|Art by Dario Bijelac|
“What I Understand Now” by Lauren Ferebee (620 words)
No Spoilers: Two women meet up a few years after college after life has taken them in very different directions. For the narrator, it led to the West Coast and a job in tech. For Molly, it led to marriage and a place in society as a proper Southern woman, complete with husband and family. Except, well, Molly has found out that she dead. Which means she has a favor to ask the narrator. This is a strange piece, capturing the strange mix of emotions that come when a person gets back together with the people they were close with in college, and not really in a good way. Because for the narrator college was something she was kind of sneaking through, pretending to fit in with. And the women that she tried to fit in with, like Molly, have ended up in a much different way than the narrator (or Molly) really expected.
Keywords: Death, College, Friendship, Hollow, Graves
Review: For me this piece dives into the different ways that people look back on college, and on their lives in general. How for the narrator life was something that really started happening after she was away from the expectations and the falseness of college, but for Molly it was something where once that part was over, once she settled into the “life’ that was expected of her, she found that she really wasn’t alive at all. And I like how the piece shows that, by coming back together, both characters are effected by in some ways reverting back a little to how they were when they were in college. For the narrator, this means going along with Molly, and actually kind of taking on her worldview as the narrator’s own. Like it’s something she has to really believe if she’s going to be successful in surviving. And for Molly it means having the drive to actually follow through on being dead, on wanting to be buried and gone. It’s a rather creepy read in that sense, because the narrator can’t really resist this, because it’s strange and destructive. It has a feeling of inevitability to it, that this has been some time coming, and at least it will be over soon. A weird but interesting and moving read!
“Words I’ve Redefined Sine Your Dinosaurs Invaded My Lunar Lair” by Stewart C Baker (989 words)
No Spoilers: This story is framed as a supervillain, Doctress Death, defining words at a hero, The Paleontologist, while he deals with her latest schemes. As she speaks, she reveals a bit about herself and how she started in this line of work. More importantly, though, she described how she’s changed, and how this unlikely hero has inspired in her a kind of change of heart. The piece certainly plays with some of the goofier aspects of superheroes, which I am all for, while also seeing through to the very serious and dark elements that wait beneath. And more and more the story slips from the sort of good vs. evil heroic story and becomes something quite different—a creepy and chilling story about power and hurt and resolution as only supervillains can manage.
Keywords: Dinosaurs, Heroes, Villains, Revenge, Cycles
Review: Okay yet I have a soft spot for superhero stories, and especially ones that sort of recognize that they are ridiculous and not at the same time. That here there is horror and heroics walking hand and hand and everyone is just not supposed to acknowledge the former in service to the later. Only this story refuses, and builds a slowly expanding terror as just what this supervillain is planning comes clear. And really for me it’s about stakes and about changing the narrative. Heroes and villains are supposed to work on cycles, on patterns that endlessly repeat, where the hero wins and the villain loses, often to return to try again. It’s supposed to be comforting to see this play out, to witness this projection and violence all us to achieve a sort of catharsis. Here, however, it’s taken farther. Because the villain reveals how they are both victim and victimized, how they fell into this without really believing in it, and how that makes them that much more dangerous. Because without actually believing in the cycle, they are able to take aim at it with brutal and final purpose, hoping to erase not just heroes but villains as well, to wipe away those with the power that inevitably corrupts and leads to collateral damage and death. And while I think that might be a bit short sighted, because killing everyone will still leave the power there to be claimed (because the power comes from tech, by and large), I also see that it leaps out of the narrator’s trauma and their desire to simply wipe everything away. Basically, it might not really work, but that’s what makes them a villain anyway, that there’s always a flaw with their plan, that they’re too self centered to correctly diagnose what they’re trying to solve. Which makes for a very dark and interesting and fantastic read!
“I Will You Back to Time and Space” by Dafydd McKimm (1000 words)
No Spoilers: The world of this story is one where, out of the blue, gorillas appeared one day to begin watching people. One gorilla for every person, never interfering, but always present, there. Until, after some difficulty, the narrator and his partner have a child. And that child doesn’t have a gorilla. What follows sets up the mystery of what these gorillas might be, and what it might mean that their daughter doesn’t have one, out of all the children and people of the world. It’s a story leading to a tragedy, to an absence, to all the questions that most people don’t want answered, that these two parents do, because of what it means to them personally.
Keywords: Parenting, Gorillas, Surveillance, Disappearances, Will
Review: I like what this story does with difference, with paranoia, with the arrival of these gorillas without explanation or statement. And what that can do to people, even as the gorillas become no big deal, even as they are made a part of what is normal. At the same time, though, I think the story recognizes that the mystery of it, the uncertainty of it, is like a bit of sand in a clam, a pebble in a shoe. It’s never completely gone, because even after twenty years it’s not something that’s just okay that one little girl doesn’t have a gorilla. Because it reminds people that they do, that there is this thing watching them that they can’t stop and don’t understand. Which is part of why the ending comes as so heartbreaking for me, because it shows the father frame this disappearance as his daughter wanting to flee and taking the gorillas with her. When, it seems to me at least, it wasn’t his daughter’s will that did it, but everyone else’s. Everyone deciding that she would be a sacrifice, that because she reminded them that this all isn’t normal, she had to be gotten rid of. And it’s sad because it makes his resolution to will his daughter back so much less likely. Because it’s not his daughter he has to counter, but pretty much the rest of the world, who is okay losing one girl if it means they lose the gorillas, too. What else it means is uncertain, but I do like that it shows that once the mystery is out of sight, peopl can truly not care about it any more. That, for all they probably think it’s sad what happened to the little girl, that it is answer enough for them, and they won’t really think about it. It’s a complex and wrenching read, and a great way to close out the issue!