The Dead Inside

Our identity is the essence of who we are … But what if our identity is threatened? 

What if our family members or partners reject our identity? What if educators and employers push us to conform to their prejudices or expectations for us? When we twist, contort, bleed, unravel, and die on the vine—what becomes of the pieces that remain? How much can we cut before there’s nothing left?

Through the pages of The Dead Inside, some of the best horror writers of our era examine the forces that can threaten our identity, exposing the ways identity horror threatens our well-being, our dreams, our very existence. 

Featuring stories and poems by:

S. H. Cooper, M. Lopes da Silva, Paul Michael Anderson, K. P. Kulski, Robert Bagnall, Belicia Rhea, Eric Raglin, Robert Stahl, Sarah Jackson, Daniel Barnett, R.J. Joseph, Sam Kyung Yoo, A. K. Dennis, Ali Seay, Michelle Cadiz, Joe Koch, Jaecyn Boné, Avra Margariti, Michelle Mellon, Evelyn Freeling, Katie Young, Marcus Woodman, Sarah Wu, Elle Turpitt, Renee Cronley, Mary Rajotte, Patrick Tumblety, Roxie Voorhees, Tabatha Wood, and Scott J. Moses

Foreword by weird and horror author Donyae Coles

Cover art by Gemma Amor

What are they saying about THE DEAD INSIDE?

“… a truly brilliant and fascinating collection of stories that will not only make you look at people a little differently, but look at yourself differently …” – The World According to J

“… the sheer amount of talent and cohesive quality of all of the pieces dictate my grading of the book, and it’s wrapped up in more Gemma Amor cover quality goodness, this is going to get a 5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s …” – Austrian Spencer

“… Laurel Hightower and Sandra Ruttan have edited a fever dream of identity horror that is wonderfully put together, the implementation of flash fiction and poetry help to give breathing spaces between the longer stories – there is so much brilliance here that it shows what a wonderful time it is for horror …” – Ross Jeffery

“The quality of writing is excellent, and the stories are original and chilling.” – Scary Shelley

“All the authors really brought their A+ game and Laurel Hightower and Sandra Ruttan have put together this masterpiece. I cannot even imagine how difficult this must have been – but the result is pure fire!.” – Alex: findingmontauk1

Paul Michael Anderson is the author of STANDALONE and the collection BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN.  His short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in dozens of venues and outlets, including the CHIRAL MAD anthology series, on the website LitReactor, and as an exclusive offering to a Night Worms monthly subscription.  He lives with his wife and daughter.

Robert Bagnall was born in Bedford, England, when the Royal Navy still issued a rum ration, and now lives and writes on the English Riviera within sight of Dartmoor. He is the author of the science fiction novel ‘2084 – The Meschera Bandwidth’, and ‘24 0s & a 2’, which collects two dozen of his fifty-odd published stories. Both are available from Amazon. He can be contacted via his blog at

Daniel Barnett is a lover of stories – especially the scary ones. His novels include The Safe, Longreave, Poor Things, and My Hungry Friend. He is currently working on the sixth volume of the Nightmareland Chronicles, an ongoing serialized adventure horror epic following one man’s journey to reach his daughter in a world claimed by eternal night.You can find his books on Amazon or chat with him on Twitter at: @dbhfiction

Jaecyn Boné (they/he) is a disabled, queer, Asian-American author. They while away their days daydreaming about beautiful faeries, bloodthirsty pirates, and eating the rich. His work has been published in the Lost Boys Press “Chimera” anthology and in the 2021 “Autumn Nights” charity anthology. They live in Billings, Montana, USA with their spouse, their two young kids, their sister, and possibly a ghost or two. Read more about him at

Michelle Cadiz is a poet and a biologist. She was born, raised, and currently lives in the Philippines. You can find her on twitter @michellyfishal

Donyae Coles is a horror and weird fiction writer. You can find her work on her website, Her debut novel, Midnight Rooms, is forthcoming from Amistad. You can follow her on Twitter @okokno to stay informed. She’s a delight.

S.H. Cooper is an award-winning horror author based in Florida. Along with five self-published titles, her work has appeared in publications by Cemetery Gates Media, Burial Day Press, and her most recent novella, Inheriting Her Ghosts, is the launching title for the NoSleep Podcast’s imprint, Sleepless Sanctuary Publishing.

