“Halloween Parade” by Tom Cardamone from Glitterwolf: Halloween (October 2014). Edited by Matt Cresswell.

My intention was to purchase a digital copy of this issue and review the stories in it in advance of Halloween, only a digital format wasn’t made available in time. (Actually, the last time I checked it still wasn’t.) I was able to read seven of the stories via a “free taster” floating around social media, and was absolutely blown away by the strength of every one of them. Still, I wasn’t going to review a partial edition here. When I ended up with seven slots to fill, though, I took it as a definite (and eerie) sign….

It’s the Halloween parade in New York City and Stephen is teeming with nervous energy, at once praying for something exciting to happen to him and dreading it won’t. He’s been this way all his life, relishing the “maintainable fear” that horror movies deliver while trying to rein in the almost unbearable sexual longing that threatens to pull him within the reach of a very real killer in the form of disease.

As is his Halloween custom, he’s counting the number of Freddy Kreuger, Jason and Michael Myers costumes he sees, in order to ascertain the zeitgeist, when a particularly authentic-looking Michael comes into view. Stephen watches, transfixed, and then attempts to follow the man, but bumps into someone dressed as The Flash. There’s a strange, highly improbable similarity between the two strangers that flusters and excites him. It should be noted that the pacing of the piece is excellent. It steadily builds up the suspense and sexual tension, so that when Stephen, rattled, at last staggers into a bar and meets yet another character oddly similar to the first two, we believe it’s all the convincing he needs to indulge his most dangerous desires.

I did not anticipate the turn of events at the very end of this tale and found it thoroughly unnerving.