Sent to me for an advanced review by a fellow horror author Jordon Greene on Goodreads, Anywhere But Here (more novella than short story) explores the intriguing (and certainly ripe for horror exploitation) concept of sleep paralysis. Having experienced this myself a few times, the author does a fine job in describing the graying of the room’s edges, the shadowy figures circling the bed, and (worse) the sufferer’s inability to move or speak, yet remain fully present to experience any agony that might ensue from whatever motivates these nocturnal visitations.
The story begins with a Poe-esque first-person, detailed description of college student Taren Evan’s experience with the sleep disorder he is being treated for at a hosptial. Except for some misfortune in his past, a younger brother killed by a drunk driver, Welsh-born Taren lives a fairly normal life as a North Carolina college student surrounded by supportive friends and a sweet girlfriend. This extremely conventional and at times dull (five pages on Batman!) daily existence contrasts greatly with the horrors of his night terrors where evil, shadowing figures lurk just beyond the edges of consciousness. Interrupting the routine of innocent make-out sessions and Kant research papers is news of mass murder–a family of four slaughtered in their sleep. Immediately this horror fan reader perks up at this new development? Is the killer the gray figure with pulsing red eyes who haunt’s Taren’s dreams? Or is the college student’s sleep paralysis a psychological cloak he wears at night while he vaporizes into another being who kills innocent people? Does the backstory of the dead brother make some ominous connection?
Readers will have to discover this for themselves. Although I was left unsatisfied on some plot points, the author’s adroit descriptions of the physical sensations and emotional terrors of sleep paralysis go far to redeem a story that is left with a bit too many loose threads. Overall, an enjoyable read for fans of horror and suspense.