[For the previous countdown post, click here.]
5. “The Hollow Man” (1991)
This story’s antagonist (and narrator)–a carnivorous entity reminiscent of the Wendigo–constitutes one of Partridge’s most fiendish creations. Inside a cabin (whose interior decorator could have been Ed Gein) in the snowy hills, the creature not only feasts on the titular victim but also turns the poor guy into a macabre, half-dead meat puppet yanked around by “the metal rings pinned into its neck.” As if having talons jabbed into “blackened muscles” wasn’t bad enough, the hollow man also has his thoughts controlled by the invasive presence. The narrator’s devious manipulations are on full display when a quartet of hunters show up outside the door seeking refuge (thinking the cabin is solely human-occupied). After having the hollow man shoot his rifle at the arrivals, the creature slips up the chimney and wings slyly over to the hunters’ camp; then, after digging down to discover one sleeping man’s darkest nightmare, the narrator executes a divide-and-conquer tactic by orchestrating a scene of necrophilia. Partridge’s narrative probes the taboo, including the resort to cannibalism (the desperate measures stemming from wintertime starvation no doubt lie at the root of the Wendigo myth). A short but haunting tale that has kept its claws sunk into this reader for a long, long time, “The Hollow Man” is positively stuffed with body horror and supernatural dread.