Short Stories 366:284 — “Lost Hearts,” in the style of M.R. James

coverIn what I can only call an amusing “gotcha” from last week’s “Casting the Runes” from the same audio performances, The Conception of Terror, “Lost Hearts” was a complete reversal of everything I described about loving in the previous story in the collection. That isn’t to say it’s not a solid, well-performed, dark and creepy story of horror—it absolutely is, complete with the usual hopelessness, no-way-out, and evil-wins that generally leaves me so frustrated as a reader.

“Lost Hearts” brings us Stephanie, a foster kid who’s taken off from more than one foster home in the past, who is more-or-less on a last-chance with her next placement before she’s just put into non-family care. She arrives at Aswarby House, a shiny, pristine tower, and is stunned at how beautiful the place is. The whole place is atypical: beautiful, full of middle-aged people, and run like a co-op. There’s only one other kid there, Ben, who is about her age and the foster kid of the man who lives on the Penthouse floor. They bond in an adorkable way, and then, of course, the horrors begin.

It’s only because of “Casting the Runes” that I held out hope to the end of this story, but “Lost Hearts” has a far more typical horror ending. Stephanie begins isolated, catches a glimmer of friendship and connection with Ben, Ben goes missing, and it’s a pretty fast ride back to hopelessness from that point onward. It’s well written, and well performed (the dramatization did a great job of the ghostly whispers Stephanie hears, for example) and it’s only ten days into October and I’d already like to go back to my happy-ever-afters, please. This one is definitely not a tale for those who like their creep factor to include a note of triumph.

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