|Art by Breakermaximus / Fotolia|
“Which Super Little Dead Girl(TM) Are You? Take Our Quiz and Find Out!” by Nino Cipri (2218 words)
This is a wonderfully constructed and creepy story that challenges with its form even as it confronts the reader with the commercial nature of injustice, the familiarity with which people view dead girls. The framing of the piece is amazing, too, built as an online quiz to determine which Little Dead Girl you are most like. For someone who has fallen down many a Buzzfeed timesuck taking quiz after quiz, it’s an interesting construction that really twists the knife on a lot of the themes of the piece. Because in many ways it’s about what’s comfortable and what’s acceptable. These Little Dead Girls are not exactly the cute and cuddly monsters sold to children and adults as toys, but the story still shows just how this group is embraced. How they are popular. Because, in many ways, people are comfortable enough with them. Seeing dead girls just isn’t that strange, and as a result the group is able to exist in the open, with all the obvious trauma of their existence, and still people ignore the point, ignore the true horror, which is that people have already accepted the inevitability of these girls existing. Which doesn’t mean these girls are powerless, but it does an amazing job of showing how frustrating it is for them, to have been denied the lives they might have lived and battling not just the evildoers arrayed against them, but the society that failed them, fighting for themselves and for each other even as that society seeks to consume them, to regurgitate up a version of them that is safe for consumption. It sells the tragic cycle of these stories, that they recur again and again, history full of little dead girls who fight and win only to find victory slipping away the moment they take time to rest. With each question and answer the reader must face the impossibility of breaking out of that cycle when all options point to tragedy and loss. It’s a gripping and complex read that is also just really fun to read. An outstanding read!
“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?” by Matthew Kressel (5346 words)
This is a haunting and slowly-unraveling story about ghosts and harm, hopes and waiting. It features a woman, a road, and a small collection of beings waiting for someone to come for them, to come and bring them away, to bring them home. Voiceless, they waiting in the shade of the trees and in the presence of a creature that acts as a constant reminder for what has happened, even as the narrator forgets who she is, who she was. The story is something of a mystery, spinning out to try and reveal what exactly has happened to land the narrator in this place, in this particular hell of always waiting for someone who, it seems, might never come. Worse, the people waiting all seem to think that the person showing up will somehow allow them something, some freedom, some return, and how much that’s the case is...well, it doesn’t really seem like it’s really the case. But the story does a gorgeous job of showing how in some ways the narrator’s situation hasn’t changed. That in life they were in a similar (if also quite different) situation, forever waiting for something that was never going to come. Trapped and oppressed by a presence that was supposed to be something else but became a jailer, a poison. Everything about the story is difficult, wrenching, the emotion viscous and draining. The narrator slowly unravels the knot of memory and pain, but in doing so she doesn’t really set herself free so much as she unravels herself, brings all the pain and grief back without a possibility of healing because she’s still stuck, still dead, still forever beyond the bend. It’s a difficult and heavy story that manages a palpable darkness and a stunning ending. A great read!