B.R. Yeager’s compilation of short horror stories was probably the last thing I should have picked up during finals week, but when he tweeted that Burn You the Fuck Alive would be released the day of my cell bio exam, I knew I had to order it. It could be a reward (of sorts), or a momentary distraction. When it arrived, I spent my study breaks on the sun-drenched lawns of Low Library, trying to absorb as much Vitamin D as possible while, admittedly, reading some of the darkest short stories.
Each story was addicting; with his usual gut-wrenching prose, Yeager somehow manages to write something so disturbing, yet so enticing. With every sentence I read, I wince— not only from the subject matter, but the way it is handled so tenderly. His stories include those of a couple whose revenge on a child predator ends up transforming their relationship, a doctor who preys on and deliberately poisons young boys, and a teen who falls victim to a local urban legend. Reading this, I truly felt like I was in the heads of these characters. Another one explores the perspective of a road rage perpetrator, reminding me of the infamous crossbow shooting on I-95 in Attleboro. Pieces of Massachusetts history I wasn’t alive for but I remember anyway; even a stay at the Westfield Econo Lodge is included—now I know never to rent their jacuzzi room.
In between the short stories, Yeager sprinkles in little blurbs of some of the most agonizingly beautiful pieces of prose: “Your waist buckles. Your lips pucker like a sweet milky anus. Ankles and rotator cuffs worn to ruin. I’m the breath that swallows this world. An inhalation sucking away the oxygen between each body.” Readers are unsure of what’s really happening here: a sexual act or a murder? Or another: “You’ll be thinking about me for weeks. When your gums puff and swell, when you spit rust while you floss. You’ll think of me, and won’t ever be able to stop.” Ouch.
Cleary, Yeager has done it again. At the expense of a bit of my sanity, but I believe it was worth it—and it was certainly a distraction from the pitfalls of exam-induced anxiety. Reading this book stretches your mind: pulling the muscle when you read it initially, but leaving the only remnants of pain in the soreness one experiences in its stead as the stories linger deep in the back of your mind.