Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (2014)

Big box stores are soul-sucking establishments for those who work in them.  That's the basic credo of Horrorstor (there's supposed to be an umlaut over the third "o" that I can't reproduce here), a smart and savvy novel that that the people who love IKEA may not love.

The horrorstor in question is the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland.  Orsk is a US-owned IKEA wanna-be, complete with Kjerring bookshelves, Glans water goblets, Liripip wardrobes, Brooka sofas, Knabble cabinets, Muskk beds, Lagnia water glasses, and Mesonxic closet systems.  If you are looking for unpronounceable furniture, look no further.  (Apologies for not being able to reproduce all the delightful Swedish dots and squiggles that lurk over these names.)

The store has 318 partners (that's big box speak for employees), 90 of them part-time.  And this particular store has been open for 11 months and is already in trouble.  Sales are down, merchandise is being vandalized every night after the store is closed, every once in a while there is a strange odor wafting through the various departments, and on a certain Thursday in June it was learned that corporate officers were going to make a store inspection the next morning.

Deputy store manager Basil, the one employee partner who has actually read the corporate manuals, decides to have two other employees partners stay in hiding with him after store hours to (at least) catch whoever is thwarting the highly inefficient Orsk security systems and is vandalizing the merchandise.  Chosen to accompany Basil for this important mission are Amy, a rebellious screw-up, and Ruth Anne, a lonely woman who has nothing in her life but her job.

Once the store is closed and empty of all but three (one hopes), strange things begin to happen.  Writing is etched on to the walls of the ladies room, there are more foul odors, and a dim figure is seen in the distance.  Amy and Ruth Ann also catch two fellow employees partners -- Matt and Trinity -- canoodling on a Muskk bed.  They've been using the store as a love nest (did I mention the highly inefficient Orsk security system?) for a while, but they have not seen anything untoward, vis-a-vis vandalism.  They then discover Carl, a homeless man who's been living in the store.  (The Orsk security system is far less efficient that those of nearby Target and IKEA.)  But Carl is not the vandal.

Then, reality gets warped:  every direction one takes through the big store maze leads back to the same location.  Only by using the view finder of a camera can they navigate through the store.  The store is definitely haunted. Trinity suggests having a séance to talk to the spirit.  While acting as the medium, Trinity has some disgusting stuff ooze out her nose -- a lot of disgusting stuff that keeps oozing until it stretches out a tentacle and enters Carl, who become possessed by the spirit of Josiah Worth.

The Orsk store was built on the site of an old 19th century prison and Josiah Worth was its demented warden.  Torture was Worth's prescription for the many prisoners (he called them penitents) under his care.  The prison, like the superstore, was a soul-sucking establishment that turned its occupants into mindless automatons.  The store has now morphed into a decayed environment with passages and tunnels leading deep into hellish pits.  There are new items being used in the store:  the Ingalutt (a hydrotherapy bath that water boards its victims), the Jodlopp (a crippling iron cap), the Kraanjk (handle that is designed to be cranked for eternity), and the Bodavest (a confinement chair that advances the art of restraint).  Things get bloody and our valiant crew of employees partners (and one homeless guy) may not live to see the dawn.

Biting satire and visceral horror combine nicely.

And remember:  "Orsk voids all warranties if you ignore our clear and easy-to-follow directions."

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a novel I would've enjoyed writing, but wouldn't've done as well! Thanks for the pointer, and the fine review...