*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
“The crack of the thunder came from the dawning horizon as I dragged her corpse into the shallow hole where she would lie for the rest of eternity. Droplets of rain were beginning to bounce off of the tombstone, spraying against the tatters of the white dress still attached to her decaying grey skin. I had certainly underestimated how difficult it was to dig a proper grave. Unfortunately, the downpour that had begun to spew from the clouds above resulted in a shallow puddle inside of the grave, which turned the walls into mud.
She was a nun, which went hand in hand with her foulness. On a stormy night in late spring, I was being forced to bury her. All I could remember were vague details about how I had found her and her name, Julie Hagwell. In the back of my mind there were blurry memories of me finding her mangled body resting in the grass outside of the church. Upon discovering the body, I dove into the building, screaming out for help, but everyone had disappeared. Not knowing what else to do, I took a set of bed sheets from inside, and used them to conceal her. I had known her as a friend of my ex-wife, and by the fact that she practically lived at Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church.
Her body had been sliced and cut up with a blade, leaving her covered with deep gashes, the largest of which was on her neck. The woulds were all fresh, sending blood in puddles of rain that covered the lawn. It was clear that someone had murdered her, but who, and why?”
GREY SKIES CONTENT ADVISORY:
This story includes frequent swearing, mild blood and gore, body horror, intense imagery, mild sexual imagery, non-sexual nudity, and drug use. (The two bonus stories include the same as well as violence)
Grey Skies is the novella length story of Roman Toguri and his descent into madness. Discovering the brutally murdered body of a nun in a church yard, he fails at burying the body and decides to take it home – and that is only the beginning of the bizarre events and questionable decisions that befall Roman.
The White Shade is a short story that takes a look at the motivations of a lone shooter, looking at his life before the event and the steps that take him there.
The Black Box is a short story that follows a boy propositioned by a strange man in a limo to cut some grass. Simple right? Maybe not…
Grey Skies at the minute consists of a novella and two bonus short stories. The overall feel of the book is dark and surreal. The imagery is strong but the characters are less so. Plot is not a priority in these stories, it comes on the back foot after grotesque and harrowing images and shocking events.
The first story is the longest and most confusing. It begins with the main character finding a dead nun and deciding to bring her home and if you think that has anything to do with the plot or that you’ll hear about that nun again – you are somehow wrong. Grey Skies describes in first person the descent into madness of a man who is struggling with his own guilt. The descent is not in any way slow, it’s more like a sheer drop off a very tall cliff, glimpses of feral creatures and mutated people in the little caves on the way down but no real explanation of what made him fall. You can piece together the story from reality that the odd events sometimes represent but for a lot of it there is little rhyme or reason to what Roman is experiencing. I think the most frustrating thing is that he seems to at times be aware of his own insanity, and at times not. This leads to absurd events happening and the main character reacting as though it is the only strange thing even after he’s tunneled out of his own bathroom, run from a human-spider hybrid, and inexplicably ended up on a cruise ship? He didn’t go to a cruise ship, he just appears there. I can’t say I enjoyed this story as it was long, random, and just a series of images. I don’t feel I learned anything about Roman’s character really except that he lost his mind – but that’s just not interesting enough to keep me invested in the story. I won’t be reading this again.
The White Shade
The first bonus story is the story of a lonely man who decides to take a gun to the store he works at and start shooting. There is an explanation from Becker at the end of the story that he wrote this when he was fourteen and he didn’t release it because he knew the backlash it would get. He states he doesn’t sympathize with mass murderers he just wanted to explore the thinking behind their actions. Unfortunately his qualifiers did not change my feelings about the story and the impression that the story gives stays the same. There isn’t even much of a dive into motivations, the guy seems fine, the isolation he feels is self-inflicted. Even the slights he feels from the people he interacts with could be easily brushed off. So of course he finds videos of the horrific torture of young women and doesn’t really like them, but watches them anyway? The lingering on female mutilation and brutality can’t easily be explained away and though I feel like the motivation was simply to draw shock and disgust from the reader, it felt unnecessary and told me nothing of the main character’s personality. It was too much for me at least, as was the explanation for the character’s own violence.
The Black Box
The Black Box was again a confusing read. A young boy and his friends start a little lawn mowing business and a mysterious stranger in a limo stops by and asks them to cut his grass. The main characters father drops him off at this random man’s house and he stays there all day working, but when it’s time to get paid, there’s no one in the house to pay him. I don’t want to ruin the story but things go off the rails then, and there’s no explanation for anything. I understand wanting readers to work a little more, not to spoon feed, but there has to be a give and take, there has to be something there for the reader to find.
I would only recommend this to anyone looking for the bizarre and the absurd. It is certainly experimental and definitely stands alone, but you’ll have to work on your own to keep your motivation through these stories. In saying that, the creatures and description of images were great, but they alone do not a story make.
About the author:
William Becker is an experimental horror fiction writer. His works focus on pushing readers to search for deeper meanings in his unfathomable tales. Writing his first novel ‘Weeping of the Caverns’ when he was just 14 years old, Becker is a self-published psychedelic dark fiction writer. You can find him on Instagram and Goodreads.
Links to Grey Skies –
Are you a psychedelic horror fan? Do you prefer some order to a story? Or is the writing more important the actual plot? Let me know down below!