|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"Your Past Life Interferes With My Very Important Studies" by C. L. Holland (640 words)
Ah, relationships. This story features at its core the idea that a person can bring their past life, well, to life, to have them physically present. It's for some study that students can do, and in this case Mike has brought his past life home for his roommate/girlfriend to look after. It seems that Mike has no real intention of being around his Past Life, either because he doesn't want to "influence" it or because he wants Kay to do the work for him. Given that he's carrying on with another woman (or her PL Helen of Troy), it might be more the later there. It's fun to have this story told through notes from Kay to Mike, to only get the one side of it, because here we have their relationship, one sided and with Kay constantly trying despite the fact that Mike doesn't care much about her or respect her studies. Which does make the ending rather satisfying, though I can't help but be a little sad for Kay, as Mike's PL doesn't exactly seem like a catch. It's not like she mentioned him being overly kind. Indeed, she seemed a bit annoyed by and large, and then might sort of use the PL to hurt Mike. Which makes a poetic sense but I'm guessing she's dumping the PL in Germany when she meets someone she might actually like being around. It's a fun and rather funny story, though, cute and light and with enough of a punch to make it rather memorable. Indeed.
"The Disposition Matrix" by Brent Baldwin (998 words)
This is a story of war and drones and the various faces that combat can wear. It follows Evgeny, a man spared direct combat by being given a job with computers. All her really needs to do is watch the monitors and see what the drones find. All actual decisions are made remotely, which makes him something of a redundant body, but it keeps him out of the fighting. Kind of. He lives with a guard dog. Not to guard him against threats, though, but to watch him when the computers warn that he shouldn't be near. At those times the dog is trained to attack him if he tries to interfere with the mission. It's an interesting setup, the story focusing on the idea that by avoiding the front, by avoiding actual combat, Evgeny has nonetheless entered the war in a very real way. When the drone targets a church where children are playing, he feels the same responsibility and would have to watch the same death and carnage. He was watched similar scenes play out before. And this time he does something to stop it. He acts and by his actions enters physically into a conflict that he has already been engaged in mentally. It's a nice piece, the added wrinkle of the dog giving it something new to hang onto, as there are a lot of drone/war stories out there. But it still manages to make its points and give a bow, to use the short space of the flash piece to tell a full story. So yeah.
"Portrait of My Wife as a Boat" by Samantha Murray (737 words)
This is a sad, sad story about a couple living at the edge of the sea. And one is a were-boat. Or something of the sort. I'm going to think about it as a were-boat because I kind of love the idea of were-people that do not turn into animals. There is a certain striking grace to it, that this woman transforms into a boat, that she is drawn back to the sea time and again, that her love for the main character tethers her and that the main character, in turn, wants her to stay but cannot keep her, because that love runs in both directions. It's an achingly lovely piece, the way that both people are trapped by their feelings and their natures, one on shore and one on sea. They can exist in each other's worlds only briefly, and while they find some happiness then they cannot fully share in the other's world. It's a tragic story but also one that sees the two characters acknowledging their love even as they cannot fully embrace it. [SPOILERS] They cannot stay together, which is sad and powerfully done, but in their decision they realize their love for each other, a love that doesn't want the other person to change, that celebrates who they are even as it mourns that they cannot remain together. As I said, powerful stuff, and told with that gentle lyricism that just works. A very nice story worth checking out.