(Editor’s note: SHORT SHOTS is a column where I review horror short stories.)
Karma is a bitch, but it has nothing on Jennifer Perry, the main character in the remorseless revenge tale “Political Suicide” by Bridgett Nelson.
“Political Suicide” is a standout short story in Volume 3 of the Better Off Dead Series titled If I Die Before I Wake: Tales of Deadly Women and Retribution.
A 2021 Splatterpunk Award nominee for Best Anthology, If I Die Before I Wake is edited by R.E. Sargent and Steve Pajak and published by Sinister Smile Press. Nelson is a West Virginia author who recently released her debut short fiction collection titled A Bouquet of Viscera.
“Political Suicide” opens with single mother Jennifer Perry dealing with the tragic condition of Remy, her three-year-old son who suffers from brain cancer. Jennifer, who is studying to become a neurosurgeon, struggles financially and relies on a government insurance program for needy families to pay for Remy’s pricey intravenous chemotherapy.
However, when Washington State Senator Jason Steele pushes through a bill to cut the program, Jennifer can no longer afford Remy’s promising treatment. Forced to improvise and use a less effective treatment covered by Medicaid, Jennifer watches helplessly as her young son dies.
Fast forward twelve years later … Jennifer is a successful neurosurgeon and State Senator Jason Steele is now running for governor. Seeing Steele interviewed on TV one evening reignites Jennifer’s deep-rooted hatred for the man, but what can she do?
Six weeks later, fate intervenes with the answer when head of neurosurgery Anthony Wynn asks Jennifer to handle a medical case for him while he’s off on vacation. The patient is a close friend of Wynn’s who’s displaying some concerning neurological symptoms. The name of the patient – you guessed it – is Jason Steele.
The wheels start spinning in Jennifer’s head as she wrestles with what to do about the man who she believes indirectly murdered her son twelve years earlier. She decides vengeance is the only solution.
Jennifer’s plan to enact her ultimate revenge will look quite familiar to fans of the macabre Showtime series Dexter, which happens to be the good doctor’s all-time favorite show.
Jennifer sets her trap for Steele, and the author Nelson leaves no stone unturned in sharing the step-by-step details of the doctor’s elaborate plan.
The climax is emotionally satisfying, but the Epilogue is where the real shocker jolts you. It reveals a truly diabolical mind at work. Dexter Morgan would be proud.