Dust by Jeff Scudder is a short horror story that packs a mighty punch. It begins with fire and ends in quite a surprising twist. As with all short stories – and their poetic counterparts – every single word makes a difference. When writing a short story you have to focus on the tempo, the climax, the denouement, and the oh-so-important finale. A short story is nothing without the above. If one word is out of place… Well, it all falls down like a crying widow at a Sicilian mourning session. That’s why it’s so important to focus on proper grammar, punctuation and story development.
I wish I could give Scudder a full five stars for his brilliant short story, but unfortunately I have to go with my critic-gut and fault him on the numerous mistakes he made. Let’s start, shall we? Firstly, there’s a couple of glaring spelling mistakes like “passed it” instead of “past it”, “abandon” instead of “abandoned”. Secondly, Scudder used the word envision twice in a very short period of time. Whilst this works in longer fiction, it doesn’t in short fiction. Why not try and find a synonym? Repetition is the devil’s playground. And lastly, Scudder overuses his adjectives. This verbosity made the reading a bit cumbersome. If he did away with some of the little darlings, I’m sure the story would have been cleaner.
I can’t fault Scudder on the denouement – it was breathtaking. Nor can I fault him on the social narrative. Unfortunately I can’t give away any details as the short hinges on surprise. All I can say is that the usual horror trope took a magnificent turn and forced me to read the finale several times.
As a critic, I want to feel a book or a story. I want to experience the situations until goosebumps prick my arms and legs. I want my hair to stand on end. Luckily, the finale did this to me. Cold chills ran down my spine and I caught myself feeling nostalgic and sad. This speaks volumes about Scudder’s talent. If the short undergoes a face-lift then yes, I would gladly give it full marks. But the way it stands now… I simply can’t.
RATING: 3.5 / 5