A.K. Dennis doesn’t sleep well at night and has the dark circles to prove it. She loves the horror genre, but only if it’s the written word—she’s too much of a scaredy cat to sit through a scary movie, even as an adult (though she is getting better). A.K. lives with her horror movie-loving husband and their young son in the Midwest, USA. You can follow her on Twitter @AKDennis_author or on her website

Evelyn Freeling is a lifelong writer with an obsession for the dark and strange, as well as an associate member of the Horror Writers Association. Her short fiction has previously appeared with indie publisher, Ghost Orchid Press. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but currently haunts Dubai. When she isn’t writing or binge reading whatever she can get her hands on, she is probably being tormented by her toddler. You can find her on Twitter @Evelyn_Freeling or on her blog at

Laurel Hightower  grew up in Kentucky, attending college in California and Tennessee before returning home to horse country, where she lives with her husband, son, and a rescue pitbull. She works as a paralegal in a mid-size firm, wrangling litigators by day and writing at night. A bourbon and beer girl, she’s a fan of horror movies and true life ghost stories. She is the author of Whispers in the Dark and Crossroads, co-edited the charity anthology We Are Wolves, and her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies.

Sarah Jackson writes gently unsettling stories. Her flash fiction has previously been published by Ghost Orchid Press and The Cabinet of Heed. She lives in east London UK and has a green tricycle called Ivy. Her website is

R. J. Joseph is a Stoker Award™ nominated, Texas based writer who earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She has had works published in various venues, including the Halloween issue of Southwest Review and The Streaming of Hill House: Essays on the Haunting Netflix Series. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she can usually be found wrangling her huge blended family of one husband, four adult sprouts, seven teenaged sproutlings, four grandboo seedlings, and one furry hellbeast who sometimes pretends to be a dog.She occasionally peeks out on Twitter @rjacksonjoseph or at

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands and The Couvade, their short fiction appears in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, The Big Book of Blasphemy, and others. Find Joe online at and on Twitter @horrorsong

K.P. Kulski is the author of the novel Fairest Flesh, a gothic horror from Strangehouse Books. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications including Fantasy Magazine, Unnerving Magazine, the HWA’s Poetry Showcase, and Not All Monsters. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii to a Korean mother and American-military father, she spent her youth wandering and living in many places both inside and outside the United States. Now she resides in the woods of Northeast Ohio where she teaches college history. Check out her website, or follow her on Twitter @garnetonwinter

Avra Margariti is a queer author, Greek sea monster, and Pushcart-nominated poet with a fondness for the dark and the darling. Avra’s work haunts publications such as Vastarien, Asimov’s, Liminality, Arsenika, The Future Fire, Space and Time, Eye to the Telescope, and Glittership. “The Saint of Witches”, Avra’s debut collection of horror poetry, is forthcoming from Weasel Press. You can find Avra on twitter (@avramargariti).

Michelle Mellon has been published in more than two dozen speculative fiction anthologies and magazines and is a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. Her first story collection, Down by the Sea and Other Tales of Dark Destiny was published in 2018. She recently completed work on her second collection. For updates on her work, visit and/or follow her on Twitter: @mpmellon

Scott J. Moses is the author of Non-Practicing Cultist (Demain Publishing) and Hunger Pangs (independently published). A member of the Horror Writers Association, his work has appeared in Paranormal Contact (Cemetery Gates Media), Diabolica Americana (Keith Anthony Baird), Coffin Bell, and elsewhere. He also edited the anthology What One Wouldn’t Do. You can find him on Twitter @scottj_moses or at

Eric Raglin (he/him) is a Nebraskan speculative fiction writer, horror literature teacher, and podcaster for Cursed Morsels. He frequently writes about queer issues, the terrors of capitalism, and body horror. His debut short story collection is NIGHTMARE YEARNINGS. He is the editor of ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK. Find him at or on Twitter @ericraglin1992

Canadian author Mary Rajotte has a penchant for penning nightmarish tales of folk horror and paranormal suspense. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies, including In Somnio: A Collection of Modern Gothic Horror Fiction (Tenebrous Press), Autumn Noir (Unsettling Reads) and Gothic Blue Book VI: A Krampus Carol (Burial Day Books). She is currently querying her first novel. Sometimes camera-elusive but always coffee-fueled, you can find Mary at her website or support her Patreon for exclusive fiction at

Belicia Rhea was born under a waning crescent moon in the Sonoran Desert. She writes horror, weird fiction, and poetry. You can find more of her work published in or forthcoming from Nightmare Magazine, Miracle Monocle, and Ghost Orchid Press, among other places.

Sandra Ruttan is an established crime fiction author of works such as What Burns Within and The Frailty of Flesh, both of which have been published in English and Japanese. She was the founder and editor-in-chief of Spinetingler Magazine from 2005 until 2018 and runs Dark Dispatch, a publishing venue for dark fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and YA content.

