Short Story Review: “The Winter Wraith” by Jeffrey Ford

4 of 5 stars.

Old farm houses are a collection of creaky boards, misdirected drafts, and eerie casts of light and shadow. To be alone in said farmhouse as ceaseless hours of winter wind plays havoc on the shutters, screens, windows and doors is pure fodder for the imagination.

Henry braves a few days in the Ohio winter in his century-old farmhouse while Mero travels to China and back for work. His aloof cat, Turtle, and scaredy-dog, Bothwell, keep him poor company. But Henry’s bane is the dilapidated fir dropping needles, ornaments and tinsel as it fails to uphold its end of the holidays. He needs it to go.

About the time that he abandons the stripped tree by his shed amid the storm, the house shakes with noises and banging doors. The furnace inconveniently shuts down for a spell before groaning back on. The television pops off and on–possibly due to a cat on the remote–and room lights don’t stay in the on-off state Henry remembers leaving them in. Fir needles appear in places they shouldn’t even after the tree has been tossed . . .

The success of this slow, eerie horror is the plausible deniability of every circumstance and yet the recognition of the games one’s mind plays.

This tale appears in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. I’ve previously read this author’s “After Moreau” and “The Last Triangle”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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