Flash Fiction Online #71, August 2019

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Flash Fiction Online #71, August 2019

“Neighbors and Little Thieves” by Monica Evans

“The Eye Eaters” by Matthew Bailey
“Cerise Sky Memories” by Wendy Nikel
“Bury-Me-Not” by Katherine Heath Shaeffer

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The latest issue of this on-line magazine of very brief tales offers an even balance of science fiction and fantasy. In different ways, all the stories deal with remembering the past.

The narrator of “Neighbors and Little Thieves” by Monica Evans looks back on an incident from childhood. Two siblings cut a hole in the fence between their house and their alien neighbors, in order to steal the strange pets that live there. They return them at the same that an older brother arrives, to announce that he is going to leave home and travel to the stars. The encounter with the aliens has an unexpected effect on their futures.

The author creates a vivid and richly imagined background in a few words. The conclusion of the story, recalling a theme found in Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-5, makes the reader ponder the nature of time and fate.

The title of “The Eye Eaters” by Matthew Bailey makes one expect a gruesome horror story. In fact, this is a gentle tale of traditions and culture shock. After a fruit seller dies, a child who shares his background wants to eat one of his eyes, in order to preserve his memories. Her friend, who comes from another culture, is disgusted at first, but finally agrees to eat the other. The experience makes her realize how prejudice hurts her friend and her people. The author uses a fantasy concept as a powerful metaphor for the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.

The narrator of “Cerise Sky Memories” by Wendy Nikel is a synthetically grown human, designed to perform clerical duties. These beings have artificial memories of their childhoods. The narrator loses employment for being obsolescent, seeks out the source of the synthetic memories, and has a moving meeting with the one who created them. Written with great sensitivity, this quiet character study draws the reader into the heart and soul of the protagonist.

Continuing the theme of dealing with the past, “Bury-Me-Not” by Katherine Heath Shaeffer features a narrator whose mother has died after a long illness. In this fantastic version of the modern world, a strange organism sometimes appears after a person dies. If it is not destroyed, or stored away and forgotten, it takes on the characteristics of the dead person. This work of magic realism provides an effective allegory for the way in which survivors are haunted by thoughts of those they have lost, and the manner in which they deal with these memories.

Victoria Silverwolf thinks this issue contains an unusually high percentage of good stories.