|Art by Sandro Castelli|
"The Scavenger's Nursery" by Maria Dahvana Headley (4400 words)
Trash is an interesting topic for thought and discussion, but in this story, where trash has become sentient and entire landfills stand up with a will to life that rivals our own, trash is frightening as hell. Because trash is everywhere. There are islands of trash floating in our oceans, and the world is, if you'll pardon my pun, littered with landfills and trash heaps and it's not something that most people want to think about. It gets swept under rugs for a reason. It's picked up and disposed of and we forget about it. But this story doesn't really let that happen. This story shows the trash unwilling to be the silent partner in our destruction of the earth. Instead, it takes the wheel, staking its own claim to the planet as dominant, as superior. It's a great way of approaching trash, by having them magically gained a sort of awareness, like all our neglect paved the way for them to quietly amass the right parts. The story focuses on a few characters while also giving an overview of the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine...). It's a poignant and powerful narrative, the way the trash seems to mimic us while also doing something deeper, taking what we throw away and creating something with it, creating life with it. I'm not entirely sure on all my thoughts about the ending, but it's definitely a set of powerful images, from the landfills standing up, our past returning, to that last bit of trash and the whisper of strange voices. An excellent story.
"The Cult of Death" by KL Pereira (3145 words)
A young girl with a voice that kills tries to find her way in a community that really doesn't like her in this story. The community, staunchly Catholic, has sort of infected her with guilt, with the belief that she is responsible for the deaths the result from her voice. More, they make her believe that her voice is a punishment for her being evil. As a child, she doesn't have much choice but to believe them, and she ends up hating herself, wishing that God would take away her voice. Until a woman with prosthetic hands and feet enters town. Another outcast, the girl and Marsha, the woman, form a bond when the girl discovers she can speak with Marsha with her full voice. They confess to each other and Marsha teaches the girl that she doesn't have to be ashamed or guilty about her voice. That her voice is a gift that she should use. That she can do good. Told in a second person, the girl becomes the reader, because it's likely true that everyone is guilted by society, pressured and blamed for things that they are not responsible for. It's an effective method of telling the story, and flows seamlessly, to the point that I would forget about the second person voice at times. It's a softer story, but interesting and well told and definitely worth a look.