The air has cooled and the drugstores are stocking plastic gourds. Spooky season is upon us. I mean, sure, you can
read scary stories at any time of the year (if you're paying any attention to the news, it's somewhat unavoidable). But there's something especially satisfying about reading creepy writing during autumn, when the leaves are changing color and the the nights are getting longer, and the opportunity to vote more women into office is fast approaching. So if you're looking for a quick, spine-tingling read that'll freak you out and stoke the fires of your bottomless rage against the patriarchy, then here are some brilliant, spooky short stories written by women.
I'm not saying that men are
bad at writing scary stories. Men have made many valuable contributions to the genre of horror (which was started by a goth teen girl, in case you forgot). I'm just saying that women live in a nightmare hell-scape 24/7. Reading horror is almost a relief. Can you imagine if monsters were that easy to identify and then defeat with just a little bit of elbow grease and holy water? Here are a few terrifying, weird, and all too relatable creepy stories from some of the genre's greatest writers:
'The Daemon Lover' by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson is the grand dame of horror, and
"The Daemon Lover" is no exception. It begins with a young woman waking up on her wedding day. She's nervous, of course, but as the story goes on we start to realize that her growing sense of unease isn't just run of the mill wedding jitters—her fiance, Jamie, seems to have disappeared entirely (if he ever existed at all). Click here to buy.
'How to Get Back to the Forest' by Sofia Samatar
Missing parents. Bugs trapped deep inside your body. Summer Camp.
"How to Get Back to the Forest" is a uniquely disturbing piece of writing that weaves together dystopian fiction, body horror, and good old fashioned summer camp drama. It's a fast, freaky read that'll stay with you a long time after. Click here to buy.
'Patient Zero' by Tananarive Due
"Patient Zero," our narrator is a little boy in the hospital. He's been in the hospital for a long, long time. In fact, he is not allowed to leave the hospital — and when people come to visit him, they must wear funny suits so that they don't get sick. And as time goes on, and he has fewer and fewer visitors, he starts to wonder what's going on outside... Click here to buy
'The Summer People' by Kelly Link
At the start of
"The Summer People," Fran's father leaves her home, alone and dangerously ill, to look after a group of beings called the summer people. But these titular "people" don't seem to be the ordinary sort of guests who come to stay just for the summer... and Fran soon realizes these strange beings may hold her only chance of getting better. Click here to buy.
'The Husband Stitch' by Carmen Maria Machado
You know that old creepy story, about the girl with the green ribbon around her neck? Then read
"The Husband Stitch." It's the same story, after a fashion, but from the woman's perspective. But it's also the gut-wrenching story of what it's like to have your autonomy threatened, especially if you happen to have a woman's body in a world controlled by men. Click here to buy.
'Some Other Animal's Meat' by Emily Carroll
You can probably tell from the the title that
"Some Other Animal's Meat" is going to be a scary story. But Emily Carroll's illustrations, paired with an off-kilter tale about a lotion salesperson losing her grip on reality, make for one truly harrowing experience. Click here to buy.
'To Kill a Dog' by Samantha Schweblin
If you're a big fan of dogs, and cannot stand to see one harmed or threatened, even in the context of a fictional short story... then
"To Kill a Dog" may not be for you. Or maybe it is for you, because you will find it that much more disturbing. Either way, the thought of beating a dog to death with a shovel as a job interview is decidedly unpleasant. Click here to buy.
'The Other Place' by Mary Gaitskill
In classic Mary Gaitskill fashion, the horror of
"The Other Place" is primarily the horror of male violence. A little boy, Douglas, likes to play with guns. But his obsession goes far beyond simple shooting games: he likes seeing people hurt. He likes seeing people die. And his father worries that he might not be alone in his secret fascination... Click here to buy.
'CUE: Change' by Chesya Burke
Zombies! A staple of the horror genre. But in Chesya Burke's
"CUE: Change," zombies are not the mindless, shambling corpses you might be thinking of. Nor are they the rabid, infected monsters of more "edgy" zombie fiction. Rather, Burke's zombies and creepy and empathetic and an entirely new take on the walking dead. Click here to buy.
'Agata's Machine' by Camilla Grudova
A girl invites a classmate home to see her big, old sewing machine. Seems innocent enough. But the machine of
"Agata's Machine" is no ordinary thing: instead of mending clothes, it conjures images strange dancing dolls that whirl around the room and then disappear. And, naturally, the more the girls want to see these visions, the more their minds start to slip into madness. Click here to buy.
'Aspic' by Tatyana Tolstaya
"Aspic" is a savory jelly made from meat stock. That, alone, is horrifying enough. But Tatyana Tolstaya takes it to the next level with this gloomy, unsettling tale of hopelessness and meat preparation. It's a short read, but powerful enough to put you off pork (and jelly) for at least a week.
'Who Will Greet You at Home' by Lesley Nneka Arimah
We all (hopefully) know how babies are made. But
"Who Will Greet You at Home" proposes a slightly different system than what we're accustomed to: in this world, babies are crafted out of yarn and mud and human hair. A lot of various materials can go into making the perfect baby... but at what cost to the mother? Click here to buy.
'Choking Victim' by Alexandra Kleeman
Speaking of babies,
"Choking Victim" is a short story all about the loneliness and boredom and bottomless terror that come with being the stay at home mother of an infant. Even if you don't have a little helpless baby of your own, "Choking Victim" is still a decidedly creepy look at responsibility and fear. Click here to buy.