Read Two Story Excerpts From the New Horror Anthology Night of the Living Queers

No matter its name or occasion, Halloween is more than a Hallmark holiday, it’s a symbol of transformation…

We’re thrilled to share two excerpts from Night of the Living Queers, a YA horror anthology that explores a night when anything is possible, exclusively featuring queer authors of color putting fresh spins on classic horror tropes and tales. Night of the Living Queers, edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown, is out from Wednesday Books on August 29.

Please enjoy excerpts from two of the anthology’s stories: “Nine Stops” by Trang Thanh Tran and “Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane” by ( contributor!) Maya Gittelman.

No matter its name or occasion, Halloween is more than a Hallmark holiday, it’s a symbol of transformation. Night of the Living Queers is a YA horror anthology that explores how Halloween can be more than just candies and frights, but a night where anything is possible. Each short story is told through the lens of a different BIPOC teen and the Halloween night that changes their lives forever. Creative, creepy, and queer, this collection brings fresh terror, heart, and humor to young adult literature.

Contributors include editors Alex Brown and Shelly Page, Kalynn Bayron, Ryan Douglass, Sara Farizan, Maya Gittelman, Kosoko Jackson, Em Liu, Vanessa Montalban, Ayida Shonibar, Tara Sim, Trang Thanh Tran, and Rebecca Kim Wells.



“Nine Stops” by Trang Thanh Tran

“My name is Sabrina Pham, and I must tell you: if you stop watching this video, you will die.”

The video is grainy, but I can see the girl’s swollen eyes, how the delicate skin encasing them resembles seeded grapes in an otherwise normal face.

It’s like looking into a mirror.

It means I’ll think about her even if I close the app. It means I’m figuratively standing at one of the internet’s dark orifices, lured by morbid curiosity over what it’s offered as a Halloween prank.

My finger is hovering over the Start button when texts from Ramon slide in. Are you on the platform?

im near the front be there soon in like 5.

“Oh shit,” I mutter and roll out of bed, throwing on a floofy white button-up and a too-small vest. I’ve had all day to get ready for this hide-and-seek get-together, and even more days on top of that just to psych myself up. The girl on the screen judges me, though her stare hasn’t changed. I pull the partition wall aside.

From the altar in the living room, Grandma watches me too, all flat eyes and stiff smile. She’s been dead six weeks, but I still smell the Eagle Brand Medicated Oil she swore heals every ailment throughout the apartment. Already I want to sink back into my bedsheets. My phone buzzes with another text at the same time the video accidentally restarts.

“My name is Sabrina Pham, and I must tell you: if you stop watching this video, you will die.”

“Very cool, Sabrina,” I say. “Very cool.” Then I step into the night.


Plumes of smoke streak from street vendors, making the air taste like charcoal and dripping fat. I’ve not eaten today, I’m barely dressed, but I am on my way: running toward the subway station. Ramon texts me that the train has paused at the stop before mine. Somewhere along the way, my friends are waiting.

The crosswalk light bleeds red as it counts down 7, 6, 5 . . . Torn between hurrying and bailing again, I glance down at my phone in case the group chat’s blown up. Only the girl’s wide and dark tunnel of a mouth waits. I don’t remember pausing the video there, but I’ve long disabled autolock on the one machine connecting me to the rest of the world. I must have hit Play.

I’m out of breath by the time I’ve swiped through at the station. I take the next set of steps several at a time, brushing past a woman who’s more bone than anything else—with limbs assembled in a green silk dress not warm enough for October. I don’t see her face, and I feel ill as I run toward the subway doors Ramon’s propped open waiting for me.

Dressed in his Miles Morales costume, he makes a psssst sound as he yanks me inside. Literally everyone gives us dirty looks. “On that Vietnamese time, huh?” Ramon teases. He’s Dominican, but he knows me and he knew Grandma. If Grandma said she was fifteen minutes away, she was actually forty minutes away. If she said she’d be home soon, she was still taking her time at the corner store. But she always showed up eventually. I love that he loved her.

