“Shudder” by Alice Fox from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press (2011). Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.

I debated whether or not to include this here, because it isn’t a short story per se, it’s a graphic novel. But it is a story, and it is short, and I greatly enjoyed it, so it’s in.

This is the story of a nobleman, banished from the province he calls home, who takes refuge in a ruined castle only to discover he is not alone. The structure is haunted by the ghost of a minstrel who was thrown into the oubliette for falling in love with a knight. (And why, do you think, was the nobleman banished by the king?) The ghost tells the nobleman he cannot stay in the castle because it’s overrun with demons. The nobleman refuses to go, so the ghost instructs him how to vanquish the demons. When they are gone, he gets quite a surprise…

The backstory is simple and conveyed effectively through sparse dialogue, while the drawing pulls you in to the conflict at hand. The ghost minstrel’s obvious vulnerability contrasts nicely with the nobleman’s stoicism while cat-like demons go flying about their heads. As a general rule I’m not a big fan of graphic novels, but I really enjoyed this story. I would be interested in further installments about these characters.