Zakk reviews “Skulls” by Tim Marquitz. 116 pages published by Tim Marquitz.
“Jacob stared into the face of death. Through a hundred eyes, death stared back.
His heart thundered in his chest. He stood rigid as he faced the array of polished white skulls laid out before him. Shallow niches carved into the earthen walls cradled the skulls. Each was angled so their blackened sockets cast their sight upon the narrow entryway to the bunker.”
Life held little interest for Jacob…until he found death.
Abused and neglected Jacob’s only solace comes when he is alone in the woods or in the arms of his new girlfriend. But when he stumbles across a hidden bunker filled with human skulls he learns what true suffering is. Drawn to examine the skulls he finds there is more than just empty blackness behind their lifeless stares. Through their eyes he watches them die.
With every glance he witnesses another murder, the memories of the dead playing out inside his mind until reality becomes a blur. A primal cruelty awakening Jacob returns to the morbid comfort of the skulls, over and over again. But when he happens upon a fresh skull, a victim tortured and slain for his amusement alone, he knows his time has come. Face to face with death Jacob must choose whether to resist the darkness that dwells inside or condemn himself forever, murdering his innocence on the edge of an axe.
“Images of the bunker crept unbidden to his mind. His fingers began to tingle as though he were touching the skull again. He rubbed his hand to get rid of the feeling. The black sockets peered out at him through his imagination, glimmers of lives past buried deep inside. He couldn’t help but think somewhere within the skulls were the spirits of the people they’d once been, hidden from the world and yearning to be remembered.”
Tell me what is creepier than stumbling upon a hand-dug bunker full of skulls? Nothing that I can think of right at the moment. And not just skulls laying around haphazard, skulls that are cleaned, polished and place systematically in carved alcoves. A collection, a personal catacomb. That’s nightmare material right there, and that is this novella kicks off. Placing this unsettling image into your cerebrum, staking its claim on your nerves. And THEN, it starts to slowly apply pressure.
I had a great time reading this piece from Tim Marquitz, a rare horror entry from a writer more commonly found in the realm dark and urban fantasy. He has no problem bringing the discomfort here. From the skulls them selves, to the chilling visions Jacob experiences and subsequent shroud of obsession that descends over him, it’s all delivered with a healthy dose of tension.
The relationship between Jacob, his father and step-mother felt realistic and honest, with Jacob as more of an indentured servant than son. If adds dimension to the character, a good kid shoehorned by his parents social status. Strengthened by genuine interaction his his group of friends. These characters come off the page like real people, saying things real people say, reacting in a realistic manner. It makes the book easy to fall into and tough to expel from your brainpan when the curtain falls.
Skulls is a satisfying read to the end and I have no problem in recommending it to others.
“There were greater prizes than flesh.”
Overall score: 4.5/ 5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
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