Today I'm looking at the latest from Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, home of the longest email address for sending story submissions (honestly, it is firstname.lastname@example.org for all you writers out there). But the new focus on shorter stories means there are once again two original pieces for me to look at today. So let's jump right in!
"Weight of the World" by José Pablo Iriarte (1553 words)
This one is definitely an emotional wallop for being so short. A family from off-world (did I miss where? Mars? Someplace with lower gravity at least) are returning to Earth for treatment for their son's treatment. The stay is tough on them, in part because the increased gravity makes moving difficult. The father stubbornly refuses to take assistance, and puts himself through the pain of walking around in what seems to be an advanced bargaining mode. If he can survive, he seems to ask the universe, surely his son can. Only his posturing is slightly worrisome because his son's survival really isn't up to him. Isn't up to anyone. It's not based on how much his son wants to live or how tough he is. And so the parents worry that they are setting their son up for failure, that they might make their son feel like he's failing them by dying. And that's the interesting thing, because there are layers of trying to be strong, and the story plays around with what is strong and what is weak. Because when the news comes and the father finally lets himself be weak, or let's the world see his weakness. Like acknowledging it before would have ruined something. It's an interesting story that circles around masculinity but seems more about trying to be strong in the face of tragedy. Solid work.
"She Opened Her Arms" by Amanda C. Davis (982 words)
Another interesting story about family. In this one, the young sister of an even younger disabled brother is told by a strange woman that her brother's condition is due to the fact that her "real" brother was stolen and replaced, that the brother she was supposed to have can be returned. Thinking that she wants the brother she "should" have had, a more normal, handsome brother, she tries to reclaim him. She interrupts a procession of Fae in order to get him back but in the midst of it she realizes that if she succeeds she won't just gain a brother who she doesn't know, but will lose the brother she loves. Disgusted, she breaks the ritual and returns home. It's a nice story with a powerful message, that people with mental or physical disabilities are not broken. They are not lesser for their differences. And in choosing the brother she knew, the brother she cared about, instead of the prettier one she might have had, she affirms her brother's right to be himself. She affirms her love for him, not for what he might have been. A lovely read.