Dark Pathways: That Good Ol’ Fashioned Fright

Dark Pathways

Author Lavie Tidhar has a short story up on The Dark Magazine titled “Sirena” that I think you should definitely check out. It’s about a killer vending machine. Seriously! And it feels like a classic Stephen King story from the ’80s. It’s just the right kind of fun for this type of horror story, and you’ll be hooked from the first paragraph. Did I mention there’s a killer vending machine?

There’s a killer vending machine.

cover of The Dark Magazine #90Let me entice you a little more. The story starts with our narrator recounting a story when he and his brother were children, traveling with their father during one of his business trips. The narrator’s brother, Jamie, wants food in the middle of the night, so he sneaks out to use the vending machine. The narrator has a bad feeling and follows Jamie …

An awful fear took hold of me. “Jamie, don’t–!” I began to say.

There was a terrible sound like a tearing and a sucking all at once, and I was sure I heard a short, sharp scream but it was cut almost immediately. I ran around the corner. There was nothing there. The machine stood, contented, burping to itself. Its lights flash reassuringly. Its inside was laden as before with tempting treats.

This story reminds me a lot of the kinds of horror movies I watched as a kid. Movies like The Blob and Killer Klowns From Outer Space that weren’t afraid to take entertaining risks. When those risks pay off, it can be loads of fun. I remember reading stories written by the great John Shirley when I was a teenager and thinking to myself, “Holy crud, I didn’t even know you could write that kind of thing!” This story reminds me of those greats. And it’s so well written that it practically reads itself. 

Dark Pathway: Putting the “fun” in Horror

There’s actually something really cool about the concept in this story that I almost missed on my first read. Toward the end, one of the characters suggests that the mythical and legendary monsters of our past may have “evolved” into something more modern in order to survive. Maybe that’s what this killer vending machine really is: just a supernatural creature that once existed in the form of a ghoul or a werewolf.

Let’s take that idea and run with it. Let’s take another modern convenience and make it EVIL. And let’s have some freaking fun doing it, too! Let’s go for that retro-modern horror story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

So here’s your new monster: a roller coaster. No, I’m not kidding! The setting is an old theme park that’s barely breaking even. Multiple safety violations. Lots of run-down concession stands. But there’s one really awesome roller coaster ride. Two loops, one huge drop, and a pitch-black tunnel with the face of a demon painted on the opening. And one night, during a routine ride, someone disappears when the coaster passes through the tunnel. No one notices until the ride is over. Everyone is confused, but people keep going on the ride. And every single ride, a person goes missing.

Fill in the gaps, but don’t worry too much about the gaps. Instead, focus on making the story fun. This is a man-eating rollercoaster! Lean into the concept, and give your readers an ol’ fashioned fright!

Ken Brosky is the author of The Beyond, a horror novel available through Timber Ghost Press. His work has been published in Grotesque and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, among others. He’s currently working on a screenplay and a new novel.

Leave a Reply