Modern lives seem littered with expiration dates. Packaging tells us when our food will go bad; when we can expect appliances to cease functioning; when contracts for the internet finish! But as annoying as these small expiration dates are, they fade to nothing compared to the larger events: when a species goes extinct; when a body of water evaporates, or dies because the PH balance alters; when giant icebergs break apart and glaciers melt forever, threatening the ecosystem of this planet.
From the micro to the macro in terms of expirations, we are faced with the one termination with which we are all too familiar— the up-close-and-personal end of life for each of us and for the ones we love. It’s the personal that terrifies us most because it feels the most real.
Nancy Kilpatrick has gathered together twenty-five original stories by Kelley Armstrong; Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood; Steve and Melanie Tem; Lois Gresh; Gar and Judy Reeves-Stevens; Daniel Sernine; Paul Kane; Sephera Giron; Kathryn Ptacek; Steve Vernon and others to look at the what-if’s of our expiring future.
These stories span a range of emotions. Some will make you laugh, other will make you cry. They are grim and hopeful, sad and joyous, horrifying and comforting. You can expect to be touched in some way.
Each of us comes with an alpha and an omega stamp, an inception and an expiration date. Knowing this is what allows us to focus on what is truly important: paying attention to our best-before date and treating ourselves, each other and life in general with kindness, understanding, respect, and experiencing the awe of the miracle that we are, at this very moment, alive!
A horror anthology focusing on endings is almost by definition going to be filled with depressing stories, but these are still well worth reading. The recent death of contributor Melanie Tem adds inadvertent poignancy to "Night Market," her collaboration with Steve Rasnic Tem, which links the compassionate euthanization of animals with a depressed veterinarian's own near-death experiences. Numerous stories have been told from the vampire-hunter's point of view, but Kelley Armstrong presents the vampire's perspective on the hunters in "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word." Ryan McFadden explores crushing survivor guilt in "Death Drives a Cordoba." A deal with the devil in J.M. Frey's "The Twenty-Seven Club" serves as a reminder that one can rarely choose the manner of one's death. Of course, one way to select the way you die is suicide, which Morgan Dambergs's "Sooner" explores. When humor does enter these tales, it is often bleak and dark, as befits the subject matter. These stories work best in small doses, but they offer a variety of compelling visions of deaths and other endings.