Short story: “Pattern Masters”
by look i have opinions
“Pattern Masters,” by Jeff Carlson
Maybe 3,500 words?
This is unusual—a creepy tale that doesn’t quite push the creep level up to Horror. If I had written this story, I think I would have felt duty-bound to conform to the horror genre with a murderous or mutilatory ending, and I think the result would have been adequate but slightly disappointing. Anyway, two different horror podcasts decided this piece qualified as horror, and one mostly speculative magazine ran it too, so maybe conforming to expectations isn’t so important after all.
I second the commenters who compared this piece to Chuck Palahniuk. Palahniuk, I think, has a tendency to go murderous/mutilatory/over the top when he doesn’t really need to. Again, probably a matter of conforming to expectations.