|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Me, Waiting for Me, Hoping for Something More” by Dee Warrick (5800 words)
No Spoilers: A particular kind of ghost haunts a young woman who is having a rather shitty day when she finds a strange space that shouldn’t be. How she explores that space, and her relationship to the ghost, create a strange but powerful and poignant situation about identity, presence, and transgression. The true nature of the narrator, the ghost, is slowly revealed, and with it a blend of horror, exhaustion, and something more emerges.
Keywords: Transgender woman MC, Reflections, Haunting, Gods, Breakups
Review: This story makes amazing use of the first person perspective, framing the piece as the observations and voice of a ghost. A sort of ghost, at least. The boy who never was, who “might have been” had not the other main character, a trans woman, uh...been a woman. At least, that’s how the voice characterizes itself at the opening of the piece, and what I love about this story is how it twists that, reveals that something much different is going on. But by putting the story in the perspective of this ghost, the reader really doesn’t get to see what’s really going on until much later. The ghost tells us that he’s a victim in all this, cut off from the main character because of how she rejected him. And yet he remains, remains and just. keeps. talking. On and on. Trying to convince her to do things. Trying to convince her how to feel. Always treating her like he’s the one people should feel sorry for when all of this is a sort of attack against her, a constant droning reminder of what she’s lost. And slowly we get to see that the ghost knows this, knows exactly what he’s doing, and it’s there that the story turns, where the curtain is pulled back and I love that sense it manages to convey of the universe being loaded against the main character, the insidiousness of this voice always in her ear. There’s a strong horror vein to this piece, but it doesn’t come from the expected vector, not from the phantom basement. Instead it’s there that the main character can begin to step into her own power and truly begin to define her own world, one where she doesn’t have to listen to the voice of who she isn’t. It’s a wonderful and subversive piece, and you should all go out and read it immediately!
“Held” by Ian O’Reilly (1800 words)
No Spoilers: Madu is a satchel of holding, a being who contains a vast amount of items and now accompanies a young woman, Eliza, through the world and all its adventures. The piece is short, the shortest of the issue, but manages to hold a lot, to contain with it a wonderful amount of implication and imagination. For me, at least, the piece explores the bounds of possibility and hope and dreams. Madu and Eliza both are wrapped up in fantasy, in magic, and the story is sweet and fun and does a great job of evoking a sense of wonder, excitement, and care.
Keywords: Magic, Nonbinary MC, Friendship, Bags
Review: I think something I keep coming back to in my thoughts about this story is how much of the magic is real and how much might be wrapped up in imagination. Eliza is shown to be a child who is full of fantasy and dreams, a princess who saves the day and defeats the villains. And Madu is her companion. There’s a question, I feel, of whether Madu’s magic, her history, comes from reality or whether it, too, is part of the fantasy that Eliza creates. Or, conversely, if it’s part of a fantasy that Madu creates, the same way that Eliza’s imagination makes her a princess, Madu’s imagination might make them a magic satchel of holding, containing within his depths the head of Medusa and countless other wonders. For me, the answer becomes about what makes the more compelling reading, and for me I think that it’s a blend of things, that what Madu might do is hold dreams. Is hold onto the fantasies of those people who possess her. What she does is hold onto those parts of Eliza that otherwise she might have left behind. In Madu they are preserved, and it keeps some of the wonder of the universe alive, keeps the magic that maintains Madu alive. It creates this rich world where adventure is possible and around every corner and where Madu and Eliza can continue on their quests, on their journeys, together. It’s a deeply endearing story, and one that will hopefully put a smile on your face. A fantastic read!