Title: The Lake of Fire
Author: G.S. Wiley
Length: 4,000 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m Paranormal romance
As a child in a monastery in England at the end of the 10th century, Brother Alric witnessed a Viking attack that killed his abbot and many of his brothers. He thinks he has survived the worst experience possible, but years later, a mysterious illness strikes the nearby village, turning the villagers into flesh-eating monsters. Alric and a fellow monk, Brother Wilfrid, holed up together, are forced to contemplate a horrible death they’d never considered, and come to terms with a secret longing that has remained unspoken.
This chilling story by G.S. Wiley is only a short one but it packs quite a punch for the word limit. It’s set in a monastery during the time of Viking raids. Alaric is a brother at the monastery and the story is structured like a written account of the events which leads to him being trapped inside the library with another brother, Wilfred.
The first part of the story is that of surprise and action as the monks are attacked by villagers who have been turned into zombie-like creatures. The descriptions are almost matter of fact, but even more chilling for it, as Alaric describes what happens to him and his fellow monks. The second half of the story is quieter with Wilfred giving confession of his feelings for Alaric. There’s a melancholy to the tone of this part, which fit well with an ending of quiet hopelessness. There’s no HEA or HFN, in fact the ending is entirely left in the hands of the reader. I chose to believe that the two men escape and ultimately find a future together, but that is probably just the romantic in me.
Overall, this wasn’t a cheerful story but perhaps a fitting one for Halloween. For such a short story I really got a good feel for the narrator, Alaric, and whilst Wilfred remains a little on the shadowy side, it was to be expected with the length and focus of the story being on the events and Alaric’s reactions to that, rather than on lengthy interaction between the two. The links between Alaric’s experiences with the Viking raiders and the events of the day were nicely done and had the result of placing the setting at a particular point in history.
If you’re looking for a Halloween story with a bit of a difference, and you like historicals – this one certainly had an unusual historical setting – then I would recommend you read this story.