Things start off with “Hecate” by Adam Lowe, which is about the Greek goddess of witches, Hecate. The language in this poem is very evocative and the poem ends on a creepy note.
Next up we have “The Life of Death” by Mark Sheldon. It starts out on a more humorous note. It’s anachronistic on purpose, making similes to modern-day references. This is the origin story of Death, real name Mortimer (nicknamed Morrey). It’s a sad tale, ultimately, but humanizes Death, which makes things more interesting.
“Stumps” by Jeff Strand is about an immortal main character but immortality doesn’t mean he can’t be killed or wounded. The price is incredibly steep to maintain his status. Others figure out what he can do, and although it’s a grim tale with macabre elements, there is humour, as well, and it was one of the best pieces of the bunch.
In “Death Squared” by Rena Mason, two boys, Billy and Trent, ride their bikes to the house of a female classmate who recently committed suicide. Trent learns the hard way that once you damage someone badly enough, you can never take it back. When you remain faithful to someone you know is as horrible as Billy is, you can never erase that stain from your soul no matter how hard you try to scrub it off. I also enjoyed the ominous note upon which this story ended.
“The Culling” by Richard Thomas reminded me of The Lottery and The Hunger Games. In this twisted tale, the townspeople sacrifice their own to appease beasts. There’s a wonderful twist at the end that I won’t spoil, but this story was one of the more memorable ones.
Robert S. Wilson introduces a main character who can stop death from happening in “The Death Catcher” but the thing is that after people cheat death, they don’t feel as good as they thought they would. This story had a definite sci-fi bent to its horror and reinforced the theme that a person can try to cheat death but won’t get very far.
“Spectres” by Taylor Grant is about Matt, who seems to have just come out of a coma. It’s also more in the sci-fi horror vein. He wakes up with someone else’s memories after volunteering to spend ten years frozen in a statis. He learns the hard way that everything comes at a price, and I thought this story ended on a very effective gut punch.
“Der Engel Der Liebe” by Dean M. Drinkel is historical fiction tale set in Vienna in 1870. This is another story that wastes no time making circumstances absolutely horrible for the characters involved. If you like stories of Jack the Ripper, you’ll enjoy this macabre tale.
Next up is “Do No Harm” by Joe C. McKinney, which is about a doctor who gets kidnapped by vampires so that he can figure out why a boy they ‘turned’ isn’t transitioning into a full vampire. He’s got his work cut out for him and the results turn out to be very interesting.
To cap off the anthology, we have “Non-Returnable” by the late Rick Hautula. In it, a bookstore employee is worried that her boss will fire her. He hassles her about a physics book she decided not to buy, but her life starts to take on some truly bizarre turns. It’s very fitting that this story would be the last.
Overall, Fear the Reaper is another good quality anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing that features great horror stories centering around the theme of Death and they’re all very diverse so there is something for every horror reader to enjoy.