Monday, September 11, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #28

The September issue of The Dark Magazine brings with it two original stories that examine what it means to believe in a system that rules the universe. Whether it’s based on logic and science or magic and religion, these systems guide the way people view the world. And they also give shape to the ways that people are hurt by it. For some, it means living with the knowledge that every reality is a sort of cage, every action just a forking in a path that might lead nowhere. And for others it means being a part of a metaphor that strips them of every comfort, that isolates and sacrifices them. In both stories the characters must decide whether to accept these rules, these beliefs, or to try and stand against them and the weight of their implications. To the reviews!

Art by breakermaximus

“Lucky Girl” by Erica L. Satifka (3912 words)

This story looks at luck and probability, life and the rush to explore it, to understand it. It features Adina, a young woman who has made some big decisions in her little world, to move out to Portland to live with her fiancĂ©, Mike. Mike, who has a sister, Natalie, who has tried to kill herself eleven times. And, it turns out, who needs a place to stay. Adina isn’t happy about Natalie moving in, and the story does look, however briefly, at attitudes surrounding suicide. Adina is not exactly compassionate toward her perhaps-to-be sister-in-law, believing suicide selfish. As the story moves, though, Adina’s attitudes are slowly challenged, and not in the ways I was expecting. The story stays true to the publication and offers a truly dark imagining of the universe, one where luck isn’t real and timeline forks whenever we make a decision or whenever something big happens. And this idea of the universe is terrifying not because it means there are forces out there waiting to destroy us but because it works as a sort of logical trap. Natalie, drawn to measurement and testing, drawn to science and study, falls into the rabbit hole of not being able to disprove a rather extreme theory, and from there it acts as a sort of shadow over everything she does. I love how that works, how it’s a doubt at first and slowly grows, slowly becomes something that she can’t unsee, that she starts pursuing more and more, seeking some end that might not be anything, some universe that she feels will mean something, though she doesn’t know how. For Adina it’s something she thinks of as easy to shrug off, only because she begins from a similar place, from valuing things that make sense, it holds a certain power over her as well. And especially when traumatic events happen, she has a difficult time telling if what’s happening to her is part of the trauma, part of her imagination, or if she’s tapping into something deeper. And the implications are unsettling and delightfully creepy, and I love where the story leaves everything, with a sinking dread and paranoid fear. It’s a wonderfully dark story that you should definitely check out!

“These Bones Aside” by Lora Gray (3885 words)

Every month the moon waxes and wanes, and in order for a new moon to rise, the old one must be devoured by a goddess. It’s Yagra’s duty as priestess to grow these goddesses from seeds, to grow them until they can devour the moon, and become the moon, and die. And the darkness of the story stems from this cycle and the twisting of what Yagra wants, the intense desire to raise a child, and also from Bina, the latest goddess who Yagra grows, one who is unlike any of the others before. And the story does a fantastic job circling the idea and feeling of isolation, of sacrifice, of thwarted desire. Both Bine and Yagra want only to be normal, to live their lives according to their desires and inclinations. It’s something that everyone else seems able to do, and yet it is a road closed to them. Instead they are expected to sacrifice and be sacrificed, to live as objects of scorn and fear. Bin’s situation is wrenching and unsettling, the way that she wants just to be a child and yet cannot fit in, the way she is made to feel like the moon, isolated and fluid among the static, contented stars. And how the hunger that grows within her isn’t necessarily what everyone thinks. That it’s not her nature, really, but what she is made to want because of the reality she faces, that the moon is the only option she’s given. And Yagra, as the curator of this tradition, as the one who must carry it out, has to face the desire to change the system and the ingrained belief that it is necessary. Her love of Bina is intense and just as consuming, and as the story moves it proves to be just as transforming. The action is tragic and emotionally hitting, and the language of the piece is beautiful and flowing. There is something of a mythic feel to the story, but something deeper as well, putting a very human face on this cycle, a very human price that might just be too high to continue. It’s a lovely and moving story and a great read!


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