Short Story Review: “Gifts” by Robert Stahl

4 of 5 stars.

Mental illness receives dual treatment, both beautiful and horrific, with an allegorical use of Lovecraftian abysmal darkness. This short tale escalates quickly and surprisingly in alternating POVs between a man struggling to contain his baser, self-destructive instincts and a woman who thrives on extreme risk and extreme, if not violent, sex.

Making music and strong, mood-altering medications maintain Jakob’s thin grasp on his sanity. He struggles against the darkness, finding refuge in the piano keys. A walk through a park and strains of Fur Elise lead him to a public piano in the less capable hands of Mary. He joins her for the song then slowly takes over amid a gathering crowd and her adulation. He shyly asks for her number. She kisses his talented, beautiful fingers.

Mary has just been ditched by her S&M boy toy and fancies hard passion with her new-found musical artist. A second meeting allows her to drive the evening toward her more carnal desires. Still medicated, Jakob cannot rise to the occasion.

He wants to give her what she craves and swears off his meds to bad effect. Meanwhile, she’s been done with him since before the last date night was through . . .

I highly recommend this tale which appears in Whispers of the Abyss 2: The Horrors That Were and Shall Be edited by Kat Rocha. I received this new anthology directly from 01 Publishing through  
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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