The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca is a collection of eight tales that will unsettle you deeply as you ingest the story as quickly as you can to see what happens next within each tale.
Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating in any way.
Let’s dive in!
My Thoughts on The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca
These tales center around what it means to be human and the fears that come along with it. In just eight tales, we see dark fears such as the loss of a parent, intrusive thoughts, giving your all to someone that doesn’t feel the same, and so much more!
Buckle up before diving into this one, and enjoy!
Per usual, here are my thoughts about each tale included in the collection:
You Follow Wherever They Go – Five Stars
CW: Loss of a parent due to illness
With major My Chemical Romance Black Parade vibes, this tale is about a thirteen year old that is preparing to go out into the world on her own as her father moves on to his next adventure. Heartbreaking and anxiety-filled, this tale is sure to hit you with a slew of emotions.
Bodies Are for Burning – Five Stars
CW: Child endangerment
A woman named Hailey who is struggling with grief has another affliction; she imagines bodies being burned and actually enjoyed watching her wife be cremated. Her therapist assures her that she has nothing to worry about with these thoughts as there is a difference between thought and action. But when Hailey’s sister asks her to watch her niece, Grace, who is just a small child, she isn’t so sure it’s just intrusive thoughts that she needs to be worried about.
A major lesson from this one, when someone says it’s not a good idea for them to watch your kid… listen to them. This one gave me stomach cramps while reading.
The Strange Thing We Become – Four Stars
CW: Cancer, cheating
When a woman is forced to watch the one she loves whither away due to an advanced cancer diagnosis, we visit her inner thoughts as read through an online forum.
At each turn of this narrative, your heart will shatter for this poor woman who only ever wanted the best for her wife.
The Trees Grew Because I Bled There – Four Stars
CW: Body horror
Being together for almost three years has taken this couple on quite the journey. Now, one is giving anything to the other if he asks, but this relationship doesn’t go both ways; one always gives and one only takes… until one day the giver decides it is time to take.
Is there anything more earth shattering than realizing the one you would do anything for is ready to write you off completely? This one is body horror at its finest. I was so uncomfortable reading this one! The ending was perfect!
You’re Not Supposed to Be Here – Five Stars
CW: Child endangerment, body horror, cheating
In this tale, a gay couple is forced to play a game with a couple that approached them one day in the park… and what a doozy of a game it was! The stakes are very high and it’s not just their fingers that are at risk, it’s their six month old son.
This tale first appeared in an earlier copy of two tales that was titled, A Bright Enchanted Suffering, before it was pulled in order to add more stories that became this collection. It was just as nerve-wracking to read the second time around! This is one of those stories that really makes you question what you would do if you were in the same situation…
Where Flames Burned Emerald as Grass – Five Stars
While a man and his daughter are on vacation, the man is approached by stranger who appears to know many private things about him. The man says he can predict when things will happen and offers up a way to avoid death. The father isn’t convinced and wants to protect his daughter, but will he be able to, or are the gears already in motion?
This tale was the second story that appeared in an earlier copy of A Bright Enchanted Suffering. My second read through was even more stressful than the first! Knowing what was going to happen ramped up the anxiety as I watched it all play out and saw some of the foreshadowing I had missed before.
I’ll Be Gone by Then – Four Stars
When her elderly mother is sent over from Italy, the main character of this story is conflicted; part of her knows this is her responsibility, but she also doesn’t feel like she should be burdened with this as they don’t have much of a relationship. She’s also very overwhelmed with how much she will need to do for her mother. Her mind begins to wander toward ways to get rid of her…
PHEW. Getting old and having no one to care for me is one of my biggest fears so my heart hurt for this mother. But at the same time, I could easily understand the main characters struggle with how wonderfully Eric got us into her head. And that ending…
Please Leave or I’m Going to Hurt You – Four Stars
A middle-aged son with complicated feelings about his father are on a hike to visit the plot in which the father wishes to be buried. On the hike, the son battles with telling his father how he feels. But if he does, how will his father react?
This one made me so uncomfortable. What a tale to end this collection on!
My Favorite Passages from The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales by Eric LaRocca
As I return to the house, I notice the thoughts—once shrieking like howler monkeys—have now been dimmed to mere whispers.
Because no matter how perfect we are when we’re born, in this world we can’t stay clean forever.
We’ve invented euphemisms to dull the way an affliction sounds, but not necessarily how it feels. I think that’s the most dangerous part about being human—conceiving nice ways of saying something truly terrible.
Each thing we love takes a little piece of us whether we give it willingly or not. By the time we find the person we were meant to be with, we’re a honeycombed shell of what we once were. Each person we love turns us into the strange thing we become.
My husband had always said that if I were a flower, my stem would bend even if there wasn’t any wind.
I suddenly feel a small pinch on one of my fingers. I look down and I’m greeted by a mosquito perched on my hand, its mouth buried against my skin as it drains me of my blood. I swat at the tiny, winged vampire and it leaps from my hand, circling my head before finally abandoning me.
The world around me seems to quiver as if everything were constructed of gelatin, all sounds blurring together until it’s a deafening drone that only a hive of bees could compare. I’m yanked to the ground, mouth open as if a fishing hook were caught in my jaw.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” Vince quietly says to them as if it were a warning, a final admonition, like the sky turning as green as seawater before a summer storm.
It isn’t delicately planted somewhere, like a beloved perennial to flower more amply each year until I realize the inevitable. No, instead it comes barreling into my thoughts like a home intruder; a masked assailant spraying the place with anthrax and laying carnage as I suddenly recognize the unavoidable: my mother is an affliction I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
My Final Thoughts on The Strange Thing We Become and Other Dark Tales
Eric has such an amazing writing style. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it every time I talk about his work; he blends gut-punch horror with absolutely beautiful descriptions that will leave you wanting more. He adds beauty in even the darkest moments.
If you enjoy unsettling and real-world horror, you need to pick this one up.
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Thanks for reading!
And thank you again to Eric for sending me a free ebook to dive into before the official launch. I cannot wait to buy a physical copy of this one!