Edited by bestselling, award-winning anthologist John Joseph Adams, NIGHTMARE is a digital magazine of horror and dark fantasy. In its pages, you will find all kinds of horror and dark fantasy, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror. Every month NIGHTMARE will bring you a mix of original fiction and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors: from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven't heard of yet. When you ...more
The girl has no name. As often as internet forums try to dub one for her, nothing ever sticks. One week there will be a consensus for a name befitting a drowned girl, an agglomeration of classic and cult horror tropes of long-haired, white-dressed dead women, and soon after there is no trace of what it was. No one remembered. Any posts or recordings mentioning the postulated name will have blank spaces where that name should have been. | Copyright 2019 by Merc Fenn Wolfmoor. Narrated by Stefan R...more
A note to the reader: I purchased these letters at the bazaar outside the gates of the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2006. I was working that winter for a humanitarian organization in Kabul. The bazaar was a row of shipping containers and battered tarpaulins along the road to the base’s fortified gates. Military vehicles rumbled past, splattering sleet and mud. Inside the containers, merchants warmed their chapped hands before makeshift propane heaters and haggled over cold piles of misappro...more
I want to tell you about the bleeding maze at the center of our town. People who aren’t from around here don’t know anything about it. It’s not referenced on any website or in any travel book, and most of us like it that way. We don’t share the knowledge of its existence with just anyone because it’s a very personal thing, the maze. We all have longstanding relationships with it that began at a young age. See, when kids in our town turn eighteen, we force them to enter it, like our parents did t...more
Cities like her make men leave their hearts on their shores. “Seeing you,” the men say, “I want no other life.” Each night, as the diadem of the Bosporus drifts into slumber, violet shadows drape the narrow streets of Eminönü. I watch the window, thinking of you moving through the sleeping city, your footfall silent as the breathing of dreamers. I imagine you slipping velvet mist over your shoulders, sweeping past mosque and meyhane, sleeping beasts and sleeping houses. Full houses. Empty houses...more
There are four of us left huddled in the cabin: me, Jerry, Carina, and Kyle. And we’re terrified the door won’t hold. Carina shivers so uncontrollably, her teeth sound like stones rattling down a metal chute. Kyle begs her to quiet down. But her teeth aren’t making enough noise to matter. Not compared to the howling storm. It comes in gusts that build in slow waves, rhythmically increasing in both volume and strength until a gale overtakes the cabin, pelting the windows with hard rain. A cold dr...more
I wanted to tell you the truth, before the end. I’m sorry it took this long, and I’m sorry I’m too cowardly to tell you to your face, but I don’t think I could ever get it right, saying it all out loud. I hope you don’t hate me, but you might. I hope you can at least understand, even if you can’t feel the same about me after. It’s okay if you can’t. It had been three weeks and Ray still hadn’t come back. He was never an audacious man. His inflexibility, his aversion to risk or conflict of any so...more
“I’m going to tell you a story,” she says. “And when the story is finished, this will all be over.” There are four of them huddled on the floor of her living room: Francisco, like the saint; Michael, like the angel; Jerome, like the translator; and her, Batul, like the queen of heaven. The apartment---a second-story walkup above a music shop, low-ceilinged, smelling faintly of clove and lemon---looks very much like what it is, the home of a twenty-four-year-old woman who makes a fair wage at a p...more
“There are few tales as tragic as that of the denizens of Ratnabar Island. When a British expedition made landfall on its shores in 1891, they did so armed to the teeth, braced for the same hostile reception other indigenous peoples of the Andamans had given them. What they found, instead, was a primitive hunter-gatherer community composed almost entirely of women and children. [ . . . ] The savage cultural clash that followed would transmute the natives’ offer of a welcoming meal into direst of...more
I cannot understand why, but the young men of this generation have developed a new sport---to go and spend a night in a haunted house. Every three months or four, I receive a group of guests. It goes the same way each time. They arrive after sundown, bringing hurricane lamps, candles, sleeping mats, snacks and bottles of water lovingly packed from home. They come in groups of four or five, almost always the atheist, sceptical students of the Presidency College who remind me of my own youth. They...more
There’s an old Indian saying.And I’m an Indian woman who’s worked at an Indian casino as a waitress for almost ten years. My first and only job, right after I turned eighteen. I’ve flirted with old Indian men to get tips and I’ve put on my most tactful, phone operator voice with old Indian women. The old men couldn’t resist hitting on me or smacking my ass and the old women called me a slut for it. So I don’t give a fuck what old Indians have to say. | Copyright 2019 by Dennis E. Staples. Narrat...more
