I’m an avid reader, but lately my head has been stuck inside of comics more frequently than anything else. When the opportunity came for me to read Pieces of Madness by Kasey Pierce it felt like going home. I love comics, but I do love the chance for my brain to fill in the movie that the words in a novel deliver. While reading Piece of Madness, the movie in my head ranged from unsettling to truly horrific. This is a good thing.
There is nothing like good horror to make you truly feel, to take you out of your comfort zone and poke the dark corners of the psyche. Kasey Pierce brings us 5 tales of the supernatural and macabre, and each delivers an experience that is unique and refreshing in this genre. I can see hints of Lovecraft and Barker in Bestia and His majesty Pt 1 and 2, respectively, but her voice is very clear, and this is very much her style, paying homage to the greats in subtle ways.
I would hate to spoil this experience for anyone, but I do want to touch on some things and give you a little taste of each story. If you have yet to read this book, please do so, then come back and see if you agree with my insights.
In Sins of the Father, the last story in the book, the main character is a priest, Father Peters, who is married yet cheating with an employee of the church. It is stated early in the story that he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he continues to do so anyhow. Then the Devil himself comes to visit and has a conversation with Father Peters in which he tries to show the Father that what he is doing isn’t so bad. What I found to be so great about this story is how quickly Father Peters caves. He knows he is talking to the king of lies, but begins to believe him rather quickly because this helps to alleviate his own personal guilt. He throws away all of his teachings on the evil of the Devil when the Devil tells him what he wants to hear. Guilt is such a heavy burden, and he wanted it off his shoulders. What ends up happening is yours to find out, but there was a real psychological component to this story that really spoke to me.
His Majesty Pt 1 and 2 show us the decent into madness that can occur when we lose someone we love. The depths of this madness are far beyond what most would do in the same situation, but that is the beauty of this story. It is bloody, gross, and poetic. There is something to be said for a writer when they can make peeling skin off a dead body essentially romantic. What made these stories really stick with me is the ending of part 2. What Linda was trying to create was nothing like what she had pictured. She had labored hard and long to get things just right and ended up with something so horrific it would make Dr. Frankenstein cringe. When you read these stories you know that no happy ending is logical, but it was great to see Kasey show how painstakingly Linda tried to recapture lost love and have it utterly fail. It felt like the perfect metaphor for how much work we are willing to put into fixing a relationship or a marriage, even when they cannot be fixed.
Dollface is the perfect short story in that it gives the reader enough back story to develop characters but it is so short and to the point that you can’t believe how fast you have read it. The title really sets the stage for what is to come. This one is so short I will leave out any details, but I can say that it didn’t end the way I thought it would.
Bestia is the story of a man trying to reform his life after being in prison. He settles down with a woman in a new town, but no one there seems to like him. He has terrible nightmares and cannot tell reality from dreams anymore. He is seeing a shrink and taking meds, but as the story progresses things become more blurry. He has one positive interaction with a priest in town and after things begin to spiral out of control, he decides to visit him. What he finds in this supposed house of God is not what he expected. This story reminds me of Lovecraft in that the town itself becomes a character. The tone is very eerie and unsettling. But I will let you discover Tom’s fate on your own. It’s more fun that way.
The last story, or first since I discussed them in reverse, is called Luke. This is a story of childhood friendship and that innocent love that comes with it. Kristine and Amanda are best friends, and Kristine’s parents are expecting a baby boy. When they lose the baby, whom Amanda knew she was destined to marry, grief strikes them all, but differently. Amanda seems to rebound quickly, as she says that Luke is alive and with her, walking alongside her. Kristine decides to let this go and they both begin to pretend that he is real. They play with him at school, which attracts negative attention. A new boy decides to bully them, and after hurting the girls an unseen entity chokes the bully to death right in front of them. And so begins the strange story of Luke.
These stories are tied together by madness, and madness is different to all of us. Madness can be more of an idea than a feeling, but Kasey delivers the idea of madness perfectly while utilizing character progression and relationships to make the reader truly feel it. Her style of prose is simplistic yet descriptive and does not allow you to just be a passenger on this journey. You will become entangled in the web she weaves, riding the rollercoaster with your hands in the air, breathless. If you love horror, this needs to become a part of your collection.