“Payment Due” by Frances Hardinge



“Payment Due” by Frances Hardinge

This story was read from the anthology “Under My Hat: Tales From The Cauldron” edited by Jonathan Strahan.

This story was very well done.  Imaginative, and creepy all at the same time.  What would life be like if people had the ability to switch bodies with animals for any length of time?  This story will give you a glimpse into that world.

The story revolves around a bailiff, a granny, and a teenage girl.  The bailiff reminds me of the government and the IRS in particular, overstepping their authority.  Taking anything they want and holding up their hand in a I don’t give shit attitude when you come back wanting an explanation.

A bailiff tricks the teenage girl’s granny into letting him into her home.  And much like vampires have to be invited in.  There are some similarities with vampires sucking people dry and how the bailiffs operate.  Once the bailiff enters a home he has the authority to put price tags on anything and everything in your home.  If you don’t pay that amount in three days, they impound your stuff and sell it off.  Granny had a big bill that she wouldn’t be able to pay on time after the bailiff left.  After three days passed, and Granny couldn’t pay, the bailiff busted down her door and took everything, including a very personal picture, from her home.

The teenage girl goes nuts when she finds all of this out.  She is magical in some way.  The story never actually makes it clear if anyone can do magical things, or only certain people, but this girl is for the story.  She has the ability to create scents around herself, talking with animals, and eventually trading bodies with the bailiff’s cat.  What ensues after she takes the form of the bailiff’s cat is where the story gets good and revenge is had.

This was a very character driven story, but in light tones, with dark meanings.  The writing style flowed nice and it was an easy read.  I believe this story was at the perfect length for what needed to be said.  It was perfectly executed all around.  A great read!

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