You know what I’m talking about (I hope.)
It’s the one story you can’t forget, even if it’s not your favorite. The one with the character who was just utterly chilling, the one with the villain who could not have been more evil, and, for most of us, the one with the ending that still keeps you up at night, even though you’ve probably read better since.
I think of That Story as the Most Unsettling One You’ve Read. It could be a really creepy ghost story that echoes through the years, or a monster story that doesn’t have the greatest prose but does have the spookiest beast. Mine is Roald Dahl’s “Royal Jelly,” a story about a man (and his daughter) who are just a bit too interested in bees. (For those lucky fiends who have yet to read that piece, I’ll leave it at that.) I think about this story not infrequently in putting together my own works, even though I haven’t actually looked at it in twenty years. There truly is something both fascinating and frightening about bees; I’m surprised more writers haven’t incorporated them as horror elements.
I know I’ve been eschewing comments, but for those of you actually reading, feel free to share your own Most Unsettling mentions here.