|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Black Fanged Thing” by Sam Rebelein (4800 words)
No Spoilers: Jude lives in an idyllic Connecticut town with a nice house, a wife and two kids, and a German Shepherd. He likes his life. But there’s something strange about Jude’s town, a presence he’s not supposed to question. Why rock the boat, right? Creepy and creeping, the piece builds a rather oppressive mood and asks some rather difficult and uncomfortable questions.
Keywords: Price, Bargains, Dreams, Childhood, Mid-Life Crisis
Review: This story takes a look at small town America and...the price I guess of what it means to live there. Of what it means to buy into that way of life, where everything is fairly planned and fits together, where everyone fills a place and grows to like the shitty Januaries and the slower pace. At least, that’s what Jude wants to think. In his town, though, there is also a ceremony done the year people turn ten—a procedure where everyone loses a part of themselves. In exchange...well, I’m guessing it’s something like an Omelas thing and in exchange people are able to remain where they are and accept the constraints of their reality. For Jude, though, the story is about waking up to the real scope of what’s going on, the real horror that the town puts up with because. Just...because. Because they’ve accepted it as necessary, though there really is no way of knowing what benefit there is for the people of the town. For me, the story becomes about crises, about Jude suddenly wondering if his seemingly-perfect life is really what he wants. It certainly seems...easy, and without a whole lot of challenge, and it’s comfortable. The story seems to ask what that’s really worth, which I feel is an interesting question—are the goalposts established by the previous generations and passed down to the very young as “what they should aspire to be” really worth aiming for? For me, the story complicates this but not as far as I really wanted it to, because it seems to hold childhood innocence/creativity/dreams as contrasting adult responsibility and concerns, which just feels a bit thin to me. But that, too, works into this idea that the whole of Jude’s world is pinned on this flimsy board, help up by privilege and inertia and little else. And I like how the story comes to question the reader directly, a plea that cannot be answered, which is a nicely moving moment. A fine read!
“An Incomplete Catalogue of Miraculous Births, or, Secrets of the Uterus Abscondita” by Rebecca Campbell (3900 words)
No Spoilers: Told in an evocative, non-linear fashion, the story deals with a strange intersection of science and magic and the horror of birth. Deep, heavy, and infused with pain, the piece doesn’t offer the cheeriest look at humanity, but in this raw, piercing prose there is something strangely beautiful and compelling, a flash of something small and scared running toward freedom.
Keywords: CW- Pregnancy, CW- Birth, Transformation, Rabbits, Science!
Review: This is a somewhat difficult piece to review, in part because the story is constructed as a series of jumbled parts, a dish of jello and shaved vegetables and, at its center, a surprise of eggs to flush onto the plate. At first glance, and second, and third, it is a rather disturbing story, about birth and about scientific hoaxing and about imprinting and about fear and death. But there’s something compelling to it, something tender and beautiful. The prose is striking, and the effect of the disjointed parts of the story begins to build this greater whole where the reader is faced with a moment of change, with a bit of blinding empathy. And that for me is the core of the story. the way that Mary, who is probably the closest thing to a main character the story has, feels this emotional connection to a rabbit, and from there everything else falls out, where the scientists fail to express empathy over their own detached desire to know and disect, where Mary’s husband and sister-in-law do what they do to her, where there are so many layers of victim to the story and yet there’s also this flash of compassion and understanding. It’s haunting, and it’s difficult, but fuck if it isn’t a powerful bit of storytelling, strange and luminous but resonating with history and hurt and hope. Go check it out!