The October offering from GigaNotoSaurus certainly captures the feeling of autumn. At least where I live, autumn is a time of slowing down. Declining. It's something that creeps across the land. Temperatures start to drop. Leaves start to change color. Nothing happens all at once. Instead there is a gradual loss happening, a march toward something bigger, more definite. And this story captures that feeling, showing a character moving slowly around a single event in his life, waiting. Unlike where I live, the story doesn't show what happens next, doesn't drop into winter or lift back into spring. It shows this achingly beautiful and tragic moment and lets it linger, and I should just get to my review!
"The Mourning Hour" by Anya Ow (9850 words)
This story deals with some heavy emotions—loss and grief and despair, but undercuts them with a slice of the unknown, a slice of mystery, which makes the story almost hauntingly desperate, unable to move forward. The plot follows Kiat, an older man, as he searches for a way to fix his phone. At first, for me, the story seemed to be moving linearly, but as it progresses it becomes clear that something else is going on, that there is a longer game being played. And as the slow tragedy of the story sinks in I felt myself admiring the way that the story brought its characters together, how it moved Kiat through this space, always looking back, thinking back, caught in that time of fifteen years ago and unable, really, to come out of it. The story circles the idea of loss, of grief, of mourning, of closure, showing how those things lead into one another. And I love how the story builds around events that happen in the middle of everything, centered instead of opening or closing either the story or the events inside the story.
[SPOILERS] Because, really, the central event of the piece comes in the middle of things, in the center of the short story in terms of words (roughly, at least) and in the center of the events of the first section (chronologically) of the piece. Which is an interesting choice and one that pays off to me because it builds enough of Kiat as a character both before and after that event, the massive death on a Mars colony that includes his daughter. The death that is never solved. The story is…well, soft almost. Deliberate. It does not make that moment overly visceral because it's not a moment. It's an absence. An absence of facts, of certainly, of closure. If it was a dramatic blow that would be one thing. In some ways it would be easier to deal with. But the story builds a hole in the middle of itself, the absence of Anna, the absence of knowing what happened, the way that it draws down all these people, leaving them circling that moment like a black hole but never fully drawn into it. Maybe some will manage to break away and maybe some will be pulled in and perish but for many they're just caught in the gravity of it, drained but stuck.
And it's a careful examination of grief and mourning as Kiat tries to fix his dog, which is another absence throughout the story, seen only briefly but more often just mentioned. The absence is pointed to and people warn Kiat that he'll have to move on. And yet at the end he's still orbiting. Still able to stay there, walking his dog, unable to move on but not completely miserable. It's a touching story, and I love the way that it builds up Kiat, the way that it rips him apart only to show that he was never really whole to begin with. That the tragedy of his life is that he seems to outlive all the things he loves. It's a sad story and a deep one and you should definitely check it out!