The Dark Walk Forward

There’s something wrong in the town of Ste. Odile.

The doctors have unique ways of helping their patients.

The wonderful old lady has a dog that seems to know too much.

The veiled women fear to go out in daylight.

John S. McFarland has strung together twenty short stories in The Dark Walk Forward, many of them in this twisted, dark town right after the great War. Sometimes things seem to be wrong, but maybe it’s just your imagination.

The stories creep with dread. No jump scares will startle you. Instead, horror will crawl closer on six legs until it wraps boneless but muscular fingers around your heart and squeezes.

Admittedly, not every story was a home run for me, personally. “The Thing Under the Seat” didn’t connect with me, for instance.

That said, there were a number of short stories that scratch under my skin yet.

“One Happy Family” starts with a doctor doing a good deed: Driving out to the woods to help a poor family deliver another child. But as the doctor enters the house, McFarland showed little by little that something was not right. By the time the payoff hit, I predicted what could happen, but it didn’t matter because the artistry of the storytelling still kept my attention fast.

“Oblivion” got to me, too, and I didn’t predict that ending. I should have. McFarland set it up so well, but I didn’t see it coming. There, a schoolteacher in the 1880’s attempts to protect her students from the worst blizzard of her time. Her desperation was amazing.

“The Dark Walk Forward” filled me with grief. A soldier comes home from the war to meet a son he never really knew. The son isn’t normal, though. How does PTSD and autism mix?

The book feels real in a way that’s hard to nail down. As you read, you don’t get the feeling you’re reading a story. It feels more like something that really happened. A note at the back of the book informs on some of the background information, but throughout there’s a reality that’s hard to ignore.

If you like short stories that fill you with dread, check this one out. It’s worth your time.

Every once in a while, I like putting up a review of a book I’ve read. Regular blogging will continue soon!