Rank #1: Joe Haldeman - Graves
I have this persistent sleep disorder that makes life difficult for me, but still I want to keep it. Boy, do I want to keep it. It goes back twenty years, to Vietnam. To Graves. Narrated by Bruce Turk.
Rank #2: Micah Dean Hicks | Quiet the Dead
Stray spirits stirred in the dark. They lay like oil slicks across the asphalt, pulled their misty bodies in and out of the doors of Swine Hill’s pork processing plant, and drifted storm-like in Kay’s wake. Her every hot breath was full of the dead. The man had crossed her. Had shouldered into her on the crowded butchery floor where she leaned over a workstation and hacked through bone and bleeding pig meat. Had stolen knives and gloves from the locker that everyone knew was hers. | Copyright 2019 by Micah Dean Hicks. Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir.
Rank #3: Ramsey Campbell - At Lorn Hall
Randolph hadn’t expected the map to misrepresent the route to the motorway quite so much. The roads were considerably straighter on the page. The high beams roused swarms of shadows in the hedges and glinted on elongated warnings of bends ahead, and then the light found a signpost. It pointed down a lane to somewhere called Lorn Hall. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #4: Nino Cipri | Dead Air
Nita: So you thought I made you sign a release as, what, foreplay? [Laughter.] Voice: I was, like, four tequilas deep by the time you walked in and probably at five when you waved that paper in my face. I would’ve signed my soul away to . . . uh, I didn’t actually sign my soul over, did I? Narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir, Susan Hanfield, Justine Eyre, Stefan Rudnicki, Cassandra Lalechou, Jim Freund.
Rank #5: Vajra Chandrasekera | On the Origin of Specie
In the tower where the tax collectors go, I am taken blindfolded up steps and through passages and through interminable pauses in open spaces, myself stumbling and held upright through a firm grip on my upper arm. In those pauses, and sometimes in passing while we move, the master of that grip speaks to others, their fellow bailiffs. The content of these exchanges is indistinct to me, a mumbling burr that I can only distinguish from other noises as the recognizably unnatural rhythm of human speech. My other senses have muffled themselves in solidarity with my vision. | Copyright 2019 by Vajra Chandrasekera. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #6: Adam-Troy Castro | Pitcher Plant
The mansion is a study in architecture at war with itself. It’s not just the windows that don’t match and the turrets that don’t overlook anything and the roof that sits flat here while looming at impossible angles there. Nor is it just the exterior walls that, seen from one angle, seem rotted and decrepit and about to collapse, and seen from another, gleam like jewels. Nor is it the gnarled skin of the columns that support the overhang at the front entrance, or the glistening scarlet door that seems poised to open until you see that it’s not a real door at all. | Copyright 2018 by Adam-Troy Castro. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #7: Carrie Vaughn | The Island of Beasts
She was a bundle on the bottom of the skiff, tossed in with her skirt and petticoat tangled around her legs, hands bound behind her with a thin chain that also wrapped around her neck. She didn’t struggle; the silver in the chain burned her skin. The more she moved the more she burned, so she lay still because the only way to stop this would be to make them kill her. They wanted to kill her. So why didn’t they? Why go through the trouble of rowing this wave-rocked skiff out to this hideous island just to throw her to her likely death? | Copyright 2018 by Carrie Vaughn. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #8: Weston Ochse | House of Small Spiders
Some houses never have a soul. It’s not their fault. It’s just the way it is. For a soul to be born to a house, almost too many things have to happen. Three or more families have to have lived there. Someone has to die in the house. Blood has to be spilled. And something, even if it’s just an idea, has to be born in the house. You can always tell when a house has a soul because of the small spiders. They’re everywhere, non-obtrusive, and ever watchful. The small spiders are the eyes of the house, watching those who live in it much like a great beast would observe its own fleas. | Copyright 2018 by Weston Ochse. Narrated by Justine Eyre.
Rank #9: Emma Osborne | Don’t Pack Hope
The horde is attracted to bright colours, so when you put together your bug-out bag, you pack the drab outfits you’d sworn never to wear again once you’d finally, breathlessly, emerged as your true, radiant self. You pack a heavy hunting knife, because what you carry looks valuable. You’re glad that your arms are gym-strong and intimidating, because the idea of hurting someone, even in self-defense, makes you want to vomit. You leave behind your old name. You try not to wonder if you’re the only one left who remembers it. You don’t know how you’d feel if that were true. | Copyright 2018 by Emma Osborne. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #10: A. Merc Rustad | Mr. Try Again
Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise. Dogs and professionals and volunteers spent days trying to find the other bodies. Violet couldn’t help. She wouldn’t draw pictures, she wouldn’t answer questions, she wouldn’t be cajoled with sugar. Narrated by Pandora Kew.
