Nightsiders by Gary McMahon
Keep repeating, it’s only a story, it’s only a story, it’s only a story…
Welcome to Number One Oval Lane, the last house at the top of the hill. Robert Mitchell thought he lived there with his wife and children, but he doesn’t. Not anymore. A new family—the Corbeaus—has taken up residence, and they are on a deadly mission for mischief.
Soon Robert will understand the true nature of ownership, and he will discover that real life is nothing more than a story…a horror story.
We’re playing games now. We’re just beginning.
Robert Mitchell is an everyman character; he could quite easily be you or me. I’m sure anyone could empathise with the situation he finds himself in. You get the feeling that he’s almost ill-suited to modern life. He has been ground down at every turn and has nearly reached his breaking point. He just wants to be left alone to live his life in peace, but the world wants to intrude and deny him that simple pleasure at every turn. Each time he thinks that things are taking a turn for the better something always manages to come along and ruin that feeling of calm.
Then on the other hand, you have Nathan Corbeau and his animalistic brood. They’re an earthy bunch who take what they want, when they want it. Rules and regulations just don’t figure in their world-view. For them, this is the land of “do as you please” and this is exactly what they intend to do.
Things build to a tipping point and eventually all the impotent rage that Rob has kept bottled up comes bubbling to the surface. The two families clash in a spectacularly violent fashion.
Gary McMahon continues to impress with each new tale that I read. His raw, often emotive, style is never boring and manages to both entertain but also remain frighteningly insightful at the same time. This particular story is just over a hundred pages long but it’s a surprise how much he manages to cram in. I was utterly fascinated by how he has so effectively captured the varying horrors that Rob and his family have to face. We learn a little of their back story and it is evident that they have suffered significantly already before we join them. In many respects, the family is already in a bad way and the incidents with the Corbeaus are just a catalyst.
The writing skilfully plays on that common fear of home invasion, but manages to go much further than that. There is something primal about this kind of fear. Where this story really succeeds is in capturing the horror of being helpless.
If you enjoy short fiction then this could well be the novella for you, I’d heartily recommend it. This is small but perfectly formed dark fiction. Well worth your time.
Nightsiders is published by Dark Fuse and is available now