STORGY’s Short Story Collection of the Year 2021
Tracy Fahey first came to my attention with the phenomenal collection ‘The Unheimlich Manoeuvre’ – and now she’s back at it again with a follow up collection from Sinister Horror Company – prepare to be blown away!
I Spit Myself Out covers many themes of womanhood and is a must read for all horror fans, a beguiling collection of stories that cover themes of anatomy, pregnancy, menopause, trauma, body horror, metamorphosis, folklore, revenge, religion, puberty, self-harm, idealised body, body image and menstruation.
A truly stunning collection from one of my favourite voices in horror… believe the hype, this one is going to blow your tiny fricking mind!
I’ll Be Your Mirror – An assistant at a museum becomes infatuated with their new exhibit, a wax work Anatomical Venus. When she is left alone one evening with the new exhibit, her exploration of the body can commence and with each organ of this Venus her hands touch cause her to explore her own body and the things that rot inside her. This story has elements of body dysmorphia, self-harm and exposes the tortured longing of being happy in your own skin.
The Wrong Ones – Gemma is checking out the reports of a body discovered by workers in a field, when she gets there and discovers the small remains of a child, her investigation takes her to the house at the top of the farmland, the Leahy farm. As Gemma investigates she comes face to face with Audrey the girl in her class who always turned up dirty, unkempt and left school early to have a child. During Gemma’s interviews with the family that still reside at the Leahy farm it becomes clear that some avenues of questioning are best left buried, because once you’ve dug them up, there’s no way you can forget what you discover.
Becoming – Be careful what you wish for. Veronica is tired with getting older, losing jobs and clients to younger more trendier folks, plus she’s heard from her doctor that the menopause is just around the corner, but there is a clinical trial that promises to help with this decline in health and self and mind. So Veronica says yes… what else does she have to lose!
It Comes Up – Childhood trauma never truly leaves our protagonist, as she prepares her canvases for her latest exhibition, that trauma reveals itself on the canvas, that secret she buried, that fear that turned her marrow to ice, that face that never leaves her thoughts, the bog, the witch, her brother – memories flood her mind and flood the canvases but what’s real and what is a fractured memory of the way things were?
I Write Your Name – Our protagonist chose the wrong time to end a relationship, just as the world turns to shit and now she doesn’t know if Valerie go her message or not, are they still together in some cosmic loophole, did it reach Valerie before the cell towers went down, is she trying to call her back, shout, scream, cuss and argue with her. She’ll never know. Our protagonist went away to this retreat to forget her lover to end things, but now she can’t stop thinking about her.
The Cure – This was a fabulous little gem, a strange illness has sprung to life and is slowly consuming the world. Life as we know it is ending and our protagonist sets about surviving, hoarding food, bolting the door, sealing herself away from possible contamination and infection – but then news begins to filter through that there is a cure, and she needs it, she’ll do anything to have it. I think the power of this story comes from living through this current pandemic we all find ourselves in and how we can now imagine all this crazy actually happening (because in a way it has), but it is not a cheep knockoff story to capitalise on a terrible state of affairs or to cash in on Covid. This story is deep, meaningful and touching, it’s a deeply character driven story with power and the ending, my goodness what an ending.
Ghost in the Machine – It’s the unsaid in this story that is truly terrifying and bone chilling, Fahey does a masterful job at building suspense and dread leaving the reader on a knife edge at the stories conclusion. Our protagonist busies herself on Halloween or as her grandmother called it ‘Samhain’ where ‘During this time, the time between the years, the walls between the living and the dead come down. Those who we’ve lost that year are free to walk the earth, to return to their homes.’
I Kiss The Wounds – Veronica lives a very sheltered life, she thirsts for knowledge and is thrilled when her parents stop homeschooling her and send her to a new school. She’s free, but she has a long way to go to break free from her oppressive family, her overbearing and strict father and his religion that’s dished out daily, a family that she feels she doesn’t belong to as she’s continually put down and made out to be the black sheep (always asking too many questions) they’ll never understand her, she’ll have to make them see, make them understand that she is special. The way Fahey masks this story is something special indeed, she leads you one way and then BOOM – chef kiss brilliance!
The Girl Who Kissed The Dead – Our protagonist is a morgues beautician, she creates beauty from the dead, rendering the lifeless as how their loved ones recalled them to be, she takes great delight in her work and a chance encounter creates an opportunity for her to combine work and pleasure.
