Here are the “edgiest”:
“Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds” by Dan Simmons. An aerospace engineer, long fascinated by aerial disasters, is a passenger on a plane. Anxious, edgy, his imagination is fired by a fall he suffered as a young child. What goes through a person’s mind in a freefall state – especially those who know they are going to die? The story title describes the length of time it would take to fall from 46,000 feet before a person would hit water or land. What do those people think about during that time? And how, as an engineer, can he record those moments of “frightened” sanity, despite the science that backs any calculations of safety?
“The Juniper Tree” by Peter Straub. Sordid memories of the past weigh heavily on the story’s narrator, who matures into a successful writer despite a cruel father and an absent mother. He relies on his only love – film and the theater – both of which hold the scenes of not only the bad memories but also good ones.
“The Phone Woman” by Joe R. Lansdale. Some “writer fellah” somewhere Down South tries to help a woman who needs to make a call to her mother – and promptly turns the whole affair into an emergency medical scene. This isn’t anything new, apparently, after the writer does a little investigation into this woman from who-knows-where on his own. The writer is at first tormented by, then attracted to the woman’s actions. He realizes how primal – or how essential – her behaviors are.
“Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite. This tale pits zombies in a place where the living and the dead bear a strangely cooperative existence.
“The DogPark” by Dennis Etchison. The suburbs of Los Angeles (actually Beverly Hills) are the setting for a tale of a park where dog-walkers go – but the dangers of mountain lions and coyotes are just as prevalent.
“RainFalls” by Michael Marshall Smith. A man who enters a London bar gives us a visceral understanding of bad decisions and random violence, and how SOME violence is not so random.
“Dancing Men” by Glen Hirshberg. A golem from the Chelmno Concentration Camp of World War II takes over the near-dead body of Mr. Gadeuszki’s Native American grandfather, reminding him of the dead, or near dead, that can’t be forgotten, including one that may have escaped the camp . . . or not.
“My Father’s Mask” by Joe Hill. At the end of the journey to BigCat Lake, one boy is mesmerized by the sight of many masks in the lake house and the strange behaviors of his parents. What is a game and what is reality? Could the reality be more dangerous than the consequences of any card game?
There are other stories as well, but these are the really memorable ones from DARKNESS.