This month's Urban Fantasy Magazine might not bring stories that deal directly with the spookiest of months, but does get into the ghouliday spirit with a story about ghost fish and a story about a fortune teller that does get plenty dark. Both stories involve women, young or old, dealing with circumstances getting a bit beyond their comfort zone and having to try and handle themselves. Both do, and rather stunningly so, though not perhaps without some harm being done. But both stories have a strong core of healing, if not always in the way that was most expected. To the reviews!
"Flare" by Eleanor R. Wood (??? words)
This story manages a rather difficult task, to tell a story with a convincingly young main character. Marcie is the oldest of three children all dealing with their parents constantly fighting. It's a fairly common setup, but the story does a nice job of complicating things with just a hint of the speculative in the form of ghost fish. Fish that only Marcie can see that are there to comfort here. And, when her brother runs away, to warn her and guide her and inform her of things that might want doing. The story is about family, about statements. The children all mostly want their parents to get back to normal, to get back to loving each other. But the constant screaming rather implies that they just don't. And [SPOILERS HERE] I liked that the story doesn't really seek to reconcile the parents in the end. That, more than anything else, warmed me to the tale, because in these kinds of stories, especially told from a child's perspective, there is the expectation that there will be a happy ending. The parents will love each other anyway. But here Marcie shows the wisdom the stress of living with the constant fear has taught her, that sometimes the happy ending is that people aren't together any more. I mean, likely these people shouldn't have had kids and all, but at least at the end they're trying to do what's right, which might not make them happy but which is, nevertheless, the right call. A nice story about family and its strengths, and its limitations. Indeed.
"Layer By Layer" by Wendy Hammer (3319 words)
People might not know this, but I am a big fan of onions. I love cooking in general, but I've always been an onion fan. As such, I was especially charmed by this story, enchanted by its use of onions as metaphor in ways I wasn't expecting, in ways I hadn't seen before. It's partly there in the title, but the onions have layers idea is one that is used an awful lot. The other aspects of the onion, though, the tears and the tang, the way it lingers. There are a thousand ways to get the smell of onions off your hands but the only one I've found is never cook with onions. Otherwise you'll be taking a shower three days later and wonder why suddenly your hands smell like onions again. It gets into the skin, into the blood, and it's that aspect of the onion that helps fuel the magic of the story as the main character uses the onion as an avatar, as a metaphor, allowing her to peel away the lies as she peels away bits of herself in order to see the truth, the future. It's a great setup, the stakes small town but very, very big as she tries to help a woman out of an abusive relationship only to make a target out of herself. Luckily (or not, given how her magic works), she has defenses and the story takes a bloody and dramatic twist toward the end, completing the metaphor, bringing things around and back again, a few layers down and a bit further than they were before. And, like an onion, this story lingers, promising to spring to mind for some time to come.