Published by This Is Horror
Keeping up to par with the high-quality offerings already dished up by their current line of chapbooks, small British publisher This Is Horror deliver another slice of unsettling bite-sized horror with The Fox by Conrad Williams.
Seeking some time away from the hustle and bustle of the working world, the unnamed narrator of The Fox takes his wife, Kit, and their two children Megan and Lucy off for a holiday excursion. Forced to wait until later in the year due to demands at his job in the publishing world, our protagonist and his family find themselves enjoying some family time in a large upmarket tent amidst tracks of farmland and, unfortunately, some bitterly cold and snowy weather.
As the story opens, Kit and the girls discover a nearby chicken coop housing the aftermath of what appears to be a fox attack. Later, an encounter with the carcass of a dead fox sporting some specific wounds triggers regrettable memories of an event in the narrator’s past. Shortly after, he finds himself drawn into the snow by the bleating sound of what appears to be a distressed sheep — but surely not, as they hadn’t encountered any on the land during their stay so far.
To say any more is to spoil Williams’ little morsel of fear — remember, this is after all a short chapbook –but it should suffice to know that the pervasive eerie atmosphere generated here is creeping and drip-fed, giving way to an ultimate sense of otherworldly doom. While the finale may veer far enough into the suggestive that it misses delivering a full-on gut punch, getting there is a suitably unnerving experience. With The Fox, Williams delivers a tale almost as chilling as the snow-laden environs in which it unfolds. A definite recommendation for fans of effective short fiction.
3 1/2 out of 5