There’s a moment in the story “Cabin 14” when an unlucky glamper comes face-to-face with a hungry saber-toothed tiger. What the hell, he thinks. Was it possible that someone was breeding prehistoric beasts in the Minnesota wilderness? And more importantly: Why?? Why would anyone want to do such a crazy thing?
Author Lucas Pederson doesn’t answer that particular question. Nor should he. All the creatures in this nine-story volume exist within acceptable (albeit extreme) boundaries. A saber-toothed cat is just one of the aberrations found in this “Nature’s Revenge” anthology.
There are also bears, insects, fish, kangaroo and komodo dragons to worry about. There’s even a story about an Australian yowie. Each permutation is horrifying in its own way, yet is bound inextricably by the laws of nature. A wasp with a wingspan of 10 feet isn’t a monster, per se. It’s just a big fucking wasp.
In “Surrogate,” the aforementioned giant wasp attacks a couple of weekend hikers from Melbourne. “It’s legs were large bending needles, like a demonic sewing machine,” writes B.D. Ramsay, “And its eyes were great, soulless portals to hell.” But that wasn’t the scariest part of the story. The real horror emerged seven days later. “I’ve become a slave, a zombie in nature’s plan,” cries the unfortunate victim.
Likewise, a trio of old friends gathers for a weekend fishing trip in “Black Eyes, Dark Water” by Dave Jeffery. The male bonding is interrupted during the group’s first outing by a nasty Northern Pike. “A big fucker,” says one of the fishermen. “At least a seven-footer.”
But, again, the “Piscean stalker” couldn’t be faulted for being an apex predator. The friends knew immediately they were being hunted by an incredible aquatic, omnipotent killing machine. They were doomed.
Aberrations ends with a happily-ever-after finale (“Haunted” by editor Chris McInally). Before the final windup, however, readers are introduced to Yowa from Mallacoota, Victoria (“Refugee” by Paul Mannering).
Yowa was “really, really weird looking,” quirky as hell and possibly not even human. In a surprising twist, she turns out to be a guardian angel-like figure straight from Australia’s bush.
The 20-page story quickly escalates from funny to odd to creepy, and contains an obligatory amount of bloodshed. It’s also a blunt comment on identity and the sanctity of indigenous culture. It’s a reminder to all of us that truth lives in nature.
[Aberrations: A Creature Feature Anthology / Edited by Chris McInally & Dane Hatchell / First Printing: August 2020 / ISBN: 9798671775839]