“In the Shade of the Pixie Tree” by Rodello Santos
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies offers two stories dealing with young people undergoing the difficult process of maturing from children to adults. In each, the protagonists also face the dangers of their fantastic environments.
The main character of “In the Shade of the Pixie Tree” by Rodello Santos is a teenage girl who serves as an apprentice to a witch. Her duties include harvesting pixies from the trees where they grow like fruit. While on such an errand she meets a boy of her own age. They engage in the kind of teasing banter familiar to anyone who has seen a romantic comedy. In a sudden flash forward, however, it soon becomes clear that a dark fate is in store for the young lovers.
The story is written in short sections, each with a weather-related title, which jump back and forth in time. There is a specific reason for this technique which is not revealed until later in the story. It may prove confusing for the reader who is not careful to pay close attention to events which are not fully explained the first time they are mentioned.
“Crescendo” by J. S. Veter is seen through the eyes of a boy who shares a communal home with several siblings and multiple parents. One of his sisters is a brave young woman who dares to lead her less courageous siblings to a forbidden place where she has discovered a seemingly bottomless hole, one of many which pop up at random times in various places. Although a stone thrown into the hole yields no echo, mysterious sounds emerge from it which change the lives of the girl and her brother.
The story can be read as an allegory of the importance of not forgetting the past, no matter how unpleasant it may be. This is particularly true when people known as Storians arrive. It seems evident that they are intended to be historians, fearlessly remembering what the commune dwellers have allowed to slip from memory. Unlike the first story, which announces its tragic conclusion early, this tale offers a trace of hope along with a sense of loss for its protagonist.
Victoria Silverwolf lives on a wooded hilltop in the southeastern corner of Tennessee with one human and sixteen cats.