Fleshed Out: A Body Horror Collection by Rob Ulitski

Publisher: Pastel Wasteland

Date of publication: October 14th, 2022

Genre: Horror

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

A hair-obsessed serial killer…

A flesh-eating motorway pileup…

A grotesque holiday illness…

Forget what you think you know about the human body. In Rob Ulitski’s debut short story collection, get ready for a thrilling, gut-churning ride through death, disease and destruction.

Boasting thirteen unique stories and a whole host of brutal bodily afflictions, ‘Fleshed Out’ explores the fragility of flesh and blood, and the gruesome ways our bodies can twist, contort and transform into our worst nightmares.


First Line:

Natalia was soaked through with blood, fresh tangles of hair dangling from her puckered lips.

Fleshed Out: A Body Horror Collection (story Hair) by Rob Ulitski

I know I have said this before, I am not a fan of reviewing anthologies/short story collections. When the author sent me the email for this short story collection, I did sit on it for a few days. Mainly because of what I said in the first sentence. But then I figured, “Hey, why not” and accepted the invite. I am glad that I did because this book was fantastic!! I never say this, but this author is going places!! Also, this would be a great October/Halloween read.

If I did a complete review of every story, this post would go on forever. So, I will do this review by breaking down each story and giving my take on them. I will briefly describe whether I liked the story and what I thought about it. Sound good? Awesome. So strap in for some truly unique and gross stories. And before I forget, the author included drawings of the story at the beginning. Again, another remarkable thing about this book.


Hair:

Hair is a story about a serial killer named Natalia. Natalia likes to go on dating apps, find victims (mainly women), kill them, and eat their hair. Natalia also wanted to be a mother. But Natalia has a secret, which is about to explode.

So, this story was very gross for me to read. I have never read a story about a serial killer who wants to be a mom and eats human hair. I was gagging during those scenes. The end surprised me because I thought it was going another way. So, if you have a strong stomach, this book is for you.


Carnage:

Carnage is a story about a man who is scorned. Morgan was enraged after finding out that his girlfriend had slept with his brother. Driving erratically over a bridge, Morgan commits a murder/suicide by driving off the bridge and onto another below road. Hitting a tanker and causing it to lose its bearings, it crashes into commuters while spraying everyone with orange liquid. What should have been instant death instead was because of something different. Morgan, Jessica (the girlfriend), and all the other accident victims are still alive and aware of their surroundings. For Morgan, this is great because Jessica will be with him forever. But is it?

Carnage reminded me of a cross between the old horror movie “The Blob” and a grotesque Romeo and Juliet. Again, this was a story whose ending took me by surprise. Morgan was unhinged for the entire story, but I did feel bad for him. It still didn’t excuse what he did.


Crystalline

Crystalline is the story of Helena. Helena is the full-time caregiver for her brain-damaged brother. She is barely making ends meet by working as a cam girl. Threatened with eviction, she comes up with a plan to make money to keep her in her apartment when something weird happens. A rock flies through her window into her kitchen, and the debris cuts her. Not thinking anything of it, Helena notices a large lump on her forehead. Thinking it was a pimple, she squeezed it and popped out a diamond that was large enough to pay off her debts. As more diamonds grow (and more ravaged her face), Helena realizes that the biggest is yet to come. She can send her brother to a hospital with this money for treatment. But at what cost? Will her friend, a webcam customer, come through to help her one final time?

This one didn’t scare me so much and gross me out, as it did make me sad. I lost my brother 14 years ago to a terminal disease, and I could relate to what Helena was going through. I also could understand why she immediately thought of her brother when the diamonds started happening. I wasn’t too surprised by the end, either.


Heal

Leah, Jamie, and Todd are urban explorers who were part of a website called Urbexjunkies. They were exploring Egglemore Hospital. This hospital suddenly shut down years before, and there is supposed to be a healing garden in the center. Finding a notebook written by a doctor who disappeared when the hospital shut down, the trio figured out a way in. Leah has the most to lose…she is terminally ill. But the hospital is hiding a secret, and that secret is hungry.

Again, I wasn’t as scared by this story as I was sad. Again, I understood the lengths that Leah was willing to go through to save her own life. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed in the notebook entries and what the trio saw at the hospital. I was surprised by the twist it took, and I wish I could have seen that confrontation.


Doug

Dan is not having a good day. He finds out that his wife is cheating and throws her out. Somehow, he ends up at Shapton Woods. The woods are known as a local gay hookup spot, and why Dan is there, he doesn’t know. Following the directions from a 7-year-old message, Dan witnesses two men engaging in a sexual act. Going back the next day, Dan sees a hand sticking out of the ground, grabbing for a used condom. Curious, Dan returns the next day, and there is a face, two arms, and two hands in the ground. So begins Dan’s relationship with a foul-mouthed, sex-crazed being called Doug. Can Doug help Dan see the truth about himself? Or will Dan forever be denying his sexuality?

This was my favorite story. Dan was such a relatable character. And Doug, I laughed at his sexual innuendos, potty mouth, and way of looking at things. I will not say much more because I already said too much in the intro. But, hands down, my favorite story.


