by Michael Lejeune
Dreams of Day-Sky Eyes is a collection of sixteen horror shorts. The stories showcase horror in all its cloaks and guises; surreal, gore-soaked, terrifying, ghoulish, and a couple of desperately creepy olde-worlde folk horrors thrown in for good measure.
Not only does Lejeune’s excellent anthology feature tales from every aspect of the horror spectrum, but they also differ in form, tone, and perspective from sharply chilling contemporary narratives to wonderfully rich, almost allegorical stories that have a fabled whiff of the Brothers Grimm about them.
There are recurring motifs that thread, sometimes almost imperceptibly, through all sixteen stories. In particular, the main protagonists are often more complex than they first appear and there are grisly connections between the various manifestations that appear throughout the shorts.
These gently analogous themes together with a subtle similarity in structure, ensure, that despite the different narrative styles and sub-genres, there is contextual and technical cohesion to the collection as a whole.
Lejeune is a versatile and skillful storyteller whose horrendously fertile imagination is matched by the quality of his exquisite writerly prose; Good Things Come, the thirteenth tale, is a prime example of these elements dovetailing to sublimely grim effect.
The first, titular story, is personally the only one misplaced. It’s a brief, almost poetic piece, that while intriguing and beautifully written, I thought may have been better to have read at the end.
The second, Brother of Death, has an antediluvian feel, superbly realized without pretension. The prose is glossed with a delicately archaic vernacular that reads effortlessly and fully immerses the reader into its rustic eldritch world full of shadows and secrets.
Likewise, Better Not Born and the final story, The Keeper of Snow’s End. The latter, especially, is darkly mythical and rooted in an ancient dreamscape world of folkloric ritual and belief. The King’s Catch is another that resonates with a twisted fairy-tale vibe.
Lejeune demonstrates his linguistic range with The Narf, a chilling, child-centered horror, The Visitor creeps with unearthly dread, and Night Watchman is tense with apprehension and reminiscent of early Stephen King.
Two of the more horribly gruesome are Three Days With Harold, which is truly ghastly on several levels, and nastily visceral The Photograph of Dorian Bond, with its faintly comedic overtones and excellently involving characterization.
See No Evil and All His Friends are horribly clever, the former tapping into sensory deprivation, and All His Friends rapidly descends into a surreal tableau of nightmarishly itchy proportions.
Unsettling Wolfelina and Read It To Me twist unexpectedly, the latter with a horrid kick in the end. It’s almost impossible to pick a weak story but if pushed, The Octopus, the Girl, and a Curious Case of Accidental Enlightenment meandered a little, lacking the tight, compelling focus of the others.
Dreams of Day-Sky Eyes is an intelligently crafted, disturbingly brilliant collection that delves deep into the tangled depths of the macabre and supernatural. Highly recommended.