The Nightmare Chronicles - Douglas Clegg

(No Series)

It begins in an old tenement with a horrifying crime. It continues after midnight, when a young boy, held captive in a basement, is filled with unearthly visions of fantastic and frightening worlds. How could his kidnappers know that the ransom would be their own souls? For as the long hours pass, the boy's nightmares invade his captors like parasites - and soon, they become real.

Thirteen nightmares unfold: A young man searches for his dead wife among the crumbling buildings of Manhattan, a journalist seeks the ultimate evil in a plague-ridden outpost of India, ancient rituals begins anew with the mystery of a teenage girl's disappearance, and in a hospital for the criminally insane, there is only one doorway to salvation. But the night is not yet over, and the real nightmare has just begun.

Like many anthologies, this one focuses around one central story, and boy is this story creepy! A small boy has been kidnapped by merciless and rather ignorant captors, who soon find they may as well have captured the devil himself. Through cruel teasing, surreal visions and deep insight, the little lad delights in terrifying his tormentors by filling their minds with various stories.

Underworld stands out the most. Effectively chilling and almost supernaturally eerie, it focuses on the young couple expecting their first child. Sounds normal enough until they run into an empty restaurant, and the young woman soon disappears. The ending of this story hints at much more to come, and seems to tie end with the boy himself.

White Chapel is one of the more unusual tales, digging into some pretty unchartered territory with a unique ending. Longer and more intense than some of the others, this one shows human sickness is its many twisted forms, as we! ll as a fascinating connection with myths and gods.

Rare and Most Exquisite, being a favorite of mine, has a young boy being told by an older man in a nursing home his past and "true love". Several emotions are strongly conveyed, from bittersweet infatuation, envy, greed, betrayal, hunger, and more. I assure you, the ending will make your stomach drop.

Only Connect is a slightly confusing telling where I wasn't sure where I was from one minute to the next. It all weaves together at the end and leaves a satisfying taste in the mouth.

The Fruit of her womb is more of a ghost/possession type and also holds its share of surprises. The main character, James, is interesting and I enjoyed going through the changes with him. There were some creepy spots, such as with the pig, and I loved hearing about the theories and background involved in the story. In the end I wasn't sure what I thought of the ending definitely not a happy-ever-after scenario.

The Rendering Man, disturbing on multiple levels, was about the sickest of them all. One of the more memorable segments as well, this story tells of Thalia, a woman whose tale is told from early childhood years to old age, all surrounding the same man. Entertaining to sift through, and the ending made it worth the wait of slower parts.

The Night Before Alec got married is another favorite. Told through the eyes of Alec's best friend, a man getting together a surprise "gift" for his best friend as a bachelor party present, this one is so off the wall that you could never expect the turnout. Great ending too, and the characters humor seeps through the pages.

The Ripening Sweetness of Late Afternoon was one I enjoyed the least, although it wasn't a bad idea. A man returns to his hometown after finding religion and wanting repentance. The pace was a little slow and the ending a bit sudden and grim. I didn't comprehend as much as I would have liked to and found myself wanting to jump forward to the next story.

Chosen is about Rob, a man in an apartment building who encounters some of the most bizarre stuff imaginable. His next-door neighbor isn't all she seems, and as I read through it I was repulsed, then fascinated, then surprised. All great emotions to be evoked in a reader, especially in such a short period of time.

The Little Mermaid was darkly morbid, following in the same vein as many of the previous stories. Molly is a woman who meets this great guy on the beach or so she assumes. The whole scenario is wicked and depressing, and I can't give away more without spoiling but this is also one of the better ones.

Damned If You Do wasn't bad but I didn't find it too interesting after the first few pages. Told basically through one character we get a feel for why he does what he does, but other than that there wasn't much substance.

The Hurting Season, my least favorite, is unique like the others.

A friend recommended Clegg to me and I can see now why he's so popular. This man doesn't do amateur play; this short story collection is a carnival ride that will leave you screaming for more.