Short Stories 366:295 — “The Blessing Cookies,” by Laurie Stewart

coverThis creeptastic story from Nothing Without Us was whatever you call a “slow-burn” in creepy horror fiction. It starts out with a woman with chronic pain and a strange, not quite explained job to do working in her kitchen to make “the blessing cookies,” and then slowly expands to show you this isn’t just a simple kitchen, or a cute holiday tradition, or a normal town. And it’s really effective at dialling up the shudder-factor a little bit at a time.

I don’t want to ruin the worldbuilding, but I will emphasize just how clever Stewart’s little nuggets of information are dropped. Yes, we’re baking cookies for a festival, one for everyone, that’s sweet and we’re hiding something in one of them, ah, so it’s like the little baby in a King Cake, and… wait. What happens to the person who finds the stone? Oh. Oh, dear.

The added layer on top of this story is the slowly building determination of the main character, who is doubting why they do the things they do, how important they might truly be, and whether or not they have it in them to fight a tradition that’s considered as sacrosanct as it is frightening. This character—who is fighting her own daily battles with pain—coming up against the little final twists Stewart nudges into the tale is what tips things over the edge into horror and a final shudder.

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