Short Stories 366:275 — “Evil Eye,” by Madhuri Shekar

coverOkay, it’s October. I’m going to try to bend my discussions for the month in the direction of the freaky or the disturbing (or, sometimes, but likely rarely since I don’t often go there, to outright horror).

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t often go the route of the horrific or the disturbing in fiction because—I’m totally secure enough to admit this—it tends to get into my head and then I don’t sleep. So if I do allow myself access to horror, it’s during the brightest parts of the morning, or likely not at all, so it has time to slip from my head before bedtime.

That was the case with “Evil Eye.” Available from Audible as an exclusive last year, “Evil Eye” was fully performed with five voice actors and told entirely in phone calls, answering machine messages, and the like—a modern day epistolary format.

It was really good, and because I didn’t want to stop listening the dog got an hour and a half walk so I could have the whole novella in one go. The short version of the set-up is this: a daughter who is absolutely done with her mother trying to match-make from Delhi finally sets up a firm boundary after one last set-up goes wrong.

But at that set-up? She meets someone. When she finally tells her mother, her mother is at first quite happy the man in question is also Indian, but the more the mother learns, the more she starts to worry. Because something feels not just off about this man, but evil in a way that’s far too familiar.

“Evil Eye” is a perfect example of why “X is so done” discussions about any genre convention (in this case the ghosts of the past coming around full circle) is so untrue—the take on this story being from Indian characters with Indian cultural touch points made the story absolutely fresh. So often you hear the “I’m so tired of X” discussions and the only people who’ve had a turn at the plate of whatever X is are the cisgender white nonqueer Western/Christian characters, and… no.

Also, since this was an audiobook, I should point out how the the voice acting was really, really solid and especially the actor who had to use his voice to give the slow revelation of creepy-factor through tone alone? Really nicely done.

If you’re wanting a creepy tale with a fresh angle? Nab this.

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