Updated: Jul 10
Chocolate and Walmart will ruin your life…
That’s the basic message I gathered from the novella Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke. Just kidding. If I learned anything from Sour Candy, it’s that our lives are a result of not just the major choices we make, but also the mundane decisions that we give little thought to. The route we take to work, what time we check the mailbox, and yes, even the store we choose to buy our chocolate at, can all drastically alter the course of our lives.
Good horror reminds us that a scary story can start anywhere. Nordstrom’s can be just as hazardous as Walmart. And sometimes, the only reason an individual is marked for a supernatural event is for the simple reason that they were in a certain place at a certain time.
This is exactly what happens to Phil Pendleton in Sour Candy. Phil’s girlfriend Lori convinces him to spend a day on the couch doing nothing more than watching TV and eating—you guessed it—chocolate. So Phil drives to the local Walmart to satisfy Lori’s sweet tooth, but while there he witnesses a disturbing scene. A young boy, dressed more appropriately for Amish country than a Walmart, is screaming in the middle of the candy aisle. Meanwhile his mother stares vacantly into space, until she finally starts mashing handfuls of candies into her mouth, so forcefully that her teeth chip and gums bleed. Before he can back away, the shrieking child locks eyes with Phil and offers him a treat.
Once a choice is made, it can never be undone…
After leaving the store, Phil stops at a red light. Moments later, his car is rear-ended. Banged up and dazed, he crawls from the car and finds that the driver who hit him is the same woman from Walmart—the one with the Amish child. She is bloody and confused as she staggers toward Phil. Instead of doing him further harm, she leaves a piece of sour candy in his lap then walks into oncoming traffic…
Holy crap! Is what I’m thinking right now. Once the action starts, it doesn’t slow down.
When the cops arrive, they treat Phil more like a criminal than a victim. They specifically question him about the boy who Phil believes is still in the woman’s car. According to the cops though, there is no boy in the car. Weirder still is that no one from Walmart or the intersection ever saw the boy Phil describes. After more questions, the cops finally take Phil home to Lori—Nope! His girlfriend is gone, and just his son is at home. This is upsetting on many levels, one of which being the fact that Phil does NOT have any children. And can you guess who the young boy saying 'Hi Daddy' is? Yep, it’s the Amish kid.
You’ve heard of the Mandela effect? Phil is experiencing this effect on a whole new level. This is far beyond a little confusion regarding whether the Monopoly man wore a monocle or if Darth Vader says “Luke, I am your father.” The entire fabric of Phil’s life has been re-arranged. Everyone and everything, down to the family photos that now adorn his house, backup the fact that Phil is the father of the creepy Amish kid. A kid who eats nothing but sour candies.
Phil is left wondering if the child is pure evil and using some sort of dark magick to destroy his life or if he has totally lost his mind. Both are equally terrifying. I can’t imagine what it feels like to go insane. How would you even know you’re crazy? You just assume you’re you…normal. Yet everyone else keeps telling you about major aspects of your life that you simply cannot recall. Who can you believe? The doctor, the cops, your family?
Sour Candy is a fast-paced horror thriller from start to finish. It works really well as a short novella, only I do wish there was a little bit more information on the Elders. The plot is as addicting as a sugary treat and I devoured it in just a few sittings.
If you don’t want to know more, STOP here. I won’t spoil the ending, but I do want to mention one more thing about the elders…
It was refreshing to see ancient occult ‘old ones’ that aren’t overly Cthulhu-ish. Granted, there may have been some tentacle action in Sour Candy, but beyond that, Burke’s creation of evil elders felt very original. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next treat Burke feeds to us.