Circles

Imagine waking up in a bright white hospital room and being thrown into scenarios that cause your death. Imagine waking up after dying and you are fully alive and unhurt. Imagine waking up in a cell with no idea how you ended up there. This is Ben’s life. It all changes when he meets Robyn and discovers he is being experimented on. What are the experiments? What does Robyn want?

I got chills reading this story. I was rooting for Ben and Robyn until the end of the story. I wasn’t a big fan of how it ended. I wanted it to end well if you know what I mean.


Vending Machine

Marty Michaels is a terminally ill man. He has been treating his illness homeopathically, but nothing is working. His life consists of the walks he takes around town and the pain his illness costs. Everything changes when Marty finds a strange vending machine in a rundown mall. This vending machine only dispenses one jelly-like cube. Marty is hesitant to eat it, but when he does, he feels like he did before he was sick. The effects of the cube end, and Marty is forced between eating another cube and feeling like he is dying. What does Marty do?

This story made me a little sad but frightened me at the same time. I emphasized with Marty. He was so sick, and all of this bad stuff had happened to him on top of it. So, eating the jelly didn’t seem like a bad thing to do. He just wanted to stop hurting. I stopped emphasizing with him, though, once the machine started asking for weirder and weirder things. At one point in the story, I was internally urging him not to go back to the mall. So, I wasn’t surprised by what happened.


Dropoff

What would you do if a man dropped out of the sky, got pulverized before you, and was still alive? Would you help, or would you leave him there? That was our nameless main character’s dilemma when Brock was splattered on the pavement in front of him. Choosing to help Brock and deliver him to his wife was only the right thing to do…..right? What else could happen?

This was a story that made me queasy to read. The visualization still makes me gag, and what the hero did to scoop up Brock still makes me sick. Brock’s story, though, was interesting, and I loved that the hero was willing to take what was left of him to his wife. Speaking of her, she was awesome!!! I loved Brock’s wife. What I didn’t like was what happened to the hero. I wasn’t a fan of it.


Fused

Campbell had a crappy year. His dad walked out, leaving his mother and himself to fend for themselves. They had to move to a crappy neighborhood, where his mother would spend the days in bed in a deep depression. Campbell, on the other hand, is determined to help his mother. Going from business to business, handing out resumes, he arrives at a diner where he meets Spence, Kit, and Weasel. But something weird happens after meeting them. His hand fuses with his knife, and something horrible happens to one of his new friends. What happened? And why does everything seem to be changing in Campbell’s world?

This was a good story. The author had me thinking one thing and then switching it around at the end. I wasn’t prepared for what was revealed. Mainly because I felt it would be something 100% different than what it was.


Neoton

Elijah is on the verge of doing something amazing. He is building a virtual world where no one dies, hurts, or is depressed. This is the virtual world of Neoton which is accessed through a virtual processor in the side of his head. He spends 100% of his free time in Neoton. Tara is Elijah’s wife. She is done with him being online constantly. She is done and does something awful that strands Elijah in the virtual world. Can Elijah make it out, or will he stay in Neoton forever?

The author told this story from the viewpoints of Elijah and Tara. I could feel Tara’s frustration over Elijah being online constantly. I could also feel Elijah’s pride in building something that could help people online. I did understand why Tara did what she did. She didn’t expect it to end up the way it did.


Roe

Maggie is retired and wants to live her life in quiet. Going to Scotland and living off the land seems just the thing to do. Until she starts hearing godawful screeching, driving her crazy, Maggie traces the screeching to a beached salmon. Killing it, Maggie makes a meal out of it. That was the wrong thing to do because…..

This was probably my least favorite story. I understood why Maggie wanted quiet (don’t we all?), but instead of moving the fish, she kills it and eats it. So, I wasn’t surprised by the events afterward. It serves her right.


Smothered

Jared has a lot on his plate. He is freshly divorced from Kate and is forced into looking after his estranged mother, Maude, while she recovers from contracting worms while on vacation. He wants nothing to do with his mother but feels obligated because she’s his mother. But everything is not what it seems with Maude. There is something wrong with her, and that something wants Jared. Will it get her?

This was the 2nd of my least favorite stories. I wouldn’t say I liked Jared or Maude. Jared had issues, and most of those centered around Maude. Maude had her problems and was trying to make amends with Jared. There was incest feel to the story towards the end. I wasn’t a big fan of that.


Replacement

Clara suffers from a rare skin disease and uses a product called FleshKey. FleshKey is a custom mold made to suit the person using it. Clara has been using this product for years. Imagine her surprise when she opened her newest FleshKey and found a sentient being instead. She begins an investigation by contacting her boss, the editor of a gossip magazine. That leads her directly to the factory where FleshKey is made. What she finds out will shake everything she knows.

I enjoyed this story and felt so bad for the sentient beings in this story. After Clara got over her disgust, she felt terrible too. But she brought in too many people into her secret investigation, which comprises it. I wasn’t thrilled with this story’s end and got a little sick to my stomach reading it.

I would recommend Fleshed Out to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, language, and sexual acts.

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