Beneath Ceaseless Skies #78, September 22, 2011

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #78, September 22, 2011

“Butterfly” by Garth Upshaw
“The Magick” by Kristina C. Mottla

Reviewed by Sherry Decker

In “Butterfly” by Garth Upshaw we are in the thoughts of a girl named Maia. Told by authorities that she and the others are being taken to a place where they will be cured, one hundred thirteen children of various ages are crammed into a train car under the control and the cruel eye of Juanita, a muscle-bound guard. Juanita has no sympathy for the children, only a twisted sense of humor at their discomfort and naiveté. She is there to protect them from Bugs but she spends more time physically and verbally abusing them.

Sixteen year old Maia finds herself seated beside Aidan. They share the same birthday.  All the children have been infected by an alien Bug. Maia and Aidan often hear a voice inside their head. Aidan says it’s the Bug, trying to control them, wanting to escape. Aidan is ill, yet Maia is attracted to him. Maia sees the symptoms and realizes that she is experiencing some of the same symptoms.

The descriptions are detailed and vivid, and I felt I was in the train car with them, privy to Maia’s thