This week's stories are all about bodies — including body-modification, violations, and finding the physical truth of yourself.
Acrobatic Duality by Tamara Vardomskaya | Tor.com
The world knew us, in the convention of listing the top first, as Kim Tang and Alana Watson. We remember ourself as Jennifer Smith. I was Jennifer, who started out in artistic gymnastics but switched to acrobatics after my growth spurt meant I wasn't as good a senior as I was a junior. I knew my bars and beam would never get me to senior elite level, not with memories of a terrifying crash off beam at an invitational meet. Balancing on your partner's one extended foot in half-needle is easier than balancing on five meters of solid beam. Humans cooperate, and yield in the fall; a beam is hard, and unforgiving.
Then at the age of twenty-one, Jennifer Smith was heading to the airport—to vacation, even, not to a meet—and that was the last we remember as I.
As I read this story, I kept thinking about the pair of acrobats in Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique whose routine is beautiful and terrible because they are constantly repelling each other as much as they are working together. This is the exact opposite, and no less horrifying under the surface.
These Eyes Are Not My Own by Jennifer Nestojko | Crossed Genres Magazine
Leah stared at her face for a long time, noting the arch of the brows, never plucked, and the sweep of hair at her forehead. The eyes were open and hazel and unseeing. The skin seemed a little odd, and Leah reached up to touch her own cheek, seeking its warmth. She reached out to touch that other face, the one that was still and cold, but couldn't quite do it. She had no idea how long she had been there looking; it was very quiet in the room. Finally Leah slid the steel drawer shut and turned away.
The lights of the lab were too bright and cold; they hurt her eyes. This was unfamiliar territory into which she had never ventured. Sarah was the scientist, not Leah. The smells of the room were unfamiliar and made her uneasy, though much of her uneasiness, she had to admit, came from what she had found in the drawers on the far side of the room. She tried not to think of the rows of bodies stored there, all bodies with her own shape, her own face.
Those of you who've ever been in a relationship with a person with different privilege or experience of marginalization than you will recognize the personal dynamics in this story.
The glow of his eyes, the depth of his gaze by Lee Battersby | Cosmos Magazine
Danny came home different. He climbed down from a prison truck, dressed in a clean uniform like he'd never left me standing on the airfield tarmac a year and a half ago, never gone off to war and left me alone. He stood in the middle of the driveway and looked around as if the farm was unknown territory, eyes glistening, hair so short I could see the scalp beneath. I watched from the porch, wanting to run down and take him there on the paving, half afraid to move lest the spell be broken and he fade away into just another dream. Then he noticed me, and spoke my name, and suddenly we were holding each other, and the soldiers who stood either side of him like prison guards were as substantial as mist.
"I told you I'd come back alive," he said, gazing at me so deeply that, for a moment, nothing else existed in the world. And I stared into his eyes, glowing alien and silver in the late afternoon light so that, at first, I didn't understand what else was wrong.
Looking for a balm for the endless talk about American Sniper? Read this.
Art Credit: Dean Falsify Cook