This week’s stories are all about psychotropic visions, unsatisfactory lives, and the consequences of doubting your mother’s love for you.

When Your Child Strays From God by Sam J. Miller | Clarkesworld

My smile isn’t just on the surface. That’s why I knew, Wednesday morning, when I woke up and Timmy still hadn’t come home, when I checked my phone and he still hadn’t replied to my texts and voicemails, why I knew I had the strength to go find him—wherever he was. And bring him home. And get started on a new installment of The Deacon’s Wife for the church e-bulletin. Write it raw, rough, naked, curses and gossip intact, more a letter to my sweet wise husband Pastor Jerome than anything else, so he can go through it with scissors and a scalpel before sending it out to the four-thousand-strong flock of the Grace Abounding Evangelical Church.

What To Do When Your Child Strays from God.

Snuck into this story about an evangelical Christian pastor’s wife dealing with the sinful rebelliousness of her teenage son is a really cool made up drug that sounds absolutely transformative and I want to try it (along with a few close friends... very close). Miller excels at blending cool speculative ideas with characters and situations very much grounded in our world.

Photo Credit: josef.stuefer on Flickr

She Sleeps Beneath the Sea by Shveta Thakrar | Faerie Magazine (Issue #31, Summer 2015)

She sleeps beneath the sea. Shh, shh, plish, splash. The susurration brushes past her unresponsive ears as the surf tucks itself below her chin, a sleek coverlet of warm salt water in shades of blue and green and bordered with seed pearls of foam. Reclining on her side, her dark tresses matted against the damp sand and one brown hand supporting her head, she hints at secrets in the mysterious tongue of slumber: a slight gasp here, a soft sigh there.

When she dreams, she finds herself in a world of glass. It is aquamarine, it is teal, it is turquoise and balmy and wet, and it is the sea, oh, the blessed, blessed sea. It is home, her home.

As she looks around, she begins to wonder. It is like this every time, this bubble world beneath the sea that has somehow become glass and mountains and castles. Everything cut from jewels, everything radiant in the sunlight spilling from above.

She is bare but for the snake’s tail she wears from the waist down, the golden necklace about her throat, and the seaweed threaded through the whorls of black hair trailing behind her. She is, she realizes, suspended in a kind of liquid crystal. Inside a gem. She is serpentine, aquamarine.

Shveta Thakrar is a poet as well as a fiction writer, and that’s very clear from the prose in this story. She paints word pictures that are evocative and lush and pull you along like a strong current. Even if you’re not a regular reader of Faerie Magazine, it’s worth picking up this issue (the digital version is just $4!) to read this.

Court Bindings By Karalynn Lee | Beneath Ceaseless Skies

When I come across you, there are forsythia blossoms scattered unnoticed in your hair, as though the shrub leaning above you wooed you in such secret that you remained unaware. You’re unmindful too of how a daughter of a bloodline such as yours shouldn’t be lying on the dirt on your stomach, staring at a spiderweb. It’s so unthinkable that it has taken me a full hour to discover where you are; enough time for shadows to shift direction, or an assassin’s blade to find you. Besides that, it’s still early spring, and it is chilly outside. I chide you for being so careless, and you say indignantly, “But I was careful! I even drew the strokes in order—” and you show me your name as you have recently learned to write it, the characters spelled out perfectly within strands of spider-silk. Trembling along the last line, still spinning thread, is a spider.

I have guarded you ever since your hundredth day, when you were dressed in colorful formal robes that you would never wear again because children grow so fast at that age. String and silver and calligraphy brush arranged before you, to see what sort of life might lie ahead: longevity or wealth or wisdom. No one knows which you might have picked, for a messenger rushed into the room to tell your mother of her mother’s death. Those were his last words; he slumped across the table with a knife in his back, and you reached out and touched your fingers to his life-blood. An ill omen, especially for a girl who had just become the heir to the kingdom.

I like the bones of this story, though overall it could stand to be fleshed out in some key places. I got caught up in the rush of drama at the very end, which is why I ended up adding this to my list.


K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, and issuer of the Tempest Challenge. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.