Short Stories 366:297 — “No Sleep in Bethlehem,” by Matthew Bright

I’ve kind of hopped around a lot over this year with reviews from Stories to Sing in the Dark, and I’m going to discuss the last story today—the novella length “No Sleep in Bethlehem”—while leaving one more for December, but if nothing else, please by now understand my message throughout the journey in Stories to Sing in the Dark has been this one: go read it.

Okay, that said, “No Sleep in Bethlehem” closes the collection with such a brilliantly queer and dark and knife’s-edge-of-tension mix I cannot even tell you. This story would confidently share space with tales penned by Shirley Jackson, and weaves such a contemporary queer horror into its historically set ghost tale with such a seamlessly, shudder-worthy grace the reveal had me flinching outright.

This is a ghost story, yes, and more: it’s a queer ghost story. It’s also a love story, though the reader spends most of the time wondering if everything will turn out well for anyone involved, while Bright drops breadcrumbs of hope and darkness with equal verve. I normally shy away from tension-filled narratives, but I needed to know how this one would end. More, the characterizations of its narrator—and his sly tendency of regarding his lover through the creation of a new kind of Tarot deck—was so effortlessly charming I cared. It’s a brilliant novella. And it closes a brilliant collection.

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