It’s no secret that I have a taste for Michelle Kilmer’s work. From her full novel–When The Dead–to her vast collection of anthologies–Darlings of Decay, The Spread, among many more–this girl is absolutely twisted and it never gets old! I recently finished reading her newest work, titled Last Night While You Were Sleeping, and I didn’t know whether to sleep with the lights on or feel sorry for some of Michelle’s “monsters” (though I still slept with the lights for a few nights just in case). At the same time, I couldn’t get over how humorous some of these stories actually are, while others are just plain dark and bizarre. But that’s Michelle Kilmer for you!
But it’s not all about people and their dark human natures. Michelle has included a variety of creatures, scenarios, and worlds. From Heaven to Hell, from Bigfoot to Satan, ghosts, trolls, and yes, even zombies, there’s not a single mythos safe from the strange workings of Michelle’s mind, and that variety is just how I like it. Regardless of the topic, Michelle’s style really speaks to you in a very real way and though it’s sometimes a bit much for the imagination (some of her shorts are truly terrifying in theory), Michelle has no inhibitions with the words and ideas she puts on paper. And Last Night While You Were Sleeping didn’t just include short stories. It also includes letters and poems; one particular collection of haiku’s which was “written” by Satan himself had me almost in tears with laughter (even if I did feel a bit like a bad person for laughing).
hell is getting full
no more room for the wicked
My personal favorite short story in Last Night While You Were Sleeping is the Crypticon 2014 Writing Contest winner ‘Mirielle‘, which she discusses with SFM‘s Ronnie in a Crypticon interview with her and her “good” twin sister Becky Hansen. Without giving too much away (if you haven’t already read it), ‘Mirielle‘ is a story about a group of women from around the globe that are essentially each other’s doppelgangers. They are brought together by this man, whom at the loss of his beloved Mirielle became mad with grief and convinced himself he had found a way to bring her back with the women he had kidnapped. Admittedly, his maniacal experiment does kind of work.
My second favorite short story happens to be the continuation and conclusion of ‘Mirielle‘, titled ‘Steven‘ (the name of the crazed man). I’m not going into any detail about this one because you literally have to read it for yourself to see what an.. interesting.. take on revenge this story is. Needless to say, ‘Steven‘ (and Mirielle if we’re going to be honest here) is one of the more twisted, darker stories. At least it has a happy ending.. sort of.
Of course, there were some stories I didn’t really like. Not because they weren’t good (far from it!), but because it really shows how fucked up humanity can be. Take ‘Negative‘ for instance. This short story starts off unassuming, quaint, even cute. It’s about a girl that finds a negative strip of film in a book at the library, and she starts to imagine under what circumstances the photos were taken. Suddenly, she “remembers” when these photos were taken and “remembers” herself in them. So she seeks out the subject of the photos, convinced that they were childhood friends. It becomes clear pretty quickly after she finds the girl in the photos that this chick ain’t right in the head and things take a turn for the worse when the picture girl makes it obvious she wants nothing to do with her.
Another story that truly creeped me out was ‘Bye Bye Brighten‘. This one is about a little town where one day there was a grave for every single person that lived in the town, and no one knows how these graves got there. Superstitions run high and some people start to leave but when the rest don’t, more strange things begin to happen. There’s a neat twist at the end (the reason why this particular one creeped my out so much) that truly makes you wonder if things like this are actually happening in the real world. And if so, shame on those who do do this, not for the people but for the animals (read it and you’ll totally see what I mean)!
Michelle Kilmer really breaks away from the norm that is horror, and has the amazing ability to make even the simplest, most unassuming things hair-rising and eerie. She does not limit herself with one single topic, and she seems to have no fear of where her mind wanders. It almost takes you back to the days of Stephen King–not that her writing style is anything like his–when his ideas were still fresh and he was still good (no offense).
The best part about Michelle’s work, namely Last Night While You Were Sleeping, is that while her work stays true to the topic she has chosen, whether it be a zombie infection spreading, or happenings while her characters are sleeping (which was the topic of LNWYWS), there is never a dull moment. Sure she takes her time to build on the emotion she’s trying to create, but you never want to skip ahead to the good parts because even the build-up all good. Even the dialogue draws you in with its simplicity and its realness, regardless of whom (or what) is speaking. There is never a wasted moment in Michelle’s work because she works up the anticipation and especially the climax with some serious flair. Girl knows how to write.
All in all, Last Night While You Were Sleeping is a definite must-read that also features incredible illustrations by artists including James Lacroix, Nick Gucker, Kriscinda Lee Everitt, and many more (one delightfully macabre illustration for each short). Of course, if horror isn’t really your thing.. I would still say it’s totally worth picking up and reading during daylight in a crowded area (just so you don’t freak yourself out). Hell, even if horror IS your thing I’d still recommend not reading Last Night While You Were Sleeping alone in the dark. I cannot stress this enough: it’s THAT good.