Crossed Genres #35, November 2015
“A Veil of Leaves” by M.K. Hutchins
Reviewed by Herbert M. Shaw
This is the penultimate issue of CG. Due to several factors, primarily ones related to funding, the site will close down after their December issue.
November’s theme for stories centers around the primal thought of anticipation. The spider senses tingle as a village awaits the visit from its overseers, a time enforcement officer seeks out defectors, and a sick twist gets put on a classic children’s myth.
“A Veil of Leaves” by M.K. Hutchins
The first story introduces the reader to a secluded colony whose livestock and vegetation are dictated by the Sky People, who visit every once in a while to check on the villagers. This time, the ambassador to the colony comes to see how the tribe living there has fared without access to proper meat or even fire. In hopes that they will be able to cater a grand event, he communicates with his team in the sky by using a mobile device that coats his tongue.
Two sides of the coin are shown as to unanticipated action. The younger common villagers are taken aback by the bourgeoisie attitude of their celestial visitor. At the same time, their guest seems appalled at the means by which these humans have learned to adapt to their unusual living situation, living a happy life in a closed controlled environment.
Hutchins creates a stigmatized community where Stockholm syndrome has gotten the best of the people. Told from the perspective of the chief female, a peaceful tale is told that seems like it could easily escalate to a cross between Attack on Titan and Battlefield Earth.
Though light-hearted, the story seems to end where a longer story might begin. The mostly female cast of characters empowers the ideals of the matriarchal society, but the male overlord once again casts a shadow of doubt on the significance of such a community.
“The Meaning that You Choose” by Bo Balder
When Big Brother gets access to time travel, Time Escape Prevention becomes the new hot job, and protagonist Miss Hee is the newest recruit in training to become a Time Escape Prevention Officer (or TEPO). In Balder’s dystopia, time jumpers are pursued and arrested for violating use of resources in and out of time.
The chapters of Miss Hee’s training take on the title’s purpose. Starting out as reminiscent of the seven deadly sins, reasons for time escape are explained through her adventures in temporal transcendence from as far back as 8,000 years before Christ to roughly 2200 A.D.
Anticipation is embodied here as that of what any enforcement officer from the beat cop to the head of government communications might expect when dealing with the criminals who hijack time to steal ancient artifacts, woo historic figures, or simply experience the past before their existence. Ultimately, her experience brings the reader closer to an understanding of the effects, though the plots are divided by cause.
“Decay” by Alison Mulder
The last story is an eerie look at the secret lives of tooth fairies. Many children of western culture will anticipate money under their pillow in exchange for deciduous teeth. But at what cost to the world of the mythical spirits?
In this scenario, the fairy is a male in pursuit of a new initiate; a successor bearing a familiar resemblance to a mortal on his route. Along the way, he visits a few houses and, very creepily, enters the room of the unsuspecting children. He investigates what he calls “seeds” and judges if they are “ready” before dropping the quarters under the pillows and moving on to the next house. At one point, he runs into another of “his kind” to chitchat about how they mess with humans. And when he finally encounters a “ready seed,” the chilling reality of the dental pixies is realized.
Mulder creates her own vision for the folklore of this modern spirit who rewards children with money for growing up. The anticipation of when a “seed” is “ready” creates a particularly disturbing take on the otherwise rewarding idea of the tooth fairy.
In an interview with CG, Mulder happily claims that the main character is villainous by intention, though “uncomplicatedly good” by repute. Her story may have been more appropriate for the Halloween time issue, although in anticipation of the upcoming winter holidays, a good story about demigods who bring gifts is always welcome, even if they may be a bit nightmare-inducing.