"The Coldest Room in the House" begins in familiar but very well-executed territory:
She'd tried to leave him in a blizzard once, hoping the wind and snow would fill in her footsteps the same way her own creeping indifference had filled in the holes that years of frustration had gnawed into her heart. It was so much like a hollow winter day, this business of being married to a driven man.Our protagonist Bernice——Bernie to her friends, except her husband calls her Bernsy, even though he knows she hates it because it sounds like a cow——has suffered through an unhappy marriage and feelings of inadequacy because she couldn't have children. Now her husband is dead (heart attack while masturbating to internet porn), but still she hears his voice calling to her from the bedroom, the coldest room in the house.
This first part of the tale is a standard ghost story, but worth reading for the superb writing. But then the story takes an unexpected turn, as Prater uses his haunting to show that resentment of one's partner can turn into a kind of addiction. The story plays out effectively, and serves as a wonderful metaphor for how a couple can both become trapped in an unhealthy, codependent relationship.
Lon Prater is a fellow winner of the Writers of the Future Contest (for "Deadglass" in Volume 21), and his short fiction has appeared in such publications as Borderlands 5, Apex, Daily SF, IGMS, and many others. He has self-published some of his longer work, most recently That Time We Saved the Planet.