|Art by Carlos Fabián Villa|
"Where It Lives" by Nathaniel Lee (3644 words)
This is a nicely creepy story about grief and loss and what those things can do to a person, in this case what they can do to Eric, a young boy who just lost his mother. He retreats. He seeks out cramped places to be and feels something inside him growing, changing him. Only Tilly, who has gone through something similar, knows enough to help him, to seek him out. It's a mournful story and where monsters are not things that find us in the dark but what we create there, that grow on people like plants, taking root and needing to be weeded before it's too late. The implications of the story are strong, are creepy and unnerving, because though Tilly seems to be together and helpful, she also seems to be concealing her own hurt, a hurt that the story doesn't really get into, just gives a brief glimpse of. But it's enough, enough that Eric's future, even with help, is not answered, is not assured. He is fighting against something that is not just himself, and it seems he must also try to be someone else's grounding force before things get out of hand. Layered with some great imagery and sequences of transformation, the story captures the despair of loss, the taint of grief, but also the hope of friendship, the healing power of reaching out to someone in pain. A fine story.
"And This is the Song it Sings" by Megan Arkenberg (3228 words)
There is something about highways that make for good settings for horror, for bad things to happen, especially to women. Probably because it's where bad things do happen, where there are predators on the road that people don't look too hard for and that people don't care too much about because women running are deemed of lesser importance. Like they're to blame for what happens to them, which fits into this story, which is about a person picking up people and learning their stories, then dropping them on the side of the road to be taken by a monster. If the monster is real, if it isn't the narrator that is the monster and dispatches the women and disposes of them. It's a strange situation, a creepy one because the narrator seems helpful if not normal. But they come across as nonthreatening and are definitely a danger. The women they find are all running, all have stories of their own but those stories are consumed, leaving behind nothing, they way the world does when it eats these women, when it cobbles their dreams and takes them just as they're trying for something better. It's a nicely creepy story, the ending soft but haunting. [SPOILERS?] And perhaps I'm the only one but I rather believe that this story is also cyclical, that the narrator is a ghost of a woman dispatched in this way, running and caught and now made into something else, searching in all of the women she meets and betrays for some answer to her situation, some story that will give some meaning to what she's doing. Her relationship to the monster of the road is a bit unknown, but it does seem to be her, that she and the monster are the same, hungering for the stories and perhaps for something else, something deeper that they don't quite understand. But whatever the case it's a very cool story and worth spending some time with.