She is a girl, coming to a house. Not just any house: a large, sprawling mansion, built up from the remains of a ruined abbey, or a shattered castle. One that stands on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the seas, or lost in fog-swept moors, or deep within a rugged forest. A house of secrets, a house of ghosts and haunts. She is alone, or nearly alone, or thinks she is alone. This is not quite as strange as it might sound. In her world, parents die young. Most of her remaining relatives are indiff...more
Hector Ortiz sat on the edge of his cot, smoking a cigarette, because why not. For as long as he cared to remember, “why not?” had been the chief consideration on any of the few life decisions permitted to him, which did not extend much beyond personal habits like smoking. On Death Row, even if you’re not constitutionally partial to smoking, you almost certainly smoke anyway, in part because you have no reason not to, and in part because it is something to do with your hands. | Copyright 2019 by...more
“Can we stop?” asked Nikki, panting, her face tingling from the assault of the cold. Her fingers were numb, her nose running. Her lungs burned. “When we reach the trees,” her father said. He was a few feet in front of her, walking steadily against the wind. Ahead of them was an island of snow-capped pine trees. After hours of walking, the island---once just a small patch of green and white in the middle of the frozen lake---now loomed as an expanse of dense wilderness. The lake stretched behind ...more
(23) No man jokes with food. Does your husband like a kind of food? Try to change your cooking. Rumour has it that in the early mornings, the expressways of Abuja are littered with dead bodies. Iman’s Toyota cut through the dusty fog of the early morning, the dark outside her windscreen occasionally broken by the few working streetlights. Never passing the forty km speed limit, Iman drove down Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway till it became Shehu Yar’Adua Way. | Copyright 2019 by Rafeeat Aliyu. Narrate...more
Stray spirits stirred in the dark. They lay like oil slicks across the asphalt, pulled their misty bodies in and out of the doors of Swine Hill’s pork processing plant, and drifted storm-like in Kay’s wake. Her every hot breath was full of the dead. The man had crossed her. Had shouldered into her on the crowded butchery floor where she leaned over a workstation and hacked through bone and bleeding pig meat. Had stolen knives and gloves from the locker that everyone knew was hers. | Copyright 20...more
In the tower where the tax collectors go, I am taken blindfolded up steps and through passages and through interminable pauses in open spaces, myself stumbling and held upright through a firm grip on my upper arm. In those pauses, and sometimes in passing while we move, the master of that grip speaks to others, their fellow bailiffs. The content of these exchanges is indistinct to me, a mumbling burr that I can only distinguish from other noises as the recognizably unnatural rhythm of human spee...more
It’s Uncle Pete’s funeral today, so he puts on his good brown suit with the brass buttons, and we all set out for the cemetery before the sun is up, because we don’t want to get too hot in our good clothes on our way there. Uncle Pete and Pa walk in front, me and Ma follow. When we get there, Uncle Pete’s grave is waiting, shallow and open, and the plaque has already been engraved with his name. Under it, there’s his date of birth and today’s date, even though we don’t know how long it’ll take h...more
She was a bundle on the bottom of the skiff, tossed in with her skirt and petticoat tangled around her legs, hands bound behind her with a thin chain that also wrapped around her neck. She didn’t struggle; the silver in the chain burned her skin. The more she moved the more she burned, so she lay still because the only way to stop this would be to make them kill her. They wanted to kill her. So why didn’t they? Why go through the trouble of rowing this wave-rocked skiff out to this hideous islan...more
Her name was Robyn Howlett, and she was twenty-two years old. Robyn was an alien creature to me, product of conditions wholly at odds with those that produced my kind. She spoke in a language I had never heard. Nevertheless, I understood everything she said. It is the nature of my kind to understand everything that is spoken in our presence, a necessary adaptation given that we are often summoned by creatures as alien to us as we are to them, creatures who often cannot expand their minds enough ...more
This is how Hakim Shafi gave away his life: First, he closed his shop. Next, he sold his house. “What in the name of God are you doing?” I said. Shafi grinned. That grin raised the hackles on my neck, sahib. “Burning bridges,” he said. I looked at him closely. In the four weeks since I’d told him about the qawwals, he had shaved his thick mustache and lost ten kilos. He was always thin, but now he looked like a needler at the end of his days. His temples were wasted, the flesh of his face pulled...more
Jee Inspector Sahib, he came looking for a missing girl in Lahore Park one evening in the summer of 2013, this man known as Hakim Shafi. It was a summer to blanch the marrow of all summers. Heat rose coiling like a snake from the ground. Gusts of evil loo winds swept across Lahore from the west, shrinking the hides of man and beast alike, and Hakim Shafi went from bench to bench, stepping over needles rusting in bleached June grass, and showed the heroinchies a picture. | Copyright 2018 by Usman...more
