"Terminus" by Tristan Davenport
"Hide" by Gordon Grice
"Best Friend" by Will McIntosh
Issue 27 of Chizine begins with a story by Tristan Davenport, “Terminus.” The unnamed narrator is hired to (we presume) kill a Mr. Maxwell. However, when he arrives, he finds Mr. Maxwell is already dead. Though spooked, he goes about his routine of clearing all evidence of his presence from the apartment he is staying in. Finally, he checks the last room of the apartment, only to find himself, and time flows in reverse.
“Terminus” plays with an interesting effect, that the protagonist reaches the end of a timeline and is forced to reverse to complete events. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the tension this story needed in order to be successful. The narrator’s tone is so muted that it deadens the resonance of the body of the story, though the ending is much stronger than the rest.
“Hide” by Gordon Grice is a slipstream, almost surreal, story. The narrator is met with a strange black man whom he encounters both in dreams and reality. The man is usually, but not always, hideously deformed in some way, from having his skin replaced with a bizarre algal growth to having a giant tumor with a second face. At the beginning, the encounters are simply the narrator seeing the strange man. As the story progresses, the encounters get more confrontational and violent.
Stories in this genre carry different meanings for each reader, as slipstream stories often attempt to push symbolism beyond previous definitions. In the case of “Hide,” I came away with a sense that it was about a man who seeks and fails to conquer some aspect of himself. The simplest explanation is a personal confrontation with racism, but each reader will need to decide for him or herself. All in all, “Hide” has many intriguing elements, and will probably have great appeal to fans of the genre.
The final story of this issue is “Best Friend” by Will McIntosh. David Hugo examines his childhood, trying to determine why he doesn’t like being with his son. As a child, David saw two of his friends murdered. He returns to his hometown to confront the killer, his best friend, Tommy, and comes away with a deeper understanding of himself.
While “Best Friend” is reasonably well written, it’s not very engaging. David’s struggle with his past doesn’t make for interesting reading as he is mostly a passive actor. He takes no action, has no initiative until the very end. This turns “Best Friend” into more of a character study than a story.