Looking at the newest from Fantastic Stories of the Imagination today. Two new stories, both flash fiction. And this month the two are very closely thematically linked. Ghosts and the living. Papers could be written about the way these stories interact. A fine job of providing two parallels views of ghost stories. So to the stories!
"Red String" by Cassandra Khaw (958 words)
I love the wound and death imagery of this story, which centers around a mortician seeking love. IT makes sense that his world would become somewhat inundated by such thoughts, by swaths of red being wounds, and dark clouds bruises. This is also something of a funny story, albeit one that is horribly sad at the same time. It takes a skill to make that work, but here it is. The mortician is just so mellow, so persistent, and Mrs. Ong so determined in her own way. I want to say that the story is about grief, about how holding onto someone after they are gone becomes something of a cage. The story seems to hint that the cage is not just for the person left alive, though, but for the dead. That by holding on so tightly to them we refuse to really let them pass on. And that is an interesting idea, something that blends souls and memories while evoking the image of the red string of destiny. Though perhaps I think that the mortician goes a bit far in what he's willing to do for the departed, it's still a fun story with some wicked imagery and a strong finish. Very well done.
"One for Every Year" by Dawn Vogel (850 words)
Another story about ghosts, this one also focuses on the relationship between one of the dead and one of the living. Here, though, the situation is a bit reversed. Here it is the living person who asks something of the ghost, in this case to trade another year of ghost-ness for a human soul the ghost extracts from a living person. This soul keeps the ghost's lady forever young. Only it's not quite so straightforward as that, and the on the hundred and seventeenth year of their arrangement the ghost finally finds a way to break the cycle. It's unclear exactly what might come next, whether or not the ghost will end or replace the lady, but the story is rather creepy either way. More than that, it builds a nice mythology in a very limited space and presents the a rather strong conflict, the ghost continuing in a sort of fugue state, not willing to move on until she remembers how she happened to become a ghost. And that realization snaps her out of her long idleness and gets her to act. A very nice contrast to the last story, because both show how the living can abuse the dead. Of course, in this story the ghost is a bit more magical and "real," but there's nothing wrong with that. Another fine story.