“I’m here,” I say breathlessly as the train moves. He plucks my phone away while I’m distracted straining my neck looking for the woman in the green dress to show on the crosswalk below. Maybe in that half second my brain did register her face, she was really hot—because like Sabrina Pham, both have dug into the softest parts of my brain. A persistent earworm slurring, Watch me.

“Didn’t I tell you not to open strange-ass links?” Ramon asks with a frown as Sabrina warns us both about impending death. “You’re gonna get hacked.” He probably expected this week’s coping mechanism to finally be porn.

I shift on my feet for balance, then slap my hands together. “I literally have three dollars and seven cents in my Wells Fargo account, and I already forgot my PIN, so please hack me so I don’t have to pay the monthly service fee.”

He doesn’t laugh, because he’s worried, just like my parents are, about how much of a hermit I’ve become outside of school.

But on the internet, you’re never really alone.



“Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane” by Maya Gittelman

There’s an old man at the end of the lane, and you weren’t always afraid of him, but you can’t remember what it felt like not to be.

Everyone in your village calls his house The Vines because of the thick cables of them that smother the cottage like they’re holding it hostage. Creeping and thickly twisting like great gnarled cobwebs, but thorny like the tangled claws of a beast. A starving briar-maw, waiting to cut into its next victims.

For most of the year it seems to be abandoned—that’s the worst part, you think. The stone fence sunk into the lane, gravelike as it marks what was once, perhaps, a garden. But every so often, especially on the night of the thirteenth moon, someone catches sight of a light through the slats. A shadow slowly creeping past. Strange music coming through the creaking floorboards and shuttered windows. And when you get as close as you dare, just past the last well-looking oak lining the lane, the dry, sour smell of ancient things becomes sharp in your nose.

Tita Maria once told you that a long time ago, some men from the town went to see if the house was inhabited. They didn’t expect to find anyone, loudly convinced the shadows were a product of the imaginations of bored housewives. They were going to take anything of value and knock the old place down.

As they approached, the story goes, the air became foggy and cloying with a tropical heat heavy with the smell of sampaguita, unimaginable in the cool Adirondack autumn. The first man swore he heard a howling, like a werewolf wild in fury at the thirteenth moon. The second said the scent turned sour, his stomach turning at the stink of rotting flesh. The last man laughed at his companions. He trod close, brandishing his fists. He didn’t see the thorns reaching up from the earth to snatch at him until they enveloped him in a vicious embrace, tearing through his jacket to maul his flesh.

Now, no one gets close to The Vines.

Some say that the old man must’ve died alone there, and his lonely spirit lashes out at the villagers who never cared for him. Others say he’s simply an evil wizard who chooses to be cruel.

You and your cousins just know that he’s ancient, an emblem of fear and death and terrible, violent loneliness, and that’s enough to give you nightmares.

He is everything you are terrified of growing up to become.

Every Halloween, you and your cousins haunt your little Northeastern village tucked within the shadows of the Adirondacks. You’re here because your mother’s mother and her sister found jobs in the town’s hospital, one of the only ways Filipinos could end up in Massachusetts for more than one generation.

You actually have many cousins, but they’re back in the Philippines. Here, you have four. Your father might have liked to move back home, but you’ll never know. He died before you were born, leaving only the locked pocket watch you wear around your throat, so you have no siblings. You don’t even have the key.

You could have been anywhere. Generations of Filipinos, ancestors braided into the rich, sweetbitter Batangueño soil, cut off close to the bud and shoved haphazardly into dry American dirt.

Your roots are transplants. No wonder you’re not sure how to grow.


Excerpted from “Nine Stops” by Trang Thanh Tran and “Leyla Mendoza and the Last House on the Lane” by Maya Gittelman, from Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror & Delight, edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown. Copyright © 2023 by the authors and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.

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