Review: “Certain Death for a Known Person” by Steve Duffy

4 of 5 stars.

I presume that it’s not an uncommon fantasy imagining that one could have prevented a loved one’s death–maybe it’s even a common coping mechanism. One wishes they’d warned someone to take a different route, or to see a doctor.

This chilling tale takes it a step further, like a scene out of the TV show Supernatural, and provides the narrator with foreknowledge of someone’s imminent death.

Mike accompanies his college roomie, Dave, back to Dave’s girl’s post residence on the occasion of her birthday. Cathy, her 3 sisters and her parents are wonderfully accommodating. Mike proceeds to get pickled drunk, as British 19 y.o. do for these sorts of parties, until he dozes off on a couch in a sitting room.

He awakens with someone else in the room by the fireplace, a shadow-shrouded man. The man knows Mike was smitten by Cathy sister, Emily. And, he lists all the ways she could be on death’s door without warning. Disturbing as it sounds, horror sets in as the man gives Mike a choice: choose her death or name another to die in her place . . .

Twenty years later, the shadow man’s voice hi-jacks Mike’s headphones during his London commute. Disturbed that a drunken nightmare of his youth has returned, Mike jumps off the iconic double-decker London bus. Moments later, terrorist backpack bombs explode all over London including on his bus pulling away . . .

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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