Thursday, August 31, 2017

If a Bird Can Be a Ghost by Allison Mills

"If a Bird Can Be a Ghost" by Allison Mills 

This story came from Apex Magazine, Issue 99, August 2017.  You can read it online for free at: .  You can also find an interview with the author, Allison Mills, about this story here: . 

This was a charming little ghost story with a slightly dark and different twist.  Then again, what ghost story doesn't have a dark side?  To a certain extent I would classify this story as not having a true dark side.  It deals with some dark situations and emotions, but in a different approach than traditional ghost stories. 

The story is about a little girl named Shelly and her "Grandma."  Shelly's mother also played a role in this story.  Shelly's mother seemed to have a slight role in the story, but actually played quite a big role in the whole scope of the story. 

Grandma was what Shelly coined as a ghost-buster.  People came to Grandma with their ghost problems and Grandma helped get rid of the ghosts.  Grandma would catch the ghosts in her hair and then help them get to where they needed to go. 

Grandma kept Shelly close and taught her all about ghosts.  Grandma would show Shelly how to let her hair down and catch the ghosts.  Then after the ghosts were caught Grandma would show her how to release them.  Grandma was always kind with the ghosts and taught Shelly there was nothing be afraid of when it came to ghosts. 

Shelly's mother didn't agree with Grandma. She didn't like Shelly learning about ghosts and how to catch and get rid of them.  She didn't like anything about what Grandma was teaching Shelly and often voiced her opinion.  Especially when it came to how little Grandma would charge people who came to her to help rid themselves of ghosts.  Mother thought Grandma could charge much more for her services. 

Then one day Shelly's mother died.  Now Shelly was in Grandma's care.  Shelly loved her Grandma, but she was devastated about her mother.  Shelly greatly missed her mother. 

Mother's death sent Shelly on a spiral downward.  She desperately wanted to see her mother's ghost.  Shelly would let her hair down and go walking through town where she hoped that she would catch her mother's ghost.  She found many ghosts and she would question them to see if they had seen her mother anywhere.  More than anything Shelly wanted to see her mother again.  Shelly would try anything to accomplish the goal of possibly finding her mother. 

This story was multi-faceted and was a deeply touching story.  It dealt with relationships between family members and how they interact with one another.  The family bond and how deep family bonds could be.  It also explored the emotions of people and how they cope with different aspects of life and death. 

Shelly had a tight-knit relationship with her Grandma.  The relationship was expressed through the passing down of Grandma's tradition of dealing with ghosts.  Grandma helped Shelly understand that death shouldn't be something feared and life should be celebrated.  There are important lessons to learn from dealing with the dead and Grandma was trying to pass that information on to Shelly, the younger generation. 

When Shelly's mother passed away she didn't quite know what to do.  She wanted desperately to see her one last time.  She had learned that death wasn't necessarily the end of the line and went seeking her mother.  She used ghost seeking as a coping mechanism for expressing her love for her mother.  If Shelly never gave up looking for her mother then that would mean she was still out there somewhere.  She just had to find out where.  In her heart she was keeping her mother alive by never giving up. 

The story follows Shelly on her adventure of exploring her life without her mother and searching for her soul.  The interactions she has with ghosts and learning the limitations of death.   

As Shelly gathered up ghosts hoping to find her mother she started a collection.  This collection helped fill the void her mother left in her life.  There is subtle dichotomy when Shelly tried to fill the loneliness of life with the only thing she really knew well, death.  She had to learn that death could not fill the void of life. 

This was a fantastic ghost story.  There were so many different aspects to this story it was hard to cover everything I extracted from the reading.  I love the different way this story took on being a "ghost" story while not being scary, or horror-like.   

The story was beautifully written and well thought out.  So much emotion was fit into this short story I thought I had read much more than I actually had.  Definitely worth checking out if you want to read a heart-felt story that deals with you guessed it, ghosts. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Wrong Side of the Tracks by Kelly Washington

"The Wrong Side of the Tracks" by Kelly Washington 

This story comes from the anthology magazine Fiction River, issue 24, "Pulse Pounders: Adrenaline."  Written by Kelly Washington.  The anthology was guest edited by Kevin J. Anderson. 

This was the first story I've read in Fiction River.  I just recently discovered the magazine and waiting for my first issue to arrive.  In the mean time I bought the current issue because I'm so damn impatient and couldn't wait 2 months to get my first copy.  The opening story for this issue of the magazine was fantastic and I think I will be reviewing many stories from this magazine. 

This story started out with a woman named Marlene in a cabin in the woods smoking a cigarette.  She was waiting for something, something that made her jumpy and nervous.  She was on edge and strung as tight as a violin string. 

Soon she was watching a man exit a police cruiser and circle her cabin in the blackness of the night.  She was scared to death.  The man was Julian.  Her boyfriend.  He had found her. 

Julian was a man that she once loved.  Or so she thought.  He was a charming man.  Tall, broad, handsome, and a cop to top it all off.  He won her over the first night they met.  Then she moved in with him. 

That's when the violence began.  Julian had a temper and it became quite apparent the first day she was living with him.  He always seemed to make it seem like something she did was what made him act out.  She believed him and didn't want to scare off what seemed like the perfect man. 

After a while of being beaten, abused, and held captive by her so-called lover, Marlene decided to leave.  She made a break for it and headed to the only spot she could think of, her grandfather's cabin.  She holed up in the cabin, waiting for him to find her.  Somehow, she knew he would find her.  He was a cop after all.  He had resources other people didn't. 

Marlene was expecting Julian to find her and had a plan all setup to get away from him.  When Julian started to knock on the door and soon tried to break down the door she put her plan into action.  She crawled through a hole in the ceiling of the cabin and made a run for her life. 

That's when the chase began.  Marlene running for everything she was worth to save her life and Julian chasing her down trying to get her to come back to him.  Marlene knew that if he were to catch her, he would probably kill her.  She had no choice but to fight for her life and hope he didn't catch her. 

This was definitely an awesome opening to this anthology.  To me this story defined what the theme of this anthology was all about.  It was fast-paced and very intense.  I was turned pages as fast as I could read to see what would happen next. 

The story also delved into domestic violence.  The story gave a picture of what life would be like as a woman in an abusive relationship.  The thoughts she would have, and the feelings of someone who desperately wanted to be loved by a man who abused her in every aspect of her life. 

I think this story was a great story that gave an idea of the lengths that some people would go through in order to leave an abusive partner behind.  More often than not it isn't just as simple as taking your stuff and leaving.  The person has to run, hide, and hope that person doesn't find them in fear of their life, and, or, their children's lives. 

The domestic violence portrayal led into a perfect story backdrop for an adrenaline-fueled cat and mouse story.  I found myself hoping things went certain ways while reading the story.  All the while wondering how it would end. Who would end being the victor?  Would anyone come and help?  The suspense was amazing. 

I would definitely recommend this story as a great read if you want suspense and a thrilling page turner.  I don't think anyone would be disappointed after reading this story.  There is so much emotion poured into this story that I almost felt exhausted from holding my breath by the end. 

All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...