“Traveling Mercies” by Rachael K. Jones
Reviewed by Stevie Barry
Rachael K. Jones‘ “Traveling Mercies” centers around the ancient concept of sacred hospitality. The narrator, implied to be a vampire, spends his life moving between the homes of friends he’s made during his travels, sustaining himself on their welcome and companionship rather than blood. He never lingers more than a day, believing that it would be unsafe to become an actual part of the household; instead, he always claims that he needs to get home. He believes that there is something divine about trusting one another enough to sleep beneath the same roof, and the sense of redemption this grants him is what feeds him. It’s a very short story, but gets its point across well without hitting the reader over the head. There’s something melancholy about the narrator, who seems more weary of his immortality than pleased by it, but the pleasure he gains from his visits give the narrative an uplifting vibe it would not otherwise hold. By virtue of being what he is, in a sense he’s very much alone, but his affection for his vast network of friends keeps him – and the story – hopeful rather than maudlin.