Rattling skeletons or real blood-and-flesh beings...the reader is asked to choose, form a judgment. Eight stories of misfits-four male, four female-driven to the edge by loneliness. The stories court the horror genre, but are much more. They are existential in that the characters ask, like Hamlet, ''To be or not to be.'' Theobald Titus, a concert violinist, lusts after adolescent boys while married to a supportive, socialite wife. ''Srebrenica'' revisits the horror of Bosnia through the hazy memory of an expatriate portrait painter. Picacho del Diablo pits a conflicted college grad against a Baja California mountain. For a deformed and maladjusted accountant, permanent hooky from work leads to double murder. The tutor, Nicole, meets an ''eligible'' suitor with fish breath. Dil, an escapee from a mental institution, terrorizes a solitary widow who dreams of being a Rockette. The last story, a novelette, dances a fine line between dreams and reality; the orderly unfolding of time and its disintegration. This fragmenting, while fearsome, hints at a higher cohesion in the pageant of life.