Unless you are an ardent horror fan like me, you might be wondering who in their right senses would want to read short, scary bedtime stories? I get that most people would rather wind down and relax before bed, read something that will make them feel warm and fuzzy inside so they can nod off to sleep. But not me. I like to get my heart rate up with a good horror story. There is something about the suspense and fear that gets my adrenaline going. It makes me feel like the day has literally ended on a high note.

BRIDGEMOSS GUARDIANS

In my search for short, scary bedtime stories, I recently stumbled upon an offering that is in equal parts witty, adventurous, nostalgic, and scary. Bridgemoss Guardians is a short story by Joshua G. J. Insole. This mystery horror follows the adventures of Sadie, and her best friend, Lisa, as they negotiate that awkward stage between childhood and adolescence.

THE PLOT

When Sadie learns that a bat tried to enter Mr. Moore’s home last night, she is convinced that this is no ordinary bat. It must be a spectre of the macabre. Probably a vampire in disguise. The Bridgemoss Guardians, which basically consists of Sadie and her friend, Lisa, must ensure that the foul beast does not find any more prey. They must vanquish the destroyer before he leaves his lair, and where better to find a vampire lair than the neighborhood cemetery?

Off go our Bridgemoss Guardians in search of a vile, blood-sucking fiend. The story takes us through a night of chills and adventure from the moment Sadie sneaks away from home and turns up outside Lisa’s window, to the thrilling crescendo when the two girls disrupt Loretta Zaleska’s crypt.

THE MASTERY OF G. J. INSOLE

The author, Joshua G. J. Insole, delivers a story that masterfully captures the excitement of childhood. As far as short, scary bedtime stories go, the imagery of Bridgemoss Guardians is vivid; you can literally perceive the crisp, chilly, and delicious Autumn night in which it is set emanate from the pages. And yet, somehow, Insole manages to make use of descriptions that are so succinct that they leave room for the reader to exercise their imagination.

Much of what we get to know about the characters is revealed through the liberal use of dialogue, which thankfully, is rich and flows naturally. Insole also uses dialogue to move the story forward. We get the sense that Sadie is bold and rather dramatic. You’ve got to be both those things if you’re going to use the Queen’s English the whole time you are out vampire hunting!

On the other hand, Lisa is precautious and wary. She is the voice of reason and the hand that tempers whenever Sadie wants to march blindly into the wilderness. This is an example of the juxtapositions the author masterfully explores throughout the story.

JUXTAPOSITIONS

There is something innocent and nostalgic about the way Sadie and Lisa brave the cold, dark night to go hunting for ghouls, whether imagined or not. It is reminiscent of the good, old days when children played outside in the sunshine until they were called home for dinner.

In juxtaposition, Lisa is fearful of trudging through dirty streams full of broken glass and hypodermic needles. Worse still, they could get stabbed or mugged by “junkies” in their dubious hunt for vampires.

Lisa realizes that she and Sadie are on the brink of adolescence. They aren’t little kids anymore, and her heart aches to see her childhood now in the rearview mirror. She expresses as much when she says to Sadie, “You gotta grow up at some point, Sade. We’ll be in high school next year. We don’t wanna be labelled as the weird girls. Those chicks never get dates.”

In juxtaposition, Sadie wants to hang onto her fading childhood a bit longer. In fact, one of the few times she breaks out of her bold ghoul-hunter persona and lets her Queen’s English slip is when she cries, “I can’t…these hunts…this year will be the last year we can do this. Properly. I don’t want to give it up, Lis. Not just yet.”   

FLEETING & NOSTALGIC

Yes, perhaps the true horror of it is that we can’t close our eyes, click our heels, and magic ourselves back to our childhoods. All too often, those blessed with youth are in a great hurry to grow up, and yet childhood is so transient. Once childhood is gone, it is gone forever, while the rigors of adulthood last our entire lifetimes.

MY TWO CENTS

I read Bridgemoss Guardians on the streetcar at 7:30 am on my way to a job I did not want to show up for. Drizzles of rain streamed down the misty windows. An icy gust of wind burst in through the doors whenever someone got on and off the streetcar. I would have loved to have read this story lounging on my couch with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

Nevertheless, the Bridgemoss Guardians managed to draw me so deep into their quirky world that I almost missed my stop. I highly recommend it if you are looking for short, scary bedtime stories. This is an exquisite, quick read that will keep you on tenterhooks till the end.

Click here to read Bridgemoss Guardians, by Joshua G. J. Insole.

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