Short Stories 366:302 — “Chasing Lights,” by Naben Ruthnum and Andrew F. Sullivan

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me put qualifiers on my horror reading this month, as I’m not generally the type to wade into dark/disturbing stories, but holy flying crap, this story. “Chasing Lights,” which you can read over on Hazlitt, is hard to put forth in a précis, but here’s my best shot: an anti-paparazzi movement (which seems rather a decent idea, on the face of it) begins with one man’s assault on not the paparazzi, but their cameras. This sparks something, a kind of movement, and it’s not long before two groups are targeting the same ideal, only… well. Things degenerate, as they’re likely to do.

What follows is a really disturbing descent-into-something-worse-and-worse told through one man’s POV, a member of the group (or, well, groups, perhaps) as he explains how the movement began with that single video of the initial attack on the cameras, and then step by step, each not seeming too much further from the last but growing more violent and dangerous as a whole. It’s dark, and grim, and definitely all the moreso for having that consistent vibe of ‘yes, this is wrong, but I understand why’ worming its way under your skin.

Ultimately, the delivered whole lands on a few shudders, and I sort of sat back from reading this one with a sense of disquiet and something akin to worry. It’s one of those stories about violence and death and the progression of both that feels far too easy to believe. Too plausible. And the story does this last little twist of the knife of leaving the reader in this fictional place where it’s not entirely incorrect to feel like the violence and death might have been… worth it? Like I said: shudders. So well played.

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