The Worst Kind of Monster: Stories by Elias Witherow (Thought Catalog, 2016)
Elias Witherow is an author who I first encountered through their presence in the NoSleep community on Reddit. His stories induce such a true fear in me I felt myself drawn to his work time and time again. In this collection, he takes many of those NoSleep stories, along with new material and delivers a very powerful short story collection. As I read through the collection, I felt like I was reading, not the masterpiece of a writer, but the first seeds planted on the path to that great work of horror. Here are my thoughts on some of the stories in The Worst Kind of Monster.
“The Tall Dog” – This is what I would call the most typical NoSleep story in the collection. Grieving widower dealing with his daughter waking up in the middle of the night complaining of the “tall dog” that comes in her room whispering horrible things in her ear. The father doubts but as the story progresses, he becomes convinced something is in his home. This opening story highlights a significant element of Witherow’s work: endings where protagonists don’t die but have to endure an even worse state of living.
“The House in the Field” – I first heard this story on the NoSleep Podcast, and it prompted me to buy this collection. A narrator tells a story from their youth about seeing an old farmhouse in a field on her family’s property. No one else can see the house, until one day another person can. The monster revealed behind this house is unlike any I have read about in horror. The description will give you chills. All I will say is that gigantic monsters usually don’t scare me, but this one is both hidden and massive at the same time.
“There’s Something Wrong With Dad” – Domestic horror is a common trope in Witherow’s work (see Tommy Taffy), and this is very bare bones version. Dad comes home from work, starts to behave increasingly erratic, hell on his poor family begins. And like Tommy Taffy, the violence visited upon the family is not directly by a family member. The perpetrator is a metaphor. Or, another way to read the story is that the fantastic “happy” ending is all delusion of a child being killed by their father.
“Feed the Pig” – The most surreal and fantastic of the stories in a pretty surreal collection. Our protagonist has hung himself and ended up in a bizarre afterlife. What I love here is the mythology building. Apparently, God felt the need to create a place for suicides separate from Hell. So he created the Black Farm and put The Pig in charge. He eventually forgot that he created this place, so The Pig attempted to become a god and shape a world in his image. The narrator’s journey through the world is obscured so we get the slightest of glimpses of a place that seems like Clive Barker would be right at home. This story also features a genuinely hopeful ending.
“horse/8min” – Another very NoSleep type of story. The narrator finds a strange DVD on his front step. The video contained on it shows a murky obscured scene. Nothing overtly horrific. Then the creeping fear and dread set in. This is a great mood piece. It’s short and to the point while leaving us hanging in the final moments.
A Different Kind of Monster spans some horror genres, but the common thread is “a fate worse than death.” No one gets out that easy, especially those who have done wrong by their fellow man. The worse a person is, the worse they will get in the end.