Friday, March 22, 2019

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #49

Art by Joey Jordan
Two new stories featuring religion and the afterlife round out the March fiction from Diabolical Plots. The stories are heavy with their implications and with the feeling of change and fear. The characters are caught between the status quo they have known and the future they’ve been working toward. And now that that future is at hand, the reality isn’t what they thought it would be. For some, it gives them pause in the face of what could be their greatest adventure. For others, there are things to overcome first more than doubt. For both, though, the situation calls for faith. Not necessarily in a higher power, but in other people, in compassion and hope. So let’s get to the reviews!


“Heaven for Everyone” by Aimee Ogden (1866 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story works at a hospital, but on their way to work one day God decides to flood the city, and they end up on the roof of a downtown building with an angel. It’s a strange and rather mysterious setup, and one that the story doesn’t spend too much time explaining. Rather, the story focuses on what’s happening on the ground, on this rather intimate and limited story about a person and an angel on this roof, dealing with the wrath that has come to town, the destruction that has claimed so much. The piece looks at justice, at fairness, and the...maybe the cost of that. The ways that pushing for what is right can end up having unforeseen consequences. And what to do with that, and where to go, and how to care for one another. It’s a neat idea tenderly and carefully told.
Keywords: God, Angels, Disasters, Floods, Rescue
Review: I love the idea of this effort to open heaven to everyone, to push back against the idea that it must be reserved for an elect few. As the story itself addresses, not because it’s fair, but because it’s right. And I think that’s a very important distinction to make, with all kinds of things. When there are benefits that are being restricted, that are being gatekept on the basis of merit, it’s always important to challenge the idea that any meritocracy can truly be fair and free of bias or corruption. Because it relies on the few holding onto power, passing along the system that has benefited them. It’s wrong because there are always people who will suffer under this system, always those who will be ground to dust beneath the heel of “fairness.” And having this play out in a vaguely medical way is great, because of that idea of Doing No Harm being the backbone for medical care. Something that’s been a bit...complicated by the way that governments have fucked with healthcare. That capitalism has fucked with healthcare. And in striving to open things up to everyone, there is that danger of things getting...fucky. Of systems breaking, of those in power throwing tantrums. Of the system trying to protect itself through whatever means possible. Here we find that God is going on a rampage, and it’s killing people, and it sucks. But that doesn’t make the push to open heaven to everyone wrong. It just means that there’s more work to do, and pain to endure. But I like that the story shows all this and shows the characters retain their convictions, their drive to keep moving forward. So that, looking back, it can be something they survived, and it was a bump on the road to the future they wanted, one more just and right. And the piece has a charming voice, a keen eye, and a great aesthetic, all building into a wonderful read!

“The Last Death” by Sahara Frost (3077 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is quite literally waiting for death to arrive. Or, I suppose, waiting for Death to arrive. The specter has been approaching for some time, but always runs away short of reaching her door. And it fills the narrator with doubts and with longing, to close out this chapter of her existence and enter into a new one. The piece is quiet, reserved, full of a somewhat awkward feeling to it because of the players involved, because of the role-reversal that happens. But it’s also a rather lovely piece about fear and about change, about death and about Death.
Keywords: Death, Fear, Afterlives, Awkward Conversation, Endings
Review: I’m always for interesting takes on Death the person, the character, and the idea. And I do appreciate the way that the story builds up this idea of Death, a figure whom the main character has such hopes for because she is ready to die, because she is tired and in pain and alone. Death to her is something that she’s been waiting eagerly for, so that she can rejoin those she loves who have gone on ahead. But the story adds in an additional wrinkle, the fact that the narrator is going to be the final death. The last person to die before some sort of momentous event. And so Death, it seems, is also dying, and has been putting off this moment for as long as possible because of that. Which flips the traditional script with regards to Death in that most of the time it’s the human who avoids and tries to bargain, who doesn’t want to face the prospect of the end. And here, despite how much Death has been very suited for their job, they find that they aren’t prepared to do the thing they help other people through all the time. And so it becomes the narrator who essentially talks Death through what’s happening, drawing them up and out so that they can face this final act and make the journey into what is next. And I like it because it kind of shows how long Death has been doing this, that any change in their job is something they almost don’t have the ability to comprehend, so infinite it seemed. And I think the story does a good job of keeping some of the more religious elements in the background but still showing that the faith the narrator has is part of what allows them to face the end without the same kind of fear that Death shows. It’s an interesting and stirring story about not giving into fear, because the unknown is a kind of adventure that needs to be attempted lest everything stagnate. And it’s definitely a story to spend some time with. A fine read!


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