by Gary McMahon
Civilized society can be a precarious proposition sometimes, and it's highlighted really effectively in Gary McMahon's new novella.
In the span of a week, Nightsiders depicts the disintegration of a family. The trick is that it may well have been crumbling well before the story even began. Robert Mitchell, along with his wife, daughter, and son, arrive at their new home in the little English town of Battle only to find it occupied by Nate and Monica, two unsavory interlopers who claim the house is theirs. After a brief but violent altercation, Robert and his family find themselves holed up in a hotel in town while a police sergeant tries to sort the whole thing out. And that's when things get really weird.
Nate is a brute and Monica is ... well, there are moments when it's not entirely clear what she is in relation to Nate, but sufficed to say they are both bad news for Robert and his family. Their presence inside the house throws the entire family off balance, especially since there seems to be some kind of malevolent intent behind Nate's actions, but nothing explicitly made clear to Robert or the others. It feels like the chickens have come home to roost, but Robert's never seen the guy before and has led a rather meek and unassuming life.
The dark cloud of the interlopers presence isn't the only thing dogging Robert, as his wife--and he for that matter--are still coping with the trauma as a result of her being raped. That act of violence has palled Robert, feeling powerless at the time to help his wife, and even more powerless to help her in the aftermath. Gary McMahon does an impressive job in presented the paralyzing dread of a family man seeing his family splintered before his eyes. There's a bit of that weird tale vibe through the first half of the novella, but as it moves along it becomes very sinister. And while it become ever more otherworldly with the suspense, things almost crystallize in how real it feels, emotionally at least. By the end of the book, all bets are off and the gut punch that comes with the final confrontation is shocking.
I am continually impressed by Gary McMahon's ability to weave horror so seamlessly into the mundane. Nightsiders is no exception.