Short Take: “Sour Candy,” Kealan Patrick Burke

Pros: Horrifying!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Kealan Patrick Burke’s short novella Sour Candy is a great little jolt of horror. It’s a perfect read for when you have a spare hour or two.

Phil Pendleton is out picking up chocolate for his girlfriend Lori when a child in a grocery store starts shrieking. The child seems almost delighted by the position he’s putting his mother in, and the woman, well… she’s at the end of her rope. She’s unresponsive and her eyes are glazed over. Phil exits as quickly as he can, but not before he makes eye contact with the child. When the woman deliberately rams into Phil’s car, he’s saddled with the mysterious child–and so is the rest of his life. Everyone tells him this is his son. There are photos of the two of them in his house. His girlfriend is no longer his girlfriend. There are little tells around the edges that this is false: for instance, the boy is the exact same age and wears the exact same clothes in all of the photos of the two of them. But somehow, no one else questions that. What is this boy? What does he have in mind for Phil? How can Phil get his life back–or can he?

This is a delightful little novella that’s perfect to read as a mental break between other things. It isn’t particularly gory. It’s a tense story about how a man gets trapped by the machinations of other beings, and what he does to get himself out of it. Despite the short space there are even a couple of interesting side characters in the police officers Phil deals with after his accident.

I can’t say much more about such a short novella without giving too much away, but I’ll say that I definitely think it’s worth reading!

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