Diabolical Plots #91, September 2022
“The Grammar of City Streets” by Daniel Ausema
“A Stitch in Time, a Thousand Cuts” by Murtaza Mohsin
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Two fantasies with strongly contrasting moods, both featuring characters with unusual skills, appear in this issue.
The main character in “The Grammar of City Streets” by Daniel Ausema creates maps to help people make their way through a city of complex, ever-changing streets. These maps consist of sentences that guide her clients to their destinations. She uses this skill to help a widow avoid losing her home to a banker.
The premise is original and intriguing. This brief work, a simple tale of good triumphing over evil, makes for pleasant reading. There is no doubt at all that the greedy banker, a figure straight out of old melodramas, will be frustrated in his efforts to claim the widow’s home. A more complex story might have made a better showcase for the author’s evident imagination and writing skill.
The protagonist of “A Stitch in Time, a Thousand Cuts” by Murtaza Mohsin has the ability to go back in time ten minutes. He uses this power to rescue items from buildings destroyed by the bombs of an occupying force. The plot deals with his effort to find a lost key for a woman.
Given the fact that the characters in the story are Muslims, and that much of the narrative deals with their oppression by the occupying force, it is possible that the work is intended as an allegory for the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. Be that as it may, the story is a vivid portrait of people living in desperate circumstances. Even the main character’s extraordinary ability provides only a tiny bit of relief, as he saves small objects for the victims of bombings. The mood is one of despair and bitter resentment. The open-ended conclusion may leave some readers less than fully satisfied.
Victoria Silverwolf has a car with a dead battery that needs to be replaced.