Mother would have never taken the bus. She had specific prejudices---the train yes, the bus no, taking The Lord’s name in vain, no, calling someone an asshole, yes. It was often hard to follow her dictates; the safest route was to just not say anything or do anything unless directed. Mother had no say in the matter now, and although Miriam wasn’t big on bus travel herself, it gave her an adventuresome frisson to be doing something in such bad taste. | Copyright 2018 by Halli Villegas. Narrated b...more
Madeline had a plain, dull face that only a mother could love, even though hers hadn’t. She’d been a clever child, clever enough to realize early on that fairness was a fairy tale, and clever enough to realize that it wasn’t her mother, really, who was to blame, even if she couldn’t help but blame her. Whenever Madeline’s stepfather had told her to get out of his sight, her mother had repeated the phrase in a ghostly echo. When Madeline emancipated herself at sixteen, she figured that was the en...more
He cut off her arms and threw them on the side of the road. They wanted a boy. Her uncle taught her how to play the game. The last time anyone saw her she was dancing. She was drunk. She was flirting with everyone. She was wearing a short skirt. She had a lot of eyeliner on. She got into the car, which anyone knows is a stupid thing to do. She was stupid. Actually, she was very intelligent, but had no common sense. It wasn’t her fault. But what was she thinking? | Copyright 2018 by M. Rickert. N...more
Some houses never have a soul. It’s not their fault. It’s just the way it is. For a soul to be born to a house, almost too many things have to happen. Three or more families have to have lived there. Someone has to die in the house. Blood has to be spilled. And something, even if it’s just an idea, has to be born in the house. You can always tell when a house has a soul because of the small spiders. They’re everywhere, non-obtrusive, and ever watchful. The small spiders are the eyes of the house...more
My brother was hanged on a Monday and two days later I followed him. When the trapdoor opened for the short drop, the sharp stop never came: instead, my soul slithered loose from my body and I fell through darkness, landing with a crash atop a mountain of junk. Odd battered shoes, gimmicked dice and prosthetic notes---the cheat’s cast-offs, the swindler’s knick-knacks. It all reeked of piss. I pulled the sackcloth off my head. A square moon in a black sky shed some light, but not much. | Copyri...more
Nita: So you thought I made you sign a release as, what, foreplay? [Laughter.] Voice: I was, like, four tequilas deep by the time you walked in and probably at five when you waved that paper in my face. I would’ve signed my soul away to . . . uh, I didn’t actually sign my soul over, did I? Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir, Susan Hanfield, Justine Eyre, Stefan Rudnicki, Cassandra Lalechou, Jim Freund.
Do not make friends was not actually an explicit Rule, but it was implied by some of the others: do not do anything to draw attention to yourself and do not bring anyone to the house and do not stop anywhere between home and school. As a little kid, Kyle had thought his dad was a psychic. It was middle school before he realized that basically half the teachers in the school were just spying on him. It was high school before he realized they were doing it with the best of intentions, rather than ...more
I hear the sound before I open my eyes. Someone is eating, though I should be alone in my room, and it’s too loud, too close. When I look, I see the cat---the one we’re all supposed to adore, that’s meant to have us all therapeutically laughing, lowering our blood pressures by stroking its soft grey fur. I tried once, but it felt to me as soft as cobwebs, as dust, as decaying flesh. The cat is sitting on the shelf wheeled across the bottom of my bed. It’s eating my breakfast. | Copyright 2018 by...more
Uncle Reggie couldn’t afford to fly to Ireland to find a selkie wife, so instead he drove across the country to Carmel-by-the-Sea and came back with a selkie queer. I was fifteen then, and so ready to get out of Perrysville that California sounded like paradise. | Copyright 2015 by Caspian Gray. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
I first saw the demon the Sunday after you died. It was 11:53 p.m. Just seven minutes until I would have grabbed my knapsack and biked home to Mom and bed and a life of sound sleep. That night the flurries were drifting down like nuclear ash. | Copyright 2015 by Matthew Kressel. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
Hand in hand, your family and some friends stand in a circle around your father. Ten seconds have passed since his last breath, and you’re counting, wondering if it was his last breath or his last breath. Your eyes lock on his face, and you try to remember when he last opened his eyes and looked around. Days, at least. The memory blooms in your head, something like a flower or a drop of ink expanding in water. | 2015 by Nate Southard. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
They took shelter outside of Boulder, in a cookie-cutter subdivision that had seen better days. Five or six floor plans, Dave Kerans figured, brick facades and tan siding, crumbling streets and blank cul-de-sacs, no place you’d want to live. By then, Felicia had passed out from the pain, and the snow beyond the windshield of Lanyan’s black Yukon had thickened into an impenetrable white blur. | Copyright 2015 by Dale Bailey. Narrated by John Nelson.
