|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"I Found Solace in the Great Moving Shadow" by Brontë Christopher Wieland (981 words)
A man listens to the not quite natural sounds of an artificial and mechanical background noise in this story. It's a noise that can drive people insane if they are Nat, if they haven't received any implants. Without the implants the noise is just that, a grating drain on their psyches. The man, the main character, used to be a militant Nat, one who formed protests against implants, but after one protest turned violent he had to chose to have sight or to have implants. He chose to see, and gained a new sort of vision. And also an appreciation for the noise. In many ways this story seems to be about taking the time to pay attention to the little things. Also a bit about how people work too hard, how people live too stressed, and how they funnel that into hatred. His words are telling, that he saw the protest group as about good sense and not hate. That he didn't understand why no 'Plant chose to join them. But of course he wouldn't, because he never had to face a life where he would been to be implanted, because to him it was something to avoid because it was unnatural. After, though, he embraces that part of himself, drops away from the protesting, and enjoys the reassuring hum all around him. For some, that hum has to be the reminder that things are changing. That the world isn't quite so simply as we'd like. For them, they can't face that, in this instance, being implanted can be as natural as birds chirping. A nice story.
"The Man in the Basement" by Joshua Rupp (581 words)
This is a rather bleak and disturbing little story about a man perhaps keeping a man in his basement. I say perhaps because the main character's mind is obviously a bit fractured and it's a little bit difficult to say what exactly is happening. It's possible that he has a hostage and is bringing the man food and occasionally talking with him. He sets ransom notes in his mailbox that don't get picked up. It's possible that there has been some sort of global disaster. More likely, for me, is that there really is no man. What with notes in the woods, some older than the man, I'd guess that the main character might have been abducted when they were younger and that no one came for them. That they grew up out in this place. Either that or whatever fate the world met has left this man completely cut off. That he yearns for human contact but won't venture out beyond his woods. That he wants to take a hostage just to have someone to talk to but that the only one there is himself and so he has constructed this situation in his head. And then the ransom notes he's trying to leave are also for himself. That he wants someone to care, to come and save him. Which would explain why he doesn't came if he gets caught. That's the point. There are a lot of nice, surreal touches to the story that give it a dark and lonesome feel. That the man constantly uses son in his notes but calls the person in the basement a man. The woods, the plates of food that seem to be going uneaten. Effective stuff, and worth spending some time to figure out. Indeed.
"Marcie's Waffles Are the Best in Town" by Sunil Patel (998 words)
This is another disturbing story, this one set in a post apocalyptic scene with (I'm guessing) zombies. At least, there are creatures of some kind that are out beyond the diner that the story takes place in that might know what a closed sign means. So I'm going with zombies. In this, an older woman makes waffles for a young girl come in out of the wasteland. The woman is waiting for her daughter, her daughter who was lost to the horrors of what happened. There is a strong sense that this whole ritual of making waffles is one performed for guilt. The mother is guilty that her daughter went out and likely died. Is guilty and trying to recapture some small amount of sanity by imagining that these girls who find her in the wastes are like her daughter, or are her daughter. Her daughter who was never appreciative of the waffles. Who was irreverent and wild. The mother tries to tell a different story of how things were, but the truth slips in, disrupts it, and the mother gets angry, chases the girls out, remains alone in her guilt and isolation. It's an incredibly sad story, not just because of the grief that the woman suffers, but because she has the opportunity to make connections, to help these girls, and instead ends up pushing them away, yelling at them and chasing them off. She has a chance to have some sort of real relationship but is incapable, and it keeps her alone and guilty and fairly deranged. A very good story.