The stories in this month's Flash Fiction Online seem all about duality. About something happening that seems like something else. Preening that's really surviving. Healing that's really hiding. The stories show people being confronted with the pain of their past and trying to work through it. And all finding different ways forward. Harnessing the pain to do good. Remembering the hurt to not fall into old patterns. Burying the hurt in order to move on. These stories are compelling and interesting, and I'm going to get to reviewing them.
|Art by Dario Bijelac|
"A Winner's Smile" by Derrick Boden (990 words)
This is a story about inheritance and the two-faced nature of success. It's about taking something that is broken, something that you know is rotten and vile and wrong and swallowing down that knowledge long enough to have it, to own it, and to do something about it. The language here is tense, the situation one of slowly growing horror at what's going on, the lining up of children for inspection, a SF twist on a scene in an orphanage, the parents here withered husks because of their attempts to live forever, now forced to turn to orphans to become their heirs. And I love the thought, love that the parents here (or Parents) have the power to find people of their mindset, older people who they can bequeath their money to, but that it's not enough. That in some ways the story is also about the quest for immortality, and if the Parents can't find it through science they seek it through the more traditional means. By having children. [SPOILERS] And I really like how the voice of the story is scarred, is damaged, but is determined. Not just to win, to be chosen, but to bury down a different part of them that won't forget. That will betray the Parents. That will break the immortality of wealth by using it to bring people up. Because really it's not the Parents who seek immortality, it's their wealth. And by doing something to break that up the narrator is choosing to destroy the system, to make it better, which is one of the few ways that things can actually change, and the only one that is absent of a lot of bloodshed. The wealthy have to give up their wealth. The system has to change. A fine read!
"Mamita" by Stephen S. Power (797 words)
This story takes a look at the world after a massive change. After Florida has been flooded. After things have fallen apart. Except that for Carlotta things aren't so bad. At least, things aren't as bad as they have been. Except a visit from her past brings up some old hurts and old feelings and leaves her in a bit more uncertain a place after. The world of this Florida is strangely beautiful, desolate but not empty, not cold, a home for those who see it that way. And I love the story for Carlotta, for the way that she embraces the new world, for the gladness she has that it's come, that it's washing away what went before. It's great that she can see the harm and not romanticize it, not give into it. [SPOILERS] At least, that's what I want to read in the story. That she stands up to a man who has abused her, to a man who is using the abuse of children to try and blackmail her into returning to make his life easier. She says no, refuses to be bullied And that last line…I read it more as her contemplating getting her nieces out, getting them away, and going on the run. Or maybe just killing her father. What I don't want it to be is the doubt, is the allure of reconciliation to the man so obviously trying to abuse her. The story ends there and I don't want it to mean that she rethinks her definition of home, which is a good one. Whatever the case, it's an engaging story and definitely go read it!
"A Partial Inventory of Things I Have Loved" by Michelle Ann King (988 words)
This is an interesting story about loss and about moving on, but not exactly about healing. Not exactly. More like skipping healing to a place beyond that. To a place of being without the hurt. The story sets up a service that allows a person to transfer all their feelings about a person into something else. To take all the love and grief at a loss and disassociate it from the source. It's a strange concept but it works here, is rendered with a nice sense of empathy and the voice of a woman who has gone through a lot and just wants the pain to go away. It's a bit of a hard line to walk, though, between showing a woman not wanting to hurt anymore and making her decision to take the pain away a moral wrong. Grief is a strange thing, and I think the story does a fair job of showing why the character does what she does, why she seeks out this new treatment, and what falls out from it. [SPOILERS] What I think the story does a great job at is showing compartmentalization, a woman sectioning off herself from her grief, from her pain, and finding a way to keep going and not get lost. I like the framing, the progression of her list. …okay, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading that she had something to do with her husband's death, too, which sort of throws a wrench into my reading of this. Because if that were the case (besides the story getting very dark indeed). It does set up what she's doing as Wrong, as running from reality. Which…I guess I want to see this treatment as a viable option, as something that could be used for good, because it could take away the trauma of abuse, for example, and the story seems to be pushing this more as an exploitation, as a con or cheat, which I think is complicated some but if she kinda murdered her husband some of the gray goes out the window. Still, it's a fine story worth spending some time with.