“Mr. Buttons” by Miyuki Jane Pinckard
Reviewed by Kat Day
“Mr. Buttons,” by Miyuki Jane Pinckard, begins with a young boy, Taylor, packing his toys into a moving box. He’s decided to leave the titular Mr. Buttons, a tatty stuffed dog, behind. Mr. Buttons has other ideas. As a parent I can absolutely verify that some of the things young children say are absolutely terrifying, and children’s toys are literally the stuff of nightmares. This is a deliciously creepy short take on those classic ideas. I loved it.
“The Planting Prayer,” by Caroline Diorio, is a more literary piece, written in the second person. It’s not entirely clear at the beginning who the narrator is or to whom “you” refers, but later it’s implied it’s a message from a parent to a child. It describes a walk from an urban environment to the woods, carrying a body part. The trees, it seems, represent dead people. Said body part is then buried, and the planting prayer is recited. It has a haunting, poetic tone, and the prose is lovely. My description doesn’t really do it justice, but that’s always a problem when trying to talk about a piece like this. You’ll have to read it and decide for yourself.
“The Snow-White Heart” by Marie Brennan is, as the title suggests, a riff on the Snow-White fairy tale, beginning with the moment that the Queen instructs the huntsman to cut out Snow’s heart. Only, in this version, he actually does it, and the remains of the princess’s body are left to rot in the woods. At least, until it’s discovered. You may think you’ve read every take on Snow-White there could ever be, but no, this is entirely original. Disturbing, different and beautifully executed.
Unlike the other pieces in this October issue, “You Called Me,” by Avra Margariti, doesn’t have a clear horror inflection, but the parent-child theme is still firmly in evidence. It begins with fourteen-year-old Janie drinking milk from a carton in a domestic setting. Her mother asks about her plans, and it very quickly becomes apparent that Janie is no ordinary teenager: she seems to be able to appear and disappear anywhere at will, and she has worshippers. This is a heart-rending exploration of how difficult parenting can be, how guilty parents can feel, and how magical the love between a parent and child really is. Wonderful.
Kat Day writes a mixture of stuff and can be found generally hanging around on social media. You can follow her on Twitter @chronicleflask.