Kelly Link is an author who is well-known for writing horror stories with vague endings. Two of her most popular short stories are The Specialists Hat and The Cinderella Game. They are similar in that their plot highlights the drama that arises from the blending of families, particularly when children are involved. The stories look at some of the intrigues and complications of pre-teen children when they are left on their own.
The Cinderella Game tells the story of 12-year-old Peter and his new 8-year-old step-sister Darcy. The two are left at home alone one night when their parents go on a date and the nanny is called for an emergency to a hospital. Peter uses this occasion to watch horror films in his fathers study; something he is not allowed to do. On the other hand, Darcy, who is obsessed with fairy tales and princesses, convinced Peter to play a game in return for money. Peter, who hails from the poorer half of their parents marriage, reluctantly agrees because he needs the money. The game happens to be Cinderella and the evil stepsister, with Peter playing the former after much negotiation and arguing.
The Specialists Hat is about two twin girls called Claire and Samantha who live with their negligent father in a haunted mansion. Their mother had passed away several months ago; meaning they are often left to themselves to play games and enjoy fantasies. A notable game they enjoy playing is known as the Dead Game. It cannot be played in front of adults, and a player is not afraid of anything when he or she is dead. One night, the twins are under the care of a babysitter as their father is out on a date. The nanny learns about the Dead Game and decides to join them in playing it. To become dead, a player should hold their breath for about half a minute, and that is exactly what the three do.
The babysitter reveals to the twins that she once lived in the same haunted house. She informs them that there is a key to the attic hidden in a chimney. Claire and Samantha find the key and open the attic, despite the fact that their father had warned them to stay away from it. Inside they find a hat worn by a superstition called the Specialist who tries to capture people once they are dead. The babysitter tells them a story of how the Specialist captured her own father although she managed to hide from him. She was not scared because that is not possible when someone is dead. After they leave the attic the babysitter warns the twins that the specialist will be emerging soon. Their father, who has been captured and possessed by the Specialist, begins to approach their bedroom; claiming he has been bitten by a snake. The babysitter says it is time to hide from the specialist, and the three escape by ascending up the chimney like smoke.
The two stories are similar in several ways. For one, the main characters are pre-teen children who are left at home alone by their parents. They resort to playing childish games in order to relieve boredom and loneliness. In The Cinderella Game, a boy and his younger step sister play a game based on a popular fairy tale in which a beautiful girl is mistreated by her ugly stepsisters who are jealous of her beauty. In The Specialists Hat, a pair of twin girls plays a game whereby they pretend to be dead in order to seemingly enjoy certain behavior traits, such as not feeling the emotion of fear. Perhaps the only difference is that they are joined in the game by their nanny. All in all, the two stories highlight the dangers associated with leaving underage children at home unattended.
Another similarity is that both narratives contain elements of horror and superstition. In The Specialists Hat, the apparent antagonist is a superstitious being called the Specialist that lives in an out-of-bounds attic. It preys on dead people by capturing them; and has claimed at least two victims mentioned in the story. The three main characters are forced to device ways of hiding and escaping from it. In The Cinderella Game, one of the characters is boy who enjoys watching horror films, particularly those involving werewolves. A werewolf is a human being who changes into bloodthirsty and cannibalistic animal during the full moon. The narrative implies that the boy and his mother could actually be werewolves who target their new family members. Although the author does not mention this explicitly, the reader gets the impression that Peter and his mother are no ordinary humans. As mentioned earlier, author Kelly Link is known to write stories that can be described as belonging to the horror genre. These two stories somehow attest to this perception considering their plots, characters, and general setting.
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