I have to admit we don’t watch the news much anymore. Too depressing.”

If she had watched or read the news, the landlady would’ve known ghosts can cause someone serious harm by materializing in a person’s vital organs. She would’ve learned about how some are repulsed by the living and have moved to Antarctica to create a new ghost country. That’s why so few were actually around. And she would’ve known some ghosts are attracted to the essences of young people. The smell of fresh organs is like a perfume to them. They feel more alive than ever after contact with the young. She would’ve known scientists are still studying who gets to return and who remains dead forever.

Read more.