Rating: 5 out of 5
I like Steve Stred’s horror novella The Window In the Ground much better than Ritual. Window isn’t nearly as “extreme” as Ritual, but that in itself isn’t the difference for me. I prefer any extreme content to feel like it serves the story rather than the other way around, and Ritual took the opposite path in my opinion.
When our erstwhile narrator is 15 years old, Gramps decides to introduce him to the town’s dark secret, and “make him a man.” Trouble is, there are a lot of rules that go with this secret, and one of the first is that no one under 18 is supposed to see it or know about it. There are other rules as well: no one sees it by themselves, no meat, pets, animals, blood, or babies are allowed near it, don’t look into the window, and don’t touch it. Yes, a window. As the title promises, there’s a window in the ground. Different groups have different opinions on what it’s there for and what to do about it, but the one thing they all agree on is that the window is seriously dangerous.
Yeah, Gramps shouldn’t have told a 15-year-old. The secret is kept for all of a day, if that, and then more and more rules get broken. It doesn’t help that the window seems to have some sort of hold over our protagonist.
This is a wonderful story about a whole cascade of things going wrong, centered around an ambiguous curiosity.
Content note for some blood, gore, and dismemberment.