Strange Horizons, November 2, 2015
Reviewed by Christos Antonaros
“Needle on Bone” by Helena Bell is a science fiction short story with strong depth and a solid background.
The protagonist’s house, which used to belong to her grandparents, hides a universal secret in its attic as it is a passageway for aliens. However, the aliens that walk through cannot stay alive more than a couple of minutes. The storyteller describes the love story between herself and an alien with a strange tattoo. She guides us smoothly through her story up to the moment she decides to sell the house. It is a funny argument between the protagonist and the real estate agent, when the latter preferred the ‘aliens’ to be mentioned as ‘ghosts’ on the estate’s disclosure.
The mystery behind the attic and the way Helena Bell describes the aliens were two story elements that stayed with me after I finished “Needle on Bone.” I found the concept of alien passages across the planet and their unfortunate passing a genuine idea and a brilliant starting point to a variety of settings.
In addition, I enjoyed the part where the protagonist focused on a neighbor’s description of the mauve color of a specific alien’s skin. By using only one color, the author made me shape with my mind’s eye a beautiful extra-terrestrial creature.
“Needle on Bone” made me also search for a hidden message behind the words. Finishing the story, I asked myself: Are the “aliens” who try to pass into our planet a metaphor for the illegal immigration crisis around the world?
Christos Antonaros is a dark fiction author with a love for European mythology