The Window In The Ground: Steve Stred
Reviewed By Alyson Faye
I’ve come across Steve Stred during my horror writing journey via social media and here, on Kendall Reviews, as a hugely enthusiastic supporter of the genre, of indie presses and indie writers – like myself. He loves to write, read and review dark fiction – and seems to be a non-stop force of energy, tireless in his efforts.
I have also read some of his fiction, including the Short!Sharp!Shocks! Book 45 published by Demain, The One That Knows No Fear. I share that publisher, as my story is Book 18 in the SSS! Series.
When Steve’s latest publication from The Writing Collective came out, The Window in the Ground, I was intrigued by the premise and downloaded it to read and now review.
On the outskirts of town, hides a secret. . . runs the description opener and what a secret, hidden in the woods, along difficult to follow tracks – there is a window in the ground. This is exciting enough in itself for horror fans, but there is light, movement and sound coming from Beneath. There is something down there. What’s more the town knows about it, lives with it and accepts its existence. Or at least they seem to.
There is also a sign by the window laying out the rules of visiting, dated from 1674! Including the exhortations:- ‘No one under 18’, ‘Absolutely no meat’, ‘No babies’ and ‘Never, ever touch it’. So we know it’s Very Bad News indeed.
The narrative is told, in the first-person voice, of the fifteen-year-old lad whose much-loved Gramps takes him, although he’s three years under-age, to the woods to visit the window in the ground. It is a family trip which changes both of their lives. Why does Gramps do this though, we question all the way through?
The story is broken down into short punchy chapters, with each one ending on a mini cliffhanger – very neatly done, which keeps you wanting more and turning the pages. The story races along at a fast clip. It also reads as though you are being told this yarn over a pint in the pub with the lad himself, as the voice is so intimate and chatty as it draws you into his experiences and concurrent with that, the growing dangers. The sense of menace grows steadily with each chapter.
The lad, having seen the window once, keep returning to it, as if lured? Or pulled? We’re not sure, yet. So, next time he takes his best mate, Fred, with him and the lads have a surreal, sexually- awakening experience involving naked dancers, who may or may not be real. Fred, however, is never the same again and he pays a terrible price for his visit to the window.
The teen’s parents ground him, yell at him, plead with him, but he goes back to the woods, to the window, (with more friends) and on his own, where he witnesses nightmarish things best left unseen. (Don’t want to spoil the surprise here by revealing).
Worse happens as the novella rockets towards its finale which is shocking, tragic and unexpected – well it surprised me! There are twists within twists to savour.
The ending makes you pause and think – as Steve writes in the last two lines, ‘You’d have been better off if you’d never found out about the window in the ground.’ How very true!
Apart from being a rollicking fun, entertaining pacy horror read, it is also a coming-of-age tale, which you can read if you wish as a metaphor or not, but thought I’d toss that bit into the mix. It is a tale of teenage discovery, corruption, resilience, discovery and sadness – so it’s pretty emotional in parts too, especially at the end with the lad’s parents.
Another reason for buying this novella is that ‘All proceeds are being donated to The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.’
So you get a damn great read and make a donation to a great cause.
The Window In The Ground
On the outskirts of town, hides a secret.
If you follow a path through the trees, read the rules (always twice) on the signpost, go up a hill and across a grassy clearing, that secret will reveal itself.
You see, for hundreds of years, this seemingly normal town has done its part, kept the balance.
But on this day, a rule will be broken.
You might have heard the rumors shared in whispers.
You may have been told about someone who’d seen it with their own eyes.
But now, on this day, you’ll join us.
You’ll come for a car ride and we’ll park.
Then we’ll walk along a path, read some rules (always twice), and go up a hill and arrive at a clearing.
Across the grass, you’ll see just what the town’s been hiding, protecting for centuries.
Then you’ll feel a pull.
And we’ll make our way over to it.
Over to the window in the ground.
“I looked at the mound and could see that a light was shining up from the under, from inside the window. Something was happening below.”
Alyson lives in West Yorkshire, UK with her husband, teen son and four rescue animals. Her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1, Stories from Stone, Ellipsis, Rejected (ed. Erin Crocker) and in many ezines, but most often on the Horror Tree site, in Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights.
In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and later that year Demain published her 1940’s crime novella – Maggie Of My Heart.
Currently, she has stories appearing in the Strange Girls anthology (ed. Azzurra Nox), two charity anthologies, Burning Love from Things in the Well, and Amongst Friends (Gypsum Sound Tales); another Gypsum anthology, Colp: Black and Grey and by Emerald Bay Books, Horror for Hire: First Shift.
Forthcoming is a dark yarn in a charity anthology for the UK’s NHS, Diabolica Britannica and from Tyche Books, Air, (ed. R. Parrish) an anthology of dark poetry.
Her work has been read on BBC Radio, local radio, on several podcasts (e.g. Ladies of Horror), posted on YouTube and placed in competitions.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits for an indie publisher and hangs out with her dog on the moors – in all weathers.
You can contact Alyson through her blog: www.alysonfayewordpress.wordpress.com
A full list of her publications can be found via her author page on Amazon: Alyson-Faye