Sin Deep – This is a body horror story which focuses on sisterhood, both sisters share a rare form of Eczema, their cross to carry as it were. Our protagonists sister seems to have a worse case of this skin condition and is hospitalised because of it. Here we see the aching need to make things better, the desire to hope and prey for healing, for transformation.
Noli Me Tangere – A stunning story of a mother’s love and the deep rooted fierce protection for the life that is growing within her, her desire to protect this life from the beast that fathered it. It’s a story about survival. A story that focuses on domestic abuse, and the need to survive at all costs, this is a truly powerfully rendered by Fahey, this story is also full of prose magic that is just stunning, I found myself re-reading certain passages just to fully digest the brilliance being written.
Reducing – Here we see the power of words and the obsession to change, of not feeling happy in your own skin and how one word, one remark can cut right to your core and change everything. Our protagonist wants to lose weight to please those around her, her husband mainly since his cutting remark… things get out of hand and she begins to lose weight rapidly. This is almost a reimagining of Stephen King’s (Richard Bachman) ‘Thinner’ but the voice of the character and the tone of piece is Tracy Fahey at her finest!
Inside Out – Our protagonist has let herself go, a routine of caring for her elderly mother has meant a gradual decline in herself, her appearance and doing things for her, but when her mother passes, she discovers that she has time to do things for herself, but she continues to be plagued by the bell her mother used to ring. This one has a very Edgar Allan Poe vibe.
Love Like Blood – A hear aching tale of a young woman dealing with diabetes and the constant struggle this places on her life. Then her world is thrown upside down when her mother relinquishes her hold on her daughters life and homeschooling is no more, so she starts school as this strange entity and discovers a world she never knew existed, but sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
The House Under The House – A fabulous little story that has elements of post apocalypse, abduction, abuse – it’s a story that’s hard to pin down to a genre until you get three quarters of the way through and when it drops, it drops with earth shattering brilliance. I really enjoyed this one, the way Fahey’s able to lead the reader like a bull with a ring in its nose and subvert their expectations is a serious talent!
Metamorphosis – A story of a girl desperate to break away from her life, she wants to be older before her time, she wants to be the butterfly not the caterpillar, wrap herself in a cocoon and transform into the thing she wants to be, wrap up all her thoughts and feelings tightly around her, soak them in and emerge new and changed.
The Woman In The Moon – This one takes on a more folklore fable like story about The Woman In The Moon. The story centres on our protagonists struggle to get over the horrible things that happened to her after her mother went away. It’s told deftly (especially the parts that centre around abuse) and the conclusion is utterly powerful!
I Spit Myself Out – Wow, what a bloody story. Fahey saves the best until last with the title story to the collection. Our protagonist has a miscarriage and these scenes, this soul destroying moment is captured masterfully by Fahey’s pen, it destroys the reader, it’s painful to read and even harder to digest the feelings that are rendered to perfection. She’s committed to a facility to help her deal with the pain and the trauma, she finds herself again in the mess and struggle but also she finds what lives deep within her, and she yearns to let it out. The prose in this story is just something else, the pain, suffering, aching despair all masterfully out across.
This collection further cements Tracy Fahey as one of the best indie horror writers in the business, she’s a raging inferno of ideas and her writing just destroys me time and time again.
I Spit Myself Out needs to be on everyone’s reading list, although it deals with many issues around womanhood it never alienates the male reader. These are topics that men should be reading, digesting and exposing themselves to, it’s urgent reading and I couldn’t praise it highly enough!
‘Fahey delivers the most beguiling collection in years – a devastating glimpse into the horrors of the body, mind and soul!’
I Spit Myself Out if published by Sinister Horror Company and is available here.
In 2019, her short story, ‘That Thing I Did’ received an Honourable Mention by Ellen Datlow in her The Best Horror of the Year Volume 11, with five stories on Datlow’s Recommended Reading list for 2019. Her short fiction is published in over thirty American, British, Australian and Irish anthologies. She holds a PhD on the Gothic in visual arts, and her non-fiction writing is published in edited collections and journals. She has been awarded residencies in Ireland and Greece.
Her first novel, The Girl in the Fort, was released in 2017. Her second collection, New Music For Old Rituals was released in 2018 by Black Shuck Books. Her mini-collection, Unheimlich Manoeuvres In The Dark, was published in 2020 by Sinister Horror Company. Her new collection, I Spit Myself Out comes out in February 2021, also from the Sinister Horror Company. Sample her short fiction here or listen to it here.
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