DEFILEMENT AND OTHER STORIES | JESSE NOLAN BAILEY
Another entry in the spooky season reading list today and also the day that Jesse Nolan Bailey releases his new collection of stories.
This is a collection of stories of varying lengths, totalling six separate stories set in Jesse Nolan Baileys twisted world.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A boy and his father find impossible fossilized
bones in their backyard…The disturbing contents and origin of a
mysterious magazine conjure paranoia…Neighbors welcome a new couple by
bragging about a miracle doctor who works from his garage…Memories from
childhood fail to reconcile an old photo featuring an unidentified
cryptid…Archaic gym equipment proves treacherous…A teen boy is plunged
into a nightmarish realm known as Eden…
In these six stories, evil abounds, ready to defile.
This is a short collection of stories by A Disaster of Dokojin and Amethyst author, Jesse Nolan Bailey. The book is a collection of six tales of that explore nightmares made real.
Before I start with the stories themselves, I would like to commend Jesse Nolan Bailey on providing a series of content warnings. Recently, I have seen various heated discussions about this topic, but me personally, I do appreciate it when they are present. It gives the reader an informed choice of the media that they consume.
So, lets talk about the first story, Digging.
Digging tells the story of Greg and his son Seth. In an effort to firstly give the boy some purpose and also to develop an interest, Greg sends Seth off to look for archaeological treasures in the wooded expanse that they live in as he recalls his own interest as a child when he did something similar.
Unexpectedly, Seth does indeed find something. The bones of a seemingly extinct creature that looks like nothing they have ever seen before.
Meanwhile, as a husband of a deployed soldier, Rob, Greg is finding his life increasingly lonely and isolative, and with Rob being away for nearly a year he has found some measure of solace with Billy. However, there is also some level of infidelity due to Greg’s loneliness.
Dealing with loneliness and guilt the story follows what happens. It’s not hard to guess and we know that there will be an inevitable conclusion. In this story, Nolan gives the repercussions of Greg’s guilt and infidelity a physical form that inevitably tears the family apart, and we quickly get to the tragic consequences of a family broken.
Throughout the story, Nolan gives a good story centring around the microcosm of family life, slowly injecting unease into the story. I liked this one!
The second story in the book is Deathshed. I liked the ambiguity of this tale. Nothing is as it seems, even the title! I mean is it Deaths Hed or is it Death shed? Either way it gives that feeling of uneasy ambiguity. The story tells the tale of Deja (vu?) and her partner Lisha.
Picking up the post, she comes across a magazine, starkly white, but with what looks like an Inkblot on it that reminds Deja of a Rorschach Test. The magazine assaults her with disturbing headlines that sicken and disgust her.
Thinking this a mistake, wind up or something to do with her partner, she attempts to get through to the publishing company to report the mistake and cancel the subscription that she did no t know she had made. When she finally gets through to the company she is assaulted by a bizarre test. This test leads to a series of bizarre events.
Mixing in elements of cosmic horror, we are never entirely sure what is happening in this tale. Dealing with unbidden information that assaults our senses on a daily basis through various forms of media. It also forces you to change your opinion of the narrator, particularly when we discover that she has experienced a period of psychosis and delusional behaviours previously. Leading you to question, is this real or some hallucinatory sequence of a larger mental health issue.
Well, let's get on to story three, Garage Doctor! I have got to say that I found this one to be quite, quite disturbing. The story revolves around Junaid and Hasan, a happily married couple who have moved to the sleepy suburb of Blightwood. Upon getting there they are constantly told of the miraculous Dr Drake who works wonders.
After accepting a dinner invitation, they are subsequently held against their will and treated for their perversions against God and violated with some form of supernatural entity that produces boils. The only way to escape their punishment is to denounce themselves as abominations.
I found this story very disturbing and it is like The Stepford Wives crossed with Lars Von Trier, with a dose of Brian Yuzna body horror in there. It's an ugly story that deals with conversion therapy and you can feel the palpable sense of anger coming off the page.
I have to say from the outset, Petting Zoo was one of my favourite stories in the book.
The story revolves around Adelaide, a young woman who experiences depression and has to go back to live with her mother. The move is a difficult one due to the fact that for some reason there was some kind of fractious split in the family. One of the things that we learn is that due to her medication, it has resulted in Adelaide gaining weight which also causes difficulties between her and her mother, who passively, and aggressively comments on this throughout the initial part of the story.
One evening whilst looking at photographs Adelaide comes across a photo that has an extreme reaction. Following this unsettling discovery it turns out that when she was a child she was taken to this place called Noah's Petting Zoo by her parents. Adelaide has no knowledge of the experience, but the image distils in her a feeling of utter revulsion. After putting it out to the collective knowledge of the internet she discovers it's name and location.
I loved this one, and like I said earlier I think this one was my favourite. It is a really good piece of weird/cosmic horror and bears a resemblance to Brian Hodge's brand of weirdness. Jesse Nolan Bailey, steadily piles on the tension with unease creeping in until it builds to its crescendo. Not only that, it lives in the same universe as Deathshed, death shed, whatever!
The penultimate story is a short sharp shock called Torture Device, about a man who sees his current boyfriend giving the eye to a local muscle bound bit of totty.
His insecurities and anxieties lead him to trying to beef himself up at a local gym. Not quite sure how he is to use the machines, he comes across an exercise machine that promises to tone his body in one go. However, he gets more than he bargained for when the device takes hold.
This is a shorter story than most in the collection and subsequently comes to its denouement in a short amount of pages.
It's not hard to spot the satire in this story and the wicked humour. I mean we have all felt insecure at one point or another haven't we?
The final story in the book is the title story, Defilement. Again this has elements of weird fiction reminiscent of some earlier mentioned authors. However, what this one does is completely take us out of this reality.
Now, I don't want to go into the plot too much as it will spoil the story.
The story revolves around Trev, his girlfriend Krissy, and her brother Caleb. When we start the story, Krissy is being railroaded by her mother to take her sibling along to get ice cream. Krissy doesn't want to and it seems that she is being rather peevish about it. However, we find out that there are more deep seated reasons for her dislike of her brother.
Trying to get to the truth of the matter, Trev has a chat with Caleb, who then starts to come out with racist, transphobic and any other kind of -obic, or -ist diatribe that you care to mention.
However, things soon take a sinister turn and Trev finds himself way out of his comfort zone!
So, this is the finale of the book and with this Jesse Nolan Bailey pulls out all the stops. There are elements of dark fantasy mixed in with the horror. He carefully builds the tension in this story until it reaches its climax. Mixing a claustrophobic sense of the unknown, with elements of dark fantasy and ultimately body horror, this story works well. You are never entirely what is happening and he carefully keeps that sense of disorientation going for quite a while until the reveal about midway through the story. This was such a good story to end the collection.
On the whole, I found this to be an excellent collection of short stories, that at times are creepy as hell, thinking of Petting Zoo here, to brooding horror. There is a good dose of the cosmic and weird running through the stories which always appeals to me, and I have to say. I really enjoyed this one!