‘Spectrum: An Autistic Horror Anthology’ Exclusive: A Monstrous Migraine


The world of horror literature is an incredibly exciting one right now, especially as more marginalized voices are offered a seat at the proverbial table, thanks to indie presses. Third Estate Books is continuing that trend with their upcoming anthology Spectrum: An Autistic Horror Anthology. Featuring 20 stories by neurodivergent authors, this collection spotlights the complexity of neurodivergence as well as some damn scary monsters.

In Spectrum,

Deep in the recesses of our minds are twisted realities that so closely mirror our own. In these pages, our nightmares are laid bare, made to manifest. There is no waking up; there is no going back once you fall into the tapestry of terrors that await. Are you ready? From courteous neighbors gone awry to the burning brightness of everlasting daylight comes Spectrum: An Autistic Horror Anthology reflective of the vast array of neurodivergent artists in our community.

Authors Aquino Loayza (Deep), Lor Gislason (Inside Out), and Freydis Moon (NYT Best Romance Book of 2023 Heart, Haunt, Havoc) edited this 20-story collection.

We have an excerpt from the collection titled “But the Wifi Is Great” by John Wiswell, a story about a woman, a motel, and one monstrous migraine.

It was not the first time Char was accused of this.

Oh, Jean Paul acted like he wasn’t implying anything. For months he claimed to understand asexuality, and understand that sexuality and romance weren’t necessarily linked, and that he wasn’t really interested in physical relationships either. Those words lasted until they moved in together. Then the idle touches started. When they spooned during movie time, his hands rested in new places. When she set boundaries, there came the negging and the puerile questions.

“What am I doing wrong?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Aren’t you even a little curious how it would feel?” 

He was not the first. This was Char’s third relationship where her partner turned her asexuality from her orientation into her diagnosis. If she stayed in the apartment another week, she would break his tablet over his head.

Thank God for Raleigh. Raleigh managed a private motel in Little Tunguska, and had begged her to visit for months. When she texted that she needed a place to clear her head, his response was a gif of cartoon pearly gates flying open.

Little Tunguska was a speck of a town. It was a sun-bleached gas station, a church that was gradually sinking into the earth, and a mostly vacant strip mall that hosted only something called “Anya’s Foot Readings.” The most interesting sight was a pond at the bottom of a deep depression, jagged and dramatic. The land was creased and folded for yards around it, like wrinkles in the corner of a wincing eye. Char wondered what had happened to make such an impression on the earth. Tiny toads chirped along the pond’s otherwise barren banks.

One left turn after the crater pond, she reached the Little Tunguska Motel. Lemonade yellow paint flecked from wooden walls, and old rainwater puddled in the retractable canvas awnings. The parking lot was a bunch of bald patches tires carved through its gravel. She’d have to trust Raleigh that there weren’t any bed bugs. If her dad was still alive, he would’ve freaked that she’d stay here.

Raleigh greeted her in the parking lot, where his dinged-up Elantra was the only other car. He wore a garden hose green bolo tie over a white button down shirt with long sleeves – all in the heat of May. He made Char feel underdressed in her Pride tee.

She said, “Thank you so much for having me. Are you sure you don’t want me to pay?”

“Please.” He swatted playfully at her forearm. “This time of year the only costumers I get are the occasional pair of teens looking to spend the night out of earshot of their parents. You’re going to save my sanity.”

“Sanity’s nice if you can get it,” she said, eying the grime and crooked blinds on the windows. The place had fifteen rooms, all in a straight row. The numbers skipped from Room 12 to Room 14. That was so Raleigh’s sense of humor.

Looking at the yellow doors gave her head a faint and fuzzy feeling. It was the sensation of her mouth in the morning if she didn’t brush her teeth the night before, except the sensation climbed into her eyes.

She tried blinking it away. She was probably dehydrated from the drive.

Raleigh said, “You wouldn’t guess it, but we’ve got ridiculous wifi. Whatever you’ve got? 4K? 8K? We can stream several thousand of the alphabet of your choice. And it’s free.”


“It’s a town initiative. They want to get more people out here.”

“Good, because I’ve got work I need to catch up on. Got to redesign a website by tomorrow.”

“Then let’s get you checked in.”

Char smirked. “Can I get lucky Room 14?”

Raleigh cackled and fetched her the key.

As she dragged her bag over the threshold of the room, she felt the first slender pain in her temples, like a knife asking to get intimate with her thoughts. That was the start of it.


She visited the soda machine for some caffeine to kill this headache. 

“Nip it in the bud, Charlotte,” Dad had said. When Char had been in elementary school, Dad had gotten migraines so fierce that he’d had to shelter with the curtains drawn. “Black coffee is the crucifix to a migraine’s vampire.”

Sipping on zero-calorie sugar water, Char sat on her bed and opened her laptop. The mattress was barely thicker than double-ply toilet paper, but the room didn’t have a desk or a workstation. This was a motel, not a five-star hotel.

She commented to herself, “That wifi, tho.”

Her laptop synced right up at startling speed. Messages popped up everywhere. Jean Paul had emailed her, and WhatsApped her, and DM’d her on Twitter. He’d left five DMs since her last reply. The latest DM asked why she’d canceled “our” Netflix account. He didn’t mention that he’d never pitched in for it, and that he’d insisted she upgrade to the multi-user account so he could have his own profile and watch list. He went on at length about how it was “reasonable” that he might need to watch his shows right now.

She closed Twitter.

One of her clients was a start-up looking to “disrupt” journalism that had come to her with a front page looking too much like the Washington Post to survive a lawsuit. Now they wanted to look like Reddit. It was a hilarious curveball, and she dove into potential designs. She could at least get them three drafts that wouldn’t look like rip-offs.

Well, normally she could have done that. Somewhere during the second design, her eyes watered so badly the screen became an oily blur. Her forehead felt trapped in the grip of large hands, digging its thumbs into her temples. She tried rubbing the soreness away with the heels of her palms and it only made her head throb worse.

It was in her vision, too. Sun bursts snap-crackle-popped along the off-white stucco walls. Closing her eyes assuaged little. The sun bursts kept exploding against the dark backdrop of her eyelids for what felt like minutes.

When she opened her eyes again, streaks of violet and lime and raspberry splashed across the room. The walls, the dresser, and the carpet were all painted by the same visual hallucinations. For every streak, another searing fissure seemed open up along her skull. Was this what Dad had seen when he’d hid in his room with migraines? 

Looking out her window was a mistake that left her whimpering. The sun bursts and colorful streaks intensified in the daylight. As much as they stung, they mesmerized her. There was a patch in the motel’s backyard where every sun burst darkened, as though revealing the outlines of something healthy eyes couldn’t see. The shape beneath those colors was puffy and wrinkled, like a cloud. She tried to make out more detail in the impossible aura tinged fog, and the cloud moved, as though to face her.

Then she threw up in the wastebasket. 

She hid in the dark of the bathroom for the next hour with a damp towel over her eyes.

Pre-order Spectrum on Third Estate Books now.



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