Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Anthology (Volume 3) edited by N. Apythia Morges
Dark Alley Press, 2017
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
This is the third volume in a planned quarterly anthology of horror short stories published by Dark Alley Press. The collection presents a variety of ghost stories, in which contemporary protagonists are stalked by ghosts from the distant or recent past, seeking solace, release or revenge. The other Ink Stains anthologies in the series present stories about death and trust.
Volume 3 consists of 10 short stories of varying length, some written by seasoned writers and others by authors who recently entered the horror genre. The three most interesting ghost stories were among the longest. The greater length gave authors more time to develop characters and to add twists and turns to the plots.
New author Andrea Hansell wrote “A Visit from Elizabeth”. A young couple, Mark and Bethany, buy a Nantucket sea captain’s house and invite former college classmates to spend a weekend. However, Bethany is insecure and jealous of Mark’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend. Unknown to the couple, the house has a tragic history. A sea captain built the house for his young bride, Elizabeth, then left to run the British blockade during the War of 1812. The captain was captured and imprisoned. Elizabeth was pregnant, and the British blockade caused famine in the island. Malnourished, Elizabeth had a stillbirth and died. Her ghost watched her husband return, marry again, and raise a family in Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth appears only to Bethany. The ghost lures the frantic Bethany up to the house’s widow’s walk, where Mark is standing. Elizabeth wants something, and will use Bethany’s jealousy to get it.
Diane Arrelle, a veteran horror author, is the author of “Misplaced”. An elderly spinster, Miss Annamarie Place, visits an antiquated hotel in her hometown. The room looks like it did over fifty years ago, when she was a teenager. Annamarie has returned there because someone claiming to be her daughter called and asked to meet her. But Annamarie has never been married or pregnant. Could she have forgotten something so important? Is dementia or psychosis robbing her of her memories? When she looks into an old mirror, Annamarie hears a baby wailing, then sees the bed and walls covered in blood. Bleeding, and in terrible pain, she relives what happened in that room. Is this all a nightmare, or have Annamarie Place’s memories been truly misplaced?
Another new horror author, Olga Monroe, is the author of “The Amsterdam Chest”. An English couple is renovating a Victorian mansion. The wife, Francesca, sees the ghost of a teenage girl dressed in a black velvet dress with a corset and bone frame tapping on a large antique chest, purchased by her husband in Amsterdam. The mansion and estate have a history of tragedy and mystery, and has passed through many owners over time. When the new owners drain a pond, they discover a headstone that has been submerged for over a century. It has Latin inscriptions, but no name. There are no remains. Francesca recently lost her newborn baby. She is still in mourning and keeps her dead baby’s clothes in the Amsterdam chest. Only Francesca sees the ghost, and its appearances become more frequent. At the same time Francesca becomes more nervous and apprehensive. She is inexplicably wracked with guilt. The ghost takes Francesca’s hand and leads her to the chest. The ghost keeps knocking on the chest. Its face is blurry at first, but finally becomes clear. Who is she? What did Francesca do?
These are the strongest stories in the anthology. Others are more predictable. Overall, the stories have well-paced, interesting plots. Fans of ghost stories should be pleased with the collection. Recommended.
Reviewed by Robert D. Yee