Everything That’s Underneath (Kristi DeMeester)

Everything That’s Underneath is a short story collection by Kristi DeMeester.
[I got this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away. I am not early with my review, but honest.]
Finished on: 27.9.2018

Everything That’s Underneath is a cool collection, but it is a little monotonous in tone. If I hadn’t read it all at once, but rather spread out the book reading a new story every once in a while, I probably would have appreciated them all more. Since they are all so alike in the atmosphere they create, they start to blend together, when you read one right after the other. That being said, I definitely enjoyed this atmosphere. I liked a lot of the stories, there are some very nice ideas here and DeMeester has a good hand for descriptions. So overall, it’s really good.

[More about each of the stories after the jump, with vague spoilers for some of the stories.]

Everything That’s Underneath

Shortly after moving into a new house together with his wife Carin, Benjamin received the diagnosis of M.S., a particularly difficult diagnosis as Benjamin is a dancer. Now he’s working on a new door for their house, with Carin trying everything to leave him space and not crowd him with her worry. But there is something about him working on that door…

Everything That’s Underneath was surprisingly creepy. At first I thought that it would be a classic dramatic story, but nope: it really is a story of quiet dread creeping up on you. At the end, there were goosebumps crawling up my spine. Just what you want from a horror story.

The Wicked Shall Call Upon Him

After the sky swallowed itself and the moon bloated, Twain attends an end-of-the-world party of his husband Nathan. There he meets a girl, Cass, who offers to do some magic for him – if he wants it.

A gay couple during the apocalypse? I like the concept. Especially when you start realizing that the apocalypse may just be the end of their relationship, though one of them can’t let go. What struck me in particular here, was the sadness that permeates everything. The story perfectly captures my attention in any case.

To Sleep Long, to Sleep Deep

Simon had brought Nina a book, a book that awoke something in her, something painful at first, but that soon turned to power, leaving Simon jealous. And now, Simon was gone – after he had taken the book away again.

This story didn’t work as well for me as the first two did, but it did manage to create an intense, creepy atmosphere again, working well with tension and just a tinge of horror.

The Fleshtival

Paul finds a flyer for the Fleshtival, promising an array of girls up for anything and he tries to convince his friend Jake to go there with him.

The Fleshtival was the first of the stories that didn’t work for me at all, probably because I wanted Paul to die from the beginning. Immediately. Don’t let him live a second longer. At least in the end, that wish was granted.

The Beatiful Nature of Venom

A one night stand with a woman who has spiders under her skin.

This story is very short and doesn’t really have a plot, but is surprisingly sensual and hot for a story about sex that involves spiders in any way. I did like the ending, but I can’t say much more about it.

Like Feather, Like Bone

Caitlin finds a little girl beneath her porch, eating a bird whole.

This story had a very visual quality and would probably make for an excellent short film. But I did like reading it as well and got goosebumps yet again. It’s a little sad, a little hopeful and a little bloody. A good combination, if you ask me.

Worship Only What She Bleeds

Mary knows that her house bleeds every night. She can hear it, even if her mother can’t.

This story is like a written-down nightmare, following dream-logic and feeling relentless. As a story, I didn’t care that much for it, but as an experience, it was really cool.

The Tying of Tongues
Content note: rape

A hooded woman comes to Anya’s village, a witch trailing blood. And Anya feels instantly drawn to her.

How do you win my heart? Easy, give me a slightly surreal story about queer witches and here we are. It’s awesome. I would have liked it if the story could have done without rape, especially because it was a stranger doing the raping. It was well-written, that’s for certain but they could have just have their happy ending, no? But at least they get to go on a revenge quest together, that’s something.

The Marking

Ever since she was a child, Violet is being Marked: at night, it comes and leaves bruises on her skin. But Violet will not be its flesh much longer.

There’s a good metaphor for abuse hidden in this story. Trouble is that it’s hidden a little too well. It could have been worked out a little more clearly. Nevertheless, it’s a good story, albeit not as good as some of the others.

The Long Road

There is something in the marsh and it has gotten to Pop, but Danny is still trying to withstand, and will leave if he has to.

While I generally like stuff like that, I wouldn’t have needed the horror element in this story as the thing that works best about it is the relationship between Danny and Sarah: it’s beautiful, sad and interesting and works wonderfully.

The Lightning Bird

Gable’s mother Uma just died, leaving her very much on her own and destined to fill Uma’s shoes.

While I did find the South African setting for this story interesting, it never really came together for me. I just never really found my way into the story.

The Dream Eater

The tall grass is getting closer and closer to their house. The grass is filled with voices and movement and there is nowhere else to go.

The grass was a great idea and I liked how the world this is set in became very plastic and fully fleshed-out in only a few sentences. But I would have liked a little more plot in this case. Nevertheless, I liked the story.

Daughters of Hecate

Birdie has dreamed of her mother’s funeral three times now and ever since reading about Hecate, she knows that there’s something powerful about that number.

This story didn’t capture me at all and I felt like I’d forget it immediately after reading it. Evil therapists and desperate motherhood just aren’t really my topics.

Birthright

Mina and her sister are visited by their mother every night, only that their mother is dead and has been for a while.

I don’t know if it was something about that story in particular or if it just caught me at a bad time, but I just wasn’t able to focus on it at all. I was constantly inattentive and only noticed that I was inattentive when I read something I couldn’t follow. And it just didn’t bug me enough that I would try to read it a second time.

All That Is Refracted, Broken

Paul will only look at his sister by way of a mirror. He can look at everybody else and everbody else can look at her, but he needs the mirror to see her soul.

I am not sure that I followed this story 100%, but I thought it was very interesting. An unusual idea with an unusual execution. The story is told in very short bites and that bit-by-bit style worked very well for the narrative. It was good.

December Skin

Aaron is traveling with his slightly older sister Rory. He is not yet 18 and there is something wrong with her, making things very difficult.

This story is a quick read. The plot is nothing to write home about, but Aaron and Rory are good characters and their relationship is very vivid, making the story work very well anyway.

Split Tongues

Every second weekend, Brianne has to go to church with her father, a fact that is made bearable because gorgeous Alec Mitchell is there, too.

Split Tongues was another great story in the collection. The only thing that I’d criticize about it is that I wasn’t entirely sure where dreams ended and real life started, which is not in itself a problem, but it did lead to the sensory part of the story feeling a little neglected. But other than that, I really enjoyed it and the palpable atmosphere it builds.

To Sleep in the Dust of the Earth

Lea, Willa and Beth are thirteen and they like to meet at Benjamin Harper’s abandoned lot – even though it is supposedly haunted. And then they find a hole there.

This story is probably the warmest of the collection, with vibrant characters and an almost positive ending. I enjoyed it – and the idea with the hole – a lot and found it to be a very decent final story in the collection.

Summarizing: Good stuff, albeit not everything.

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