In this thirty-second issue of "Tales from the Canyons of the Damned", we get four short stories that deal with games of all sorts. From sports fans going to murderous lengths to win, a board game with hellish opponents, a high stakes game of darts and a virtual reality game of hide and seek. Each one holds your breath in anticipation of what will come next. Find out the games these characters play, starting with:
Gustavo Bondoni’s “Superclasico” – Dario and Emilio are super soccer fans working in Argentina’s criminal underworld. Suspecting that magical intervention is being used to prevent their beloved Boca Juniors Club team from beating the competition, they set out to put a stop to it. However, what they find is not what they expect! The author paints a stark and engrossing picture of the poor and desperate in a dog-eat-dog world. But it’s also a dark and gruesome tale filled with magic, sacrifice, and spilled entrails, all for the love of the game.
M.M. De Voe’s “The Fourth” – Our twenty-six-year-old narrator and expert board game player agrees to a challenge offered by the malevolent entity Lord Zhyklon. But this game, while complicated and yet familiar, plays out in an unfamiliar fashion that forces her to try something radical! I liked how our narrator has snark and spunk while her intelligence and observational skills enable her to cope with her increasingly problematic predicament. And that ending made my jaw drop with surprise and how winning in this situation is redefined.
Ann Stolinsky’s “Killer Shot” – Miss Stone appears in court to hear the sentence of a man who committed unspeakable acts against her. But this court has some thought-provoking rules and how justice was carried out was astonishing to me. How do Miss Stone’s dart-throwing skills have anything to do with this? The mind-blowing answers startled me, the intensity of the reading experience shocked me and when I finally saw how it all came together, I found that the suspense of what would happen next was killing me. As a result, I loved its deliciously perfect ending.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “Hide and Seek” – Conrad is meeting his childhood friend Hansen for a reunion in a top-notch hotel. After reminiscing about old times, they nostalgically engage in a friendly game of hide and seek in a virtual reality simulation. What could go wrong? I really enjoyed and appreciated the lush details the author used to stimulate my imagination here, engaging all five of my senses with its immersive descriptions about the height of luxury. It all lends itself to the situation being set up here, with an unpredictable and amazing payoff by the time all is revealed, leading into a stunning ending. This story is part of the authors imaginative “Spectral Shift” sci-fi universe and once you read it, you’ll understand why this setting is crucial to the story.
Three out of the four authors in this collection are new to me and all of them are reads worthy of your time. They take the game theme to new and innovative levels that are suspenseful and engaging. They also all have delightful twists that made me appreciate the craft of their storytelling that much more. Whether I’ve read stories by an author who is new to me or not, the Canyons series is always a terrific showcase for wonderful stories.