Gateways to Abomination is a collection of 34 short stories, flash fiction pieces, and vignettes by horror author Matthew M. Bartlett. This book was self-published by the author but has the qualities and appearance of a professionally produced work. The cover art is effective, it’s well-edited and delivers a decidedly original experience to its readers. There’s a reason it’s garnered so much widespread acclaim. All the stories are relatively short which makes it a quick read. Each of these loosely interconnected tales take place in areas of Massachusetts that have had a disturbing history with witch cults. The evocative word choices throughout either hint at, or straight up reveal, that things aren’t as they should be, and that a terrifying darkness is at work. These troubles all stem from the rogue radio station WXXT, whose broadcasts warp both minds as well as the physical reality of those unlucky enough to hear it. Reading Gateways To Abomination from cover to cover creates the surreal atmosphere of being thrust into a world of twisted nightmares.
Most of these 34 stories are pretty short, but they pack a strong, creepy punch to them. Here Bartlett proves he’s capable of bringing supreme chills with a few amount of words. I usually give a synopsis for each story when reviewing a collection or anthology, but the unusual structure of this one makes that difficult to do, so instead I’m just going to do some quick hits on a few of my favorites.
“The Woods in Fall” – A man’s pet cat hits the dial on his radio, tuning it to something which prompts him to leave his house and go into the nearby forest where he witnesses something terrifying and grotesque. This first story gets the collection off to excellent start.
“Path” – Immedately after murdering a woman, a man hears a bizarre radio broadcast that turns on by itself. What follows is a surreal, hellish ride.
“The Ballad of Ben Stockton Verse 1” and “The Ballad of Ben Stockton Verse 2” – Going to an oral surgeon in a shady, remote area of town proves a nightmarish ordeal here.
“WXXT Brief” – A radio newscast reports on a bus driver being fired due to their strange behavior which he blames on his defective radio.
“The House in the Woods” – Passing a narrow Victorian house that has tall trees growing through it in a forest is the precursor to terrible things that occur in town. It seems the radio station WXXT has been broadcasting commands to the dead.
“The Arrival Parts 2 and 1” – Murderous Benjamin Stockton, having been released from years spent in deplorable imprisonment living as a goat, returns to humanity before heading into town where he listens to WXXT.
“The Leech” – A man hears a voice in his cottage which should be otherwise empty. When he goes to investigate, he finds a grotesque figure which asks him a question. This one is supremely bizarre!
“The Sons of Ben 3” – A boy has strange dreams of a man who’s the real father he never met riding in the car with him after he learns from his mother that he isn’t actually adopted, as he thought he was.
“Uncle Red Reads Today’s News” – In 1911, a disturbing baby is born without a mother, a man sprouting poisonous mushrooms all over his body makes a woman ill, and a cat that speaks prophecies is a deadly portent.
“The Investigator” – An FCC agent sent to investigate the rumors of the rogue radio station of WXXT has little luck pinpointing it. He eventually finds himself in a peculiar bookstore where he learns some dark things about Leeds’ history and encounters a horrifying woman in the basement.
“Accident” – A pale, possibly dead girl dances in a restaurant, ignored by her haggard parents just before the power goes out.
“Cat-Tails and Rushes” – A crew is tasked with clearing the debris of a nursery which was consumed by a fire in 1818 Massachusetts. All the girls were saved from the fire but none of the boys. One of the crewmen begins having bizarre nightmares while working there and witnesses a dreadful, burned baby emerging from the ash.
Buy it directly from Matthew here: http://www.matthewmbartlett.com/p/bizarre-radio-broadcasts-luring.html
Article by Matt Cowan