Short Take: “Hannah-Beast,” Jennifer McMahon

Pros: Enthralling
Rating: 5 out of 5

Jennifer McMahon’s novella Hannah-Beast (Dark Corners collection) tells a short, but engrossing, Halloween story. Amanda won’t let her daughter Erin go out trick-or-treating dressed as “Hannah-Beast,” the local scary legend. Decades earlier Amanda and her friends took not-entirely-bright outcast Hannah out trick-or-treating, in a tale that ends in fire and death. Amanda’s never told Erin she was involved in the events, and Erin is outraged that she has to go out as a cat yet again. Amanda stays in handing out treats and carving a pumpkin, only to receive a bit of a visitation.

This is a rather traditional scary story, and McMahon spins it beautifully. Every detail of Hannah’s fateful Halloween is constructed like a piece of artwork, paralleling Amanda’s present day fears. For such a short story the characters have a fair amount of depth, and the tale is vivid and complete. I won’t say much more, because the experience of reading it is really where the fascination lies, and of course I don’t want to ruin the ending. If you’re looking for a short horror story that’s nice and dark, Hannah-Beast will keep you satisfied.

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