Rank #11: Norman Partridge - 10/31: Bloody Mary
The boy isn’t very large. The way things are these days, he figures that’s a plus. He is less of a target at night, and for this reason he has come to trust the darkness. Strange to trust darkness in a world overrun with nightmares . . . but that’s the way it is. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #12: Stephanie Malia Morris | Bride Before You
Such a beautiful boy, Cornelius Clay. Pity no woman’ll marry him. And to think it ain even his fault, sweet baby, born into money and beauty both, like the good Lord couldn’t part with his blessings fast enough. Lord, this boy. Skin so bright he looks anointed, hair straight as an Indian’s and black as molasses. There’s four generations of freedmen in that skin and hair, and he can name every single one of them. He got a body so fine, even the angels cryin out: silver screen silhouette in a tailored suit and two-toned wingtips, hat brim so crisp its shadow slices butter. | Copyright 2018 by Stephanie Malia Morris. Narrated by Stephanie Malia Morris.
Rank #13: Daniel H. Wilson - Foul Weather
Some things you can’t figure out. Not even with a whole heap of scratch paper and a ribbon of data from a chattering teletype machine. Not before time runs out. And time is like progress—she’s not stopping for anybody. The answer is out there, though, in the weather. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #14: G.V. Anderson | Crook’s Landing, by Scaffold
My brother was hanged on a Monday and two days later I followed him. When the trapdoor opened for the short drop, the sharp stop never came: instead, my soul slithered loose from my body and I fell through darkness, landing with a crash atop a mountain of junk. Odd battered shoes, gimmicked dice and prosthetic notes---the cheat’s cast-offs, the swindler’s knick-knacks. It all reeked of piss. I pulled the sackcloth off my head. A square moon in a black sky shed some light, but not much. | Copyright 2018 by G.V. Anderson. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #15: Caspian Gray | Kylie Land
Do not make friends was not actually an explicit Rule, but it was implied by some of the others: do not do anything to draw attention to yourself and do not bring anyone to the house and do not stop anywhere between home and school. As a little kid, Kyle had thought his dad was a psychic. It was middle school before he realized that basically half the teachers in the school were just spying on him. It was high school before he realized they were doing it with the best of intentions, rather than entering into a vast conspiracy. | Copyright 2018 by Caspian Gray. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #16: Karin Lowachee | The Summer Mask
I met you in the summer when the butterflies began to dance. You were missing your nose, your right eye, and the top of your lips. Some of your teeth. It made conversation a sort of whistle. The war had taken half of your face. It had burned your skull into spotted pink and black, like the underbelly of some amphibious creature. Before the war you were classically beautiful, with classic emerald eyes and a classic strong jaw and classic full lips, but none of these descriptions do you justice. I want to say you were perfect, but it was the imperfections that made you so. | Copyright 2017 by Karin Lowachee. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #17: Sarah Langan - Sacred Cows
Clara Maloney peered down the long Brooklyn block. She and baby Sally had been waiting in the cold for twenty minutes, and still no sign of Pop. Figured. Even to pick out his wife’s casket, the old man was late. Narrated by Gabrielle De Cuir.
Rank #18: Will Ludwigsen | The Zodiac Walks on the Moon
This is the murderer of the two teenagers last Christmass on Lake Herman Road and the girl a few weeks ago in Vallejo. I phoned a lady dispatcher at the Vallejo Police Department, but she didn’t take me seriously. So as not to risk that now, I shall reveal the following details not available to the public: 1. The brand name of the ammunition for the Christmass killing was Super X. I fired ten shots, leaving the boy on his back with his feet to the car and the girl on her right side and her feet to the west. | Copyright 2017 by Will Ludwigsen. Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.
Rank #19: Theodore McCombs | Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women
Mill—a charmer and a rake of no respectable talent whatever—insinuated himself into the home of the widow Annie Holcomb and her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alice. But Mrs. Holcomb turned him out, once she realized he’d been gallanting Alice as much as her. Mill spent the next four nights chanting obscene tirades under her window and left a dead rat in the mail slot on the fifth. Night patrols chased him off park benches; friends robbed him. Sleepless and humiliated, he broke into the house and strangled Mrs. Holcomb with her tin necklace, and when it snapped, with a pajama cord. Narrated by Claire Benedek.
Rank #20: Matthew Kressel | Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?
She stands on the side of the road in the dewy high grass and waits. She wanders among the tangled weeds heavy with crickets, and waits. She drifts among the gathering fireflies blinking their yellow-green light into the darkening forest. And waits, and waits, and waits. They will come, she knows. They will come and see her and take her away from this dreadful place. They will clothe her and feed her and wrap her in a warm blanket, and everything will be perfect again. She knows it’s only a matter of time. | copyright 2017 by Matthew Kressel. Narrated by Judy Young.