"Playing for Keeps": An innocent child in peril. A little girl, on the surface, the epitome of innocence. The type of kid who would don a princess costume tonight. However tumultuous the world around her seems to us, for Dawn....it is the only reality she knows. Hiding under blankets, clutching dolls, or playing make-believe are not only past-times of children, but havens of safety for Dawn. Like Stephen King, we know right away Dawn is in mortal danger. Helpless and pure existing in a world of violence and hate...does she stand a chance? As the plot spirals to what we believe an inevitable conclusion, Ms. Green increases the horror as she masterfully shows us the unfolding plot through Dawn's eyes. No spoilers here, but this one will stick with those who have little children or who harbor painful memories of childhood. Perhaps a warning from Ms. Green of the importance of nurturing the ones most helpless.
"Loved": In what I also interpreted as a science fiction tale, this story actually leaves us with some important questions. What is love? More importantly, is your definition of love in tune with the definition of love of your loved ones? If not....what might happen? In a metaphorical sense, Nick's fate awaits us all if we do not constantly look at love unselfishly. Finally, what I consider the most horrific short story I have read in awhile, "Christmas in Stripes." Douglas is our protagonist here, and he has just left prison after an eight year sentence (....which should have been a life sentence). Does he deserve a second chance? You will make a decision on that one (...perhaps an uncomfortable decision). A new chapter for Douglas? Definitely! Out of jail, or is he? As his bittersweet (mostly bitter, I'm afraid) reunion with the outside world unfolds before us, Ms. Green reminds us that the horror which we try to escape, never leaves. For Douglas, the horrific episode of eight years ago may turn our protagonist into something very evil. Forgiveness and personal growth are concepts that seem noble, but each has their own reality that may turn a nice Sunday school sermon into a vicious horror story.
Much of Halloween has ben reduced to politically correct make-believe and fraternity parties. Click on the links above and download "Sugar is Sweet" on your Kindle for a true horrific experience. In other words....put the horror back into Halloween. The three stories discussed above will leave no room for laughs and revelry....rather, ominousness and fear will rule the day. Perhaps that is what Halloween should be....at least, on occasion.