Old Order by Jonathan JanzBy Jonathan Janz (Untreed Reads; 2010)

This vivid and surprising backwoods horror tale is only 31 pages long, yet packs a considerable punch. Its depiction of a sweltering rural environ is consistently vivid and atmospheric, with characters who feel entirely convincing and a narrative that doesn’t announce itself as horror-related until the mind-roasting climax. Therein some truly unexpected twists await that I promise you won’t be able to predict…no matter how hard you try!

Horace Yoder is an antique shop owner who passes himself off as Amish to con his way into the home of the McCarrick family. No less than four generations of this clan are afoot in the McCarrick household, including Grandma Shirley and her ancient mother Agnes, as well as the hot-to-trot Belinda and her equally lascivious daughter Susan.

As for Horace, he harbors dark secrets involving his father, who as punishment for a petty theft slashed Horace with a knife years earlier and left a thick scar on his back, a “constant reminder to do his stealing far from home, far enough so the merchandise could never be traced back to him.” Thus, Horace stocks his antique shop with items filched from far-off places–like the McCarricks’ farmhouse.

Horace enters the place on the pretext of doing odd jobs for the family, and is quickly seduced by both Belinda and Susan. After cleaning out Agnes’ jewelry box on his second night in the house, Horace attempts an escape…and to reveal what happens next would be unfair. I will say that the ensuing events involve some decidedly unsavory things Horace didn’t previously know about the McCarrick family.

You may argue that OLD ORDER’S dark and perverse final revelations are so out of left field they belong in an entirely different story. I’d counter-argue that the weirdness and perversity were inherent all along–in the course of the tale Horace is seduced, after all, by Belinda and her daughter, and Grandma Shirley very nearly has her way with him as well–and simply allowed to reach their full expression in the unforgettable final pages.