And the Night Growled Back by Aaron Dries

And the Night Growled Back by Aaron Dries
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (68 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

They shouldn’t have run.

There are three of them, Sam, Lila and Paul—young travellers with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and yet, everything to lose. Their visit to Iceland has invigorated their senses…until the carnival. There, a single punch is thrown. A man lies dead on the ground. Blood speckles Sam’s bruised knuckles. In a blind panic, they flee the scene and disappear down an unpaved road, winding through the barren landscape. Soon they find an empty cabin, the perfect place to hide until they figure out what to do. Dead is dead; wrong is wrong—this cruel truth is etched into their minds as though carved with a rusted blade.

Twilight turns to night. All is still. It is then that the travellers realize they are not alone. Something is lurking out there. In the dark. They can hear its growls. And to the creature, the guilty and the innocent taste exactly the same.

Fear is a drug, and like all drugs sometimes it has side effects.

No sooner do weird things begin happening around Lila than she is sure she’s figured out who or what is causing them. Her rationale for the theory she comes up with is as puzzling as it is horrifying, and I found myself searching for more clues in the text that would support her hunch even as I privately wondered if there was a better explanation waiting for me at the climax.

Uneven pacing contributed to the 3.5 star rating. I plunged into heart-stopping action in the beginning only to see the plot stumble into a much slower pace about halfway through. The final scene was terrifying, but the action leading up to it happened so rapidly that I had trouble understanding what was happening for a moment. Experiencing certain flashbacks earlier on in the piece would have helped me maintain the tension that builds up so steadily in the beginning.

What keeps my skin crawling when I think about this tale, though, is the electrifying way in which Mr. Dries describes the dark, quiet, rural setting. Iceland is as much of a character in this piece as are the living, breathing people . The land and sky are silent witnesses to the horrors that take place, and their unnerving observance makes the plot much more frightening than it might have been otherwise.

And the Night Growled Back is full of classic horror tropes that sometimes showed up in unexpected places. I’d recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a fast-paced storyline and graphic violence.

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