Now That We’re Alone is a collection of ten stories and one poem. All of them broadly fit under the genre of horror, though in different ways, making the collection both diverse and coherent.
The collection opens with the poem “This is Why Johnny is In Therapy Now.” This morbid poem about a boy accidentally shooting his friend sets the stage excellently for the stories. The theme of loss and how it lingers in people is a major one in the book which is established well within the poem.
This comes up again in the first story, “The Ghosts in Winter’s Wake.” In this dark and odd tale, a woman’s son dies under mysterious circumstances in a snowbank. She calls the family’s gardener in to remove the dead plants from the garden because they remind her of her son. While the gardener works, winter reminding him of his own mother’s death, he discovers something in the snow.
“Something caught his attention. William thought he heard a new voice, a cold voice. It sounded like it came from the bottom of a well, from the bottom of his most persistent memory.”
Not only is Day’s prose excellent, but he does well at playing with expectations. The twist ending here is masterfully handled. He also creates a foreboding atmosphere with his images of winter. I didn’t think a snowman could be be made as unsettling as the one portrayed in this story.
Day does something similar in “Chomp Chomp.” One would think that a story about about a giant man-eating turtle would be cheesy, but he makes it both sad and creepy. When a group of teenagers go swimming in the Mississippi River, one of them disappears. They suspect the giant turtle of local legends, Chomp Chomp, is behind it, but neither the body nor the turtle turn up in the search for her. Years later, they return to the same spot to see for sure if the giant turtle is there.
“There’s nothing dumber than a young man looking to impress a pretty girl.”
The pain of growing up and losing loved ones is as much a source of horror in this story as the man-eating turtle.
“Snow Like Lonely Ghosts” is the closest to a non-horror story. The story follows a man mourning the loss of his mother to diabetes. He becomes fearful of sugar, gains weight, attempts suicide, and becomes addicted to coffee which in turn causes him to start keeping sugar in the house again. The story climaxes when the man attempts to grab the sugar bag in the cupboard, but is too fat to reach it. He ends up spilling the sugar all over his kitchen.
One would think this is a darkly comedic story, but it’s instead a great examination of how loss haunts us. The things the protagonist does to deal with his mother’s death seem ridiculous, but within his mind they make perfect sense. Rather than laughing at his pratfalls, I simply felt sorry for him.
“Nobody can deny the existence of ghosts if they possess that thing called a memory, wherein the mind recalls voice, appearance, and even action.”
“My Unshaped Form” is about a violent Old West outlaw who comes upon a farmer. The farmer reveals he has a son. When the outlaw shoots the farmer, he goes looking for the boy. When he finds the boy, he’s not what he had expected. This is an excellent “weird west” story that makes use of a creature that, in my opinion, doesn’t get enough attention in horror.
The final two stories, “Beast Mode” and “GG Allin and the Final Flight of the Chrysanthemum Byzantium” move away from creepy horror, but are just as good. The former reads like the literary equivalent of a violent exploitation film and the latter a Bizarro tribute to the controversial Punk Rock musician.
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Now That We're Alone is a great collection of horror fiction. Each of the 11 pieces is enjoyable. The prose is well crafted, the stories range from creepy to sad to entertaining, and make creative use of horror tropes. This is a must read for fans of horror and dark fiction in general.
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