For the last 15+ years, Ali Seay has written professionally under a pen name. Now she’s shaken off her disguise to write as herself in the genre she loves the most. Ali lives in Baltimore with her family. Her greatest desire is to own a vintage Airstream and hit the road. Ali is the author of Go Down Hard (Grindhouse Press) and To Offer Her Pleasure (Weirdpunk Books). For more information visit or find her on Twitter @AliSeay11 or Instagram @introvert_fitness

M. Lopes da Silva (she/they) is a non-binary and bisexual author, artist, and poet from Los Angeles. They write queer California horror and everything else. Their horror fiction has been published or is forthcoming from In Somnio: A Collection of Modern Gothic Horror Fiction, Neon Horror: Queer Horror Anthology, and Nightscript Vol. IV and V. Unnerving Magazine recently published their novella Hooker: a pro-queer, pro-sex work, feminist retrowave pulp thriller about a bisexual sex worker hunting a serial killer in 1980s Los Angeles using hooks as her weapons of choice.

Unbeknownst to Robert Stahl, his body is an empty shell, telepathically controlled by a brain in a jar, which was buried long ago under the floorboard of his home in Dallas. Consequently, his days are filled with the urge to write: stories, letters, articles, whatever. At night he listens to music and when he drifts off to sleep, the brain laughs, a humorless, pitiful sound, as it jiggles alone in the dusty darkness.

Patrick Tumblety is a storyteller with a concentration in horror, science-fiction, and poetry. His work has been featured in a variety of anthologies, including Tales of Jack the Ripper by Word Horde Press, Fossil Lake, edited by Christine Morgan, Gothic Fantasy: Science Fiction, by Flame Tree Publishing, and Dark Moon Digest by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Patrick also tells stories through other mediums, including audio plays and illustrations. His work has been described as being able to deliver both “genuine fear and genuine hope.” (Amy H. Sturgis – Award Winning Author and Professor of Narrative Studies)

Elle Turpitt is a writer, reviewer and editor living in Cardiff, South Wales. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies for Seven Deadly Sins: A YA Anthology, Fantasia Divinity, and Brigid Gate’s Were-Tales, as well as online. She co-runs Divination Hollow Reviews, and when not writing or editing can often be found with her head in a book or playing video games. Her website is and she is also on Twitter and Instagram, @elleturpitt

Roxie Voorhees (she/her) is a tangled threesome of Gag me with a Spoon, Welcome to the Darkside, and Catch me Outside. Originally from California, she now resides with her mastador, Bellatrix, in Indiana, where she refuses to use the word pop, is hella progressive, and dreams of a proper taco.

Marcus Woodman (he/him) is a writer, illustrator, and historian from the heart of the Midwest. He writes across genres, but most all of his works touch on a queer experience. He considers himself a casual birder and writes to the jeers of the blue jays that live outside his home. Loose-leaf tea is his preferred drink, and things like cool grocery stores and pens and stationery excite him. More of his work can be found at, and he tweets @jackdawmarc.

Tabatha Wood is an Australian Shadows Award-winning author of weird, dark horror fiction and uplifting poetry from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She likes strong coffee, cats and spending time by the sea. You can read more of her stories, essays and blog posts at

Sarah D. Wu (she/her) is a late-night writer of both fantasy and surrealist fiction with a focus on psychological musings. She is currently interning at The Common (@commonmag) for Amherst College, and is an editor/writer for the local college literary magazine, The Indicator. She loves staying up at inane hours of the day to frantically finish editing some poor soul’s essay, so feel free to reach out to her anytime through Twitter @sarahdwu if you would like to chat!

Sam Kyung Yoo is a writer and part-time taekwondo instructor who has lived almost their entire life in Massachusetts. However, when asked “But where are you really from?” they can say “Germany,” because that’s where they were born. Their father informed them at an early age this meant they could never become president of the United States, so they became a writer instead. Their work has been published in Fireside Quarterly, Open Minds Quarterly, and Unlocking the Magic: A Fantasy Anthology. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @SamKyungYoo.

Katie Young is a writer of dark fiction. Her work appears in various anthologies including collections by Scott J. Moses, Nyx Publishing, Ghost Orchid Press, and Fox Spirit Books, and her story, Lavender Tea, was selected by Zoe Gilbert for inclusion in the Mechanic Institute Review’s Summer Folk Festival 2019. She lives in West London with her partner, an angry cat, and too many books.