Since we were little, Oona’s collected Victorian photographs. A certain subset of people love them, but I got a library book of them once, just before I met her, and I’ve never not been appalled. I don’t know what a book like that was doing lost in our local library. It’s exactly the kind of thing that would normally have been removed by a logical parent. | Copyright 2014 Maria Dahvana Headley. Narrated by Judy Young.
Something in the lab smelled like nectarine jam. I looked up from the industrial autoclave, frowning as I sniffed the air. Unusual smells aren’t a good thing when you work in a high-security bio lab. No matter how pleasant the odor may seem, it indicates a deviance from the norm, and deviance is what gets people killed. | Copyright 2014 by Seanan McGuire. Originally published in THE END IS NIGH, edited by John Joseph Adams & Hugh Howey. Reprinted by permission of the author. Narrated by Kate Ba...more
1. Because it would take the patience of a saint or Dalai Lama to smilingly turn the other cheek to those six savage boys day after day, to emerge unembittered from each new round of psychological and physical assaults; whereas I, Jared Shumsky, aged sixteen, have many things, like pimples and the bottom bunk bed in a trailer, and clothes that smell like cherry car air fresheners, but no particular strength or patience. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
The boy isn’t very large. The way things are these days, he figures that’s a plus. He is less of a target at night, and for this reason he has come to trust the darkness. Strange to trust darkness in a world overrun with nightmares . . . but that’s the way it is. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
She was dressed like a private detective from a low-budget TV show—a pair of slacks, modest high heels, and the most ridiculous trench coat I’d ever seen, one of the shorter ones, that hung just above the knees. I couldn’t help but laugh, and it was obvious my reaction annoyed her, but she did her best to hide her feelings as she pressed a finger to my lips, quieting me, and gently nudged me back inside my apartment. Narrated by Alex Hyde-White.
The men went out in boats to fish the cold waters of the bay because their fathers had, because men in this village always had. The women waited to gather in the catch, gut and clean and carry the fish to market because they always had, mothers and grandmothers and so on, back and back. Narrated by Susan Hanfield.
Folscyvio saw the Thing in a small cramped shop off the Via Silvia. In fact, he almost passed it by. He had just come from the Laguna, climbed the forty mildewy, green-velveted steps to the Ponte Louro, and crossed over to the elevated arcades of the Nuova. Then he glanced down, and spotted Giavetti, who owed him money, creeping by below through the ancient alleys. Narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir.
He stared bleary-eyed at the broken glass studding the land. This was his crop, seeded over the span of four weeks, irrigated from the residue of Napa Valley grapes, sun-kissed until it glistened like dew. It was the bounty of his desperation, and now was the time to harvest. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.
The cook didn’t like that the eyes of the dead fish shifted to stare at him as he cut their heads off. The cook’s assistant, who was also his lover, didn’t like that he woke to find just a sack of bloody bones on the bed beside him. “It’s starting again,” he gasped, just moments before a huge, black, birdlike creature carried him off, screaming. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Clara Maloney peered down the long Brooklyn block. She and baby Sally had been waiting in the cold for twenty minutes, and still no sign of Pop. Figured. Even to pick out his wife’s casket, the old man was late. Narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir.
Some things you can’t figure out. Not even with a whole heap of scratch paper and a ribbon of data from a chattering teletype machine. Not before time runs out. And time is like progress—she’s not stopping for anybody. The answer is out there, though, in the weather. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Randolph hadn’t expected the map to misrepresent the route to the motorway quite so much. The roads were considerably straighter on the page. The high beams roused swarms of shadows in the hedges and glinted on elongated warnings of bends ahead, and then the light found a signpost. It pointed down a lane to somewhere called Lorn Hall. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
I have this persistent sleep disorder that makes life difficult for me, but still I want to keep it. Boy, do I want to keep it. It goes back twenty years, to Vietnam. To Graves. Narrated by Bruce Turk.
Night descended on Interstate-90 as I crossed over into the Badlands. Real raw weather for October. Snow dusted the asphalt and picnic tables of the deserted rest area. The scene was virginal as death. Narrated by Dave Robison.
The house was occupied, but no one lived there. That’s how Malcolm Crow thought about it. Houses like the Croft place were never really empty. Like most of the kids in Pine Deep, Crow knew that there were ghosts. Even the tourists knew about the ghosts. It was that kind of town. Narrated by Paul Boehmer.