Short Story Review: “Nutmeat” by Martin Hill Ortiz

4 of 5 stars.

Humor and horror may not make for a long-term marriage, but for a romp in the hay this duo satisfies. The horror element comes from the periodic antagonist–the parasite. Parasites are always good for a creep-out factor in that a host body and sometimes mind gets hi-jacked undeservedly and often unknowingly. Plenty of real-world examples exist that make bedbugs and lice look like house pets. The humor comes in the telling, and hopefully not just in my reading.

A pimply, daft young adult son of a walnut farmer is visited by a plant parasitologist from UC Davis who’s come around looking into reports of infestation at a walnut grove a few miles over. [At this point, the tale reminds me of Charles Stross’ Equoid in which dastardly parasitic snail-like mollusks invade a horse ranch creating a full-blown evil unicorn infestation–the horn is the shell of the snail . . . but I digress.] Dr. Lerner reports that mollusks–uh oh!–normally found parasitizing tube worms at black vents seem to have a relation that is using the walnut shells as a shell and the nutmeat for early sustenance.

But there is more going on than meets the eye. These clever, tentacled gastropods are known to enslave nearby bodies into doing their bidding, too. And the more complex a body they parasitize, the more complex they themselves become slowly taking over whole ecosystems. Btw, the neighbors from the nearby grove are missing . . .

This tale appears in Whispers from the Abyss edited by Kat Rocha. I received this new anthology directly from 01 Publishing through
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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