Content warning: gory death scene
Choose four people to go on a vacation with. Were your ex, your ex’s fiance, that fiance’s former crush, and your loose cannon semi-bestie anywhere near this list? I think not. Alas, that is the fate that befalls the protagonist of Nothing But Blackened Teeth, a perfect spooky novella by Cassandra Khaw.
Under these less than stellar circumstances, our protagonist has agreed to attend the destination wedding of her ex who seems to have invited her out of latent guilt surrounding their breakup and her institutionalization. It doesn’t help that the two have been longtime friends in a coupling that involved a straight-laced and appropriately humble athletic friend turned NFL player and a smart aleck friend without any qualms about dredging up the group’s sore spots. While this arrangement already seems set up for an implosion, the group’s greatest obstacle lies in location. The bride, Talia, insisted upon having her wedding in a traditional Japanese mansion from the Heian-era despite no one in either family having this heritage. In an indication of their fortune, the NFL-player friend is able to find her one and fly them all out to hang out ahead of the wedding festivities. The twist? The mansion lies within an isolated forest and is rumored to be haunted by a ghost bride who murders those who enter in tribute to her lost groom. Instead of taking this bloody tale as a sign to tread lightly, Talia decides to have the group spend the night sharing 100 scary stories, symbolically blowing out a candle after each tale in imitation of a samurai tradition she’s heard about. Through the course of the night, the messy emotions of the group unfurl and shake up every expectation the friends have for their trip.
If you are a fan of horror and love mess, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a short tale that you’ll definitely enjoy from romantic entanglement down to the poetic last line. Enjoy this story with a hearty beverage of choice, a gloomy setting, and on audiobook—the narrator is fantastic!—if you dare.