I’d seen his name on bookstore shelves for years. Dozens of titles with covers that resemble fleeting images from dissolving bad dreams. A few years ago I found a book called “The Burning” and frankly I’ve been a little timid about reading more of Bentley Little’s work. Yes. It was that frightening. For me, that is a task extremely difficult to achieve. Summoning my intestinal fortitude, I decided to try a little of Little again and see what sharpened teeth he revealed in his gaping maw hunting through the shadows close on my heels.
“The Collection” is a rather obviously titled gathering of thirty two short stories. Bentley Little’s tales residing on these pages however, are anything but. “The Washingtonians” dips a brush in gore to repaint a version of American history where our nations father crawled from depths far deeper than battlefields of the Revolution. Equally lusting for blood and freedom.
I will Skin your Children and Eat Them.
Upon Finishing, I will Fashion Utensils of Their Bones.
“It's authentic,” Davis admitted. “It was written by George Washington.”
-from “The Washingtonians” by Bentley Little
Good old papa George Washington. The legend of the Cherry Tree. “I cannot tell a lie.” Little finds a way beyond the dentures to see what that mouth might have decided to feast on. What if those false teeth weren’t made of wood, but of bone? What if he craved the meatier portions of his constituents more than their flocks of cattle and sheep? What if that secret were discovered and his descendants continued his vile traditions and would go to any length to make certain the secret were never revealed?
(Funny enough, I was informed recently that my cousin is a direct descendant of George Washington. Let’s just say when he was at our house last weekend, I kept a closer watch on my kids and made sure not to walk too closely to him.)
Another nightmarish re-visioned history is revealed in the story“Colony”. Did we win the war? Does everything the history books teach us the truth or is it wool slipped over our collective eyes to make a more pliant, controllable servitude? Are the United States really free from British rule? It’s such a fantastic concept I longed for the tale to continue beyond the confines of a short story.
“But independence is the bedrock of our national character. We pride ourselves on not only our national independence but our personal freedom. Our individuality is what makes us American.”
“And we encourage that. It is why America is our most productive colony.”
-from “Colony” by Bentley Little.
Maybe that’s why we’re so interested in Will and Kate. I don’t think I’ll ever view Queen Elizabeth in quite the same light again. As an Anglophile very interested in the rich history of our cousins across the pond, this story rattles nearly every perception I’ve created in my mind of the small, mystic island that somehow managed to rule over the entire world for so many years. If history truly is written by the victor, whose to say they haven’t tweaked the facts just enough to manipulate everyone into believing what they want us to believe?
“I have not uttered a single intelligible word since 1960…I guess I’ve been afraid.”
-from “Estoppel” by Bentley Little
If my words had the power this gentleman’s contained, I don’t believe I would speak either. With power to alter the course of the universe simply be speaking, other characters in Estoppel happen to be very lucky that the main character has a heavy conscience. Making some very poor choices while discovering is ability, he comes to the conclusion quickly that in order to protect himself and the world around his he must take drastic measures. Definitely brings cause for much philosophical self-introspection. Made me think more tan twice about what I would do were I faced with a similar discovery about my own vocalizations.
The Collection contains many chill inspiring stories of incomprehensible evils and skewed views of our society that brought me new perspectives on how I see the world. I hold a special place for this book on my shelves where I know I will revisit the pages often. It is a terrific introduction to Bentley Little’s work. I greatly look forward to finding what new terrors waiting to leap from the ink drawing the stories of his many other books. If you enjoy your horror mixed with dashes of the political and philosophical, this is a wonderful anthology to begin with.