Hub, #16 – #19

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“Every Odalisque Knows” by Dominae Petrosini
“New Skin for the Old Ceremony” by David Tallerman
“The Library” by Christopher Brosnahan

“Ten Thousand Spaceships” by Paul E. Martens
In “Every Odalisque Knows” by Dominae Petrosini, Alban and his crew travel to another planet while their world crumbles. A long war with the Chasers is about to end in defeat, but there is one last hope. On a faraway planet, the peaceful, mysterious, and knowledgeable inhabitants have discovered Saffron. Nobody knows what Saffron is, but it may save Alban’s planet. However, the locals prove not to be as friendly as Alban expected.

“Every Odalisque Knows” uses the commonly used trope of a fascinating and esoteric wise people. While not particularly new, Petrosini adds a distinctive element. What Saffron really is and how it has changed the people add originality to a potentially clichéd story.

In “New Skin for the Old Ceremony” by David Tallerman, Mark is a sheriff who has just finished his shift. He thought he could have a quiet evening, but the local drunk reports seeing weird lights in the woods. As tired as Mark is, he’s a good cop and goes to check, even though he’s also a skeptic. And something is in the woods, and it’s not human.

“New Skin for the Old Ceremony” takes a mundane situation and makes it increasingly weird with the plot taking an interesting twist in the middle. Tallerman makes the reader examine familiar elements of reality by making them unfamiliar. The effect is powerful: a mixture of eeriness, sarcasm, and anxiety to make you read the last two pages holding your breath.

In “The Library” by Christopher Brosnahan, the protagonist is reading in the library when his sister phones for help. He doesn’t hear her, and when he finally gets her messages,  she’s died because he didn’t hear his phone. After the funeral, the protagonist wants to go back to his life, but strangely, the only place he can find any peace is in the library.

This is an eerie story about dependence, pain, and memory. The plot runs at a good pace for most of the story. But the ending fails to offer readers an appropriate cause for the story’s sinister effects, becoming the least effective part of this tale.

In “Ten Thousand Spaceships” by Paul E. Martens, spaceships appear in people’s lawns overnight. No one knows where they come from or how they work. The only thing that’s clear is that they take off only when the right people get in, and not one person more. Gerry always wanted to travel to other planets, but he has a family. What if the spaceship takes off without one of his daughters? What if it brings them all to an unfriendly environment?

This tale explores the tension between family life and realizing one’s dreams. Especially in the beginning, it’s quite humorous and moves quickly. But the plot slows when it reaches the core of the issue. The appropriate open-endedness doesn’t shake away the feeling that more could have been done, especially after such a catchy beginning.