I'm enamored with the craft of all this week's stories, their use of structure and the choices the authors made with voice and point of view. These stories all deal with culture and fable and the need to return and return again ritualistically to the same places, relationships, and crossroads.
The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov | Tor.com
A long, silent day awaits you and your daughter as you prepare to cut your husband's body. You remove organs from flesh, flesh from bones, bones from tendons—all ingredients for the cake you're making, the heavy price of admission for an afterlife you pay your gods; a proper send-off for the greatest of all warriors to walk the lands.
You remember what it took you to bake your own mother into a cake. No matter how many times you performed the ritual under her guidance, nothing prepared you for the moment when you saw her body on the table. Perhaps you can teach your daughter to love your art. Perhaps she belongs by your side as a Cake Maker, even though you pride yourself on not needing any help. Perhaps she hasn't agreed to this apprenticeship only out of grief. Perhaps, perhaps . . .
Beautiful use of the second person voice here. And I love the cultural details of this death ritual and how well Markov weaves it around the relationships between the characters.
Art Credit: Sam Weber
Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies by Kate Heartfield | Strange Horizons
When we got to Lower Fort Garry, we'd park our bikes and walk in through the back gate. Nobody ever made us pay. Nobody swore or wailed at us. It was the one place we knew where we got to choose whether to talk to people. You walked up and talked to the pretend fur-trader or the pretend shopkeeper, or you didn't. We would sit on the grass and listen to the crickets, or watch the lazy Red River until our eyes hurt from the sun glittering on it.
I think that's why we heard what others did not hear, saw what others did not see. Something whispers in every silence and there is writing on every wall. One of my sisters said that to me, once, when we were chained together in a dungeon barely larger than a grave.
No—that is the wrong memory. That didn't happen. Not to me.
This story winds its way to the center of the labyrinth at a deliberate pace. You think it's about one thing, and then it changes, and then changes again. Very evocative.
Things You Can Buy for a Penny by Will Kaufman | Lightspeed Magazine
"Don't go down to the well," said Theo to his son. So, of course, Tim went to the well. He was thirteen, and his father told him not to. There was no magic to it.
To get to the well — and not the well in the center of the village, because everyone knows where that well is, and no one has any stories about it except for whose grandfather dug it and how soon it's going to go dry — you've got to go around behind the butcher's, to the bottom of the muddy slope at the edge of the wood that the butcher says he doesn't throw his offal down. Everybody knows the butcher throws offal down the slope so the wet gentleman will eat that instead of crawling up to eat the butcher's daughter.
What happened to Tim when he went to the well? You must know how the story ends — or rather, that it never ends. Surely you've heard about the others who went to the well, like Ma Tathers.
The way this story opens up like a matryoshka doll is just one aspect of its charm. I'm also a huge fan of the wet gentleman and the fairy tale feel of all the elements here.
Which of these stories is your favorite?