Short Stories by Michael Matheson

The Many Lives of the Xun Long

Published: 2013 in Masked Mosaic : Canadian Super Stories

Genre: ghost story

Length: 5 pages

Setting: Toronto, Canada, present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Xinhua lives in Toronto with her mother and the ghost of her great-grandfather. He was one of the original Chinese settlers in Toronto and had petitioned the Jade Emperor to be made a protector of the Chinese in that city. From that time, he’s passed on his skills as the Xun Long to the daughters of his line. Xinhua is the latest Xun Long and she has to juggle patrolling and protecting the innocent with school and work.

Final thoughts: This reminded me of a Chinese Buffy the Vampire Slayer who has a ghostly great-grandfather for a mentor instead of a watcher. I liked how the author got the history of the Xun Long into the story as an argument between the ghost and Xinhua.

Title comes from: The Xun Long was the protector, and that position had been handed down from daughter to daughter through generations. We get to see three generations in this story.

Weary, Bone Deep

Published: 2013 in Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I

Genre: horror

Length: 6 pages

Setting: a suburban house, present day

Summary: The narrator is a small boy who can see things that other people can’t. One of those evil things lives behind the grating over the air duct in the basement who ate his older brother’s soul when he died. No one believes the boy when he tries to tell him about the spirits, especially his abusive father. So, he’s camped out in front of the air duct for three nights, waiting for the creature to come out. Instead, the father find him and is not happy.

Final thoughts: This was a much creepier ghost story than the first one. The most telling part of the story was when the boy describes how he misses his brother because he was older and could take the beatings his father dished out easier than the narrator. The poor kid, at ten already reduced to the mathematics of “my brother is bigger so let him get hit instead of me”.

Title comes from: The boy is trying to stay awake for the third night in a row as he stalks the creature in the air duct. He’s also weary from his abusive homelife.

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