The beginning of the month is always packed full of issues coming out, but I believe that Flash Fiction Online is one of the few to come out on the first itself, regardless of where that days falls. Which means it's one of my first stops each month. This month, as usual, there are three stories. So let's get started...
"Dreamtime" by Phillis A. Duncan (504 words)
A rather surreal story swirling around the life of an aboriginal Australian who dreams in music and stars. Very short, it paints a moving picture of walkabouts and dreamtime and what they might mean to the man experiencing them. And, more than that, the story links this walkabout to the ultimate sort of walkabout, eventually traversing the cosmos and reforming, somehow bringing with the spirit and the music that brings the narrator away from civilization and into the unknown. It's a lyrical story, and one that seems largely concerned with the yearning impulse to belong somewhere, to find comfort in otherness. I'm not sure I entirely "get" it, but it sounds nice and it does seem to have a strong message of getting out and letting some things go unexplained and unmeasured. To keep the magic and possibility in things. A fun read.
"Duplicate" by Crystal Lynn Hilbert (963 words)
A cute and rather wry story about a mad scientist whose unwitting creation, the duplicate of a woman, turns out to be more perfect than he thought. Caught in the middle of a trial over what she is, over what kind of life she counts as, the duplicate plays dumb and innocent and allows the world to think that the scientist failed when he created her. But in reality something else happened, and the new woman seems to truly be a duplicate. Or something approaching it. And together with the original the pair live something like a happily ever after. I'm not entirely sure about the implications at the end, except that there are some nice lines and a sense of the mad scientist getting what he deserved. It doesn't say too much about the original's or the duplicate's role in everything though. Was this what they had planned all along? It doesn't seem that way, given what they say to each other, but I was a little curious to see what differences between the versions existed. As it is, it's a nice story that leaves itself open to interpretation.
"Gold Dress, No Eyes" by Alexis A. Hunter (816 words)
The most haunting of the stories, this one is more a scene and the lingering memories of the collected violence. A woman, a musician, is dead, murdered on a cruise through space by an enemy attack. Her eyes have been removed. But more than that is the story of her life, love, and loss. The artifacts from her tragic love of a female soldier who was killed in battle, who was supposed to be along for this trip, for this vacation. Emotional and gut-punchy, this story lingers on all the small details that make the emotions real, the way the items are worn and personal. There is so much detail that the story fills itself in, and the reader is left with the wounds, with the signs of loss and the feeling of violence. There's an awful lot to like about the story, from the care given to each image to the graceful brutality of its execution. Strong work.