Life can be cruel and unforgiving as darkness reigns in the souls of many people. Whether it is someone consumed by darkness or one trying to fight against it, this inner darkness is all too real and all the more terrifying because of its reality. It is not a common topic for authors to consider writing about for it can be difficult to allow one’s mind to reach a place where only demons dwell, but it is a genre of stories that must be told and learned from. Author A.L. Mabry has made an impact in the dark fiction genre with her recent collection of short stories, Darker Daze: The Storms Within.
The ten stories found within Mabry’s collection are most certainly not for the faint of heart for these tales do not end happily nor are they the good feel stories of the year. There are multiple warnings before readers even reach the first tale that if they cannot handle stories involving abuse, suicide, killing, and other dark elements to consider their own thoughts and emotions before continuing to read. Grim, morbid, yet painfully true, Mabry is a brave soul for telling these tales for it could not have been easy to write them. “Within these pages you will discover the secrets of those who could not fight the darkness. A reflection of blood-spilled secrets that fester. Jealousy, morose, and passionate rage paint each page in shades of despair. Do not shrink away, the demons are not yours… or are they?” (Loc 119-125).
Mabry’s writing style is unlike any readers have come across in some time. Her stories are short, her sentences shorter, and very little detail is given. Readers will not receive in-depth descriptions of how the characters appear or the minute details of their surroundings. However, this quick storytelling paired with the unpredictability of each story gives more of a shock effect, making readers feel tension and adding more suspense and disturbance to the reading experience. She focuses on the point of view of both the victim and the harasser. She focuses on characters young and old, male and female. She writes stories that could never happen and will only ever stay as fiction and others that are all too true and have most likely happened in reality, for the author mentions in her introduction that she had to reach into her own “personal vault” to draw out some emotions for her stories.
As for the content of this collection, each story covers different dark aspects of life. The idea of losing all loved ones and being left alone in the world is expressed in “Bonita” and “The Final View.” A religious concept of unknowingly damning oneself can be found in “Belladonna.” “Rooftops & Teardrops” and “More Than Stolen Hearts” tell of the act of opening one’s heart to another with the unsureness if that heart will be given love in return or will be broken. Witchcraft can be found in “The Next Best Seller” and “Beneath Salem,” yet even with the fantasy feel, both stories house all too real darker emotions. The other stories, as horrifying as it is to imagine, have the potential of having happened or could happen in real life.
Yes, these are dark tales; however, in the midst of this darkness, there is a hidden hopeful light. Readers may not see it right away, but once they find it, it can spark motivation. These stories are about those who did not have the strength to fight back. Whether it was against inner demons or outer dark forces, each character had a chance to fight… and chose not to. So how can one find motivation from this? Because the darkness does not always have to win. Once read, these stories can make readers think and question: If I were in this situation, how could I get out of it? The answer may not always be clear and fighting sure isn’t easy, but the will power within one’s soul is just as real as the darkness and anyone possesses that power to fight back.
Darker Daze: The Storms Within is a collection of stories not easily forgotten. They are morbid, yet truthful tales. Stories about the darkness found within every human soul and whether or not one allows that darkness to take over or chooses to fight against it. They are stories that are difficult to read and readers are given ample warning before they begin to stop reading if they must. But once one has read through the collection, one can possibly find motivation. Many people, real people, have fought true darkness and survived and many more still can… and will. With this collection only being volume one, what do future collections from Mabry have in store for readers? More darkness? Or will more hope shine through?