|Art by Flavio Bolla|
Both stories in the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies deal with siblings, and a cycle of violence. In both, one sibling seems to be the perpetrator of violence, and yet in truth both are arrayed in conflict, both seeking to hurt. It’s a situation that creates a kind of power, a kind of fate that neither sibling seems keen to break. Because for some things the only way out is through, and the only way to be free is to bring everything crashing down into the water. To the reviews!
“Her Cage of Root and Bone” by Kali Wallace (3688 words)
No Spoilers: Lottie is a prisoner of her sister, the Queen. But it’s no ordinary prison and neither of them is an ordinary woman. They are full of magic and anger and vengeance, the two seemingly always adversaries, always linked, always trying to spite the other. Until Lottie was imprisoned, and Nell became ruler. Now it’s been a game of revenge on Nell’s part, visiting her sister every year to force her to drink a potion to prolong her life. All the while growing older herself. Until this year. The piece is heavy with the hurt these two have done to each other, and magnified and prolonged torture especially visited on Lottie. But are the two really so different? It’s a rather unsettling question to ponder.
Keywords: Prisons, Rituals, Tea, Family, CW- Torture
Review: This is a rather complex look at grief and family as embodied in these two sisters who hate each other, who want to cause as much pain as they can to each other. Who are deeply broken from the trauma they’ve endured and carried from childhood, and now have no real other outlet for it. They both feel like tyrants to me, both full of the desire to hurt. They are so similar, and yet they insist on being opposites, on being adversaries. For Nell, Lottie seems to be how she gets out her sadism, her desire to hurt and rend. For Lottie, Nell is jailer and object of deepest loathing. And for all that, their hate is also what sustains them, what keeps them going. They have nothing left, and the piece is rather harrowing for that, raw and at times uncomfortable. It has the feeling of a fairy tale after the fiction has been peeled away. Nell was the victor and so the story became about her wicked sister, and Nell’s inevitable victory, good triumphing. But the story questions that, reveals the pain that Nell gleefully inflicts. There is a question here, of who is the villain, who the victim. And the answer is complicated by the fact that neither of them are good, that neither of them are free from corruption or hate. They are both full of power and cunning and something rotten. And through all of that, they might even still feel something for each other. Something like love, or at least a love of the game, of having the other, of having that easy rivalry. Even as its hell. And it’s a messy and complicated and often uncomfortable story, but one that does a good job of exploring this toxic relationship. Personally I want to know more about these bandit kings but what is here is moving and powerful, about family, and all the terrible things that can mean. A great read!
“As The Shore To The Tides, So Blood Calls To Blood” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez (11551 words)
No Spoilers: Jacinto was once a boy, son of religious parents who kept him on the sea, worshiping the drowned god, the god of the bitter waters, who had been cast down and wounded by his brother, the god of the sweet waters, in order to protect humanity. After his family and their sect is almost entirely slaughtered by worshipers of the rival god, though, Jacinto is brought to an orphanage where he must renounce his past. Years later, he’s tried to put that all behind him with numbness and distance, but a letter from his brother, the only other survivor of the massacre, pulls him out of his self-imposed exile. Not to join his brother and the plan their parents made so long ago, but to try and stop him. It’s a strange and shadowed story about fate and brothers, and betrayal and the rage of the sea.
Keywords: Seas, Family, Fate, Blood, Stories, Religion, CW- Abuse
Review: The story does a good job in my opinion of layering the narrative, nesting stories within stories so that aside from the story of Jacinto and Ostred there is the story of the two brother gods, and after them the story of the two brothers who were sons of the drowned god. With each iteration of the story the themes of betrayal and violence are reinforced, the brothers always betraying each other, always coming to violence at some point. For Jacinto, it’s a part of a fate that he’s been trying to avoid, a fate that involves helping the drowned god to rise and reclaim the lands with his salt waters and storms. The piece is full of a kind of weight and gravity, fate pulling at Jacinto, leading him in the direction that he doesn’t really want to go. Or doesn’t think he wants to go. And for me a big part of the piece is Jacinto having to face his abuse and reach out to the family that he has left. He’s avoided his brother out of feelings of abandonment but it’s likely more than that, part shame that he didn’t do what their parents wanted him do the night everyone died. That he was hurt at the orphanage and couldn’t stop it. That he spent so long drunk and numb. His return to his brother is supposed to be to stop him from what he’s doing but it feels more to me that he just really wants to see his brother again, that the letter he receives is this way of finally reaching out, of trying to reconcile. And it kind of works, or might have, but the world they inhabit is built on this fundamental betrayal, this wound that hasn’t been able to heal. it corrupts things, and what it needs is closure. That’s not going to be an easy thing, though. And the piece explores how violence cycles, how religious persecution only cements pain and conflict. How sometimes there’s no pulling away from the forces that seem like fate. It’s not a happy story for me, but one about an inevitable ending--inevitable because certain wounds need to be rinsed and closed properly in order for there to be healing. And it’s a great read!