‘Puppies for Sale’ by Mark Morris

It was Beth who saw the sign.
‘Can we have on, Daddy? Can we? Please! You said we could.’
I glanced at Carol. She had her superior face on – lips pursed, eyebrows raised slightly. ‘Don’t expect any support from me,’ she said. ‘You dug the hole, you climb out of it.’ 

What unites all Mark Morris’s work – be it novels like The Immaculate, novellas like It Sustains, his fantasy books like the Obsidian Heart trilogy, or award-winning audio dramas like Blood on Satan’s Claw – is that all are outstanding examples of their craft, executed with quiet but confident grace. This, however, belies the uniqueness of the author’s approach to the macabre and what puts him, for me, in the upper echelons of today’s practitioners in the field. More than merely prodding your scare buttons, Morris illuminates. However dark we sink, the heart of a human being beats. ‘Puppies for Sale’ is quite simply one of the best horror stories I have ever read, centring as it does on a parent’s fear for his children’s health and wellbeing. Nothing could be more chilling – or horridly convincing – than the slow-drip way that the youngsters in the story are affected by a strange force of malignancy. In the end, as a universal truth, it reminds us vividly that, when all is said and done, we just want our children to be well, and safe. 

First published in British Invasion ed. Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon & James A. Moore; collected in Wrapped in Skin 2016, Chizine Publications, 2016

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