“Are You Trying to Tell Me This is Heaven?” — Sarah Langan

Sarah Langan is a three-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. She is the author of the novels The Keeper and The Missing, and her most recent novel, Audrey’s Door, won the 2009 Stoker for best novel. Her short fiction has appeared in the magazines Cemetery Dance, Phantom, and Chiaroscuro, and in the anthologies Darkness on the Edge and Unspeakable Horror. She is currently working on a post-apocalyptic young adult series called Kids and two adult novels: Empty Houses, which was inspired by The Twilight Zone, and My Father’s Ghost, which was inspired by Hamlet.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Fish and houseguests start to stink after three days.” It can really be a strain, sharing your living space with another person, and so the decision to have a child is one of the biggest gambles a person can take—you’re essentially inviting a complete stranger to come live with you for a few decades and to be a major part of your life until you die. Most of the time it works out pretty well, at least we like to think so, but there are exceptions—children who are desperately unhappy no matter what you try to do for them, who run away, or get mixed up in crime. Parents torment themselves over how they should handle situations like this—Do you draw the line somewhere? Try to enforce strict discipline or maybe ship your child off to a prison-like reform school? Or do you provide unconditional love and support and hope that somehow they find their way in the world? Sometimes nothing you do seems to work.

Our final story tells of a parent who was in just such a predicament, and who is trying to reach his wayward daughter in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. He knows that his daughter is not the child he might have wished for, but he loves her nevertheless and is willing to do anything to protect her. Or at least…almost anything. After all, the world can be a terrifying place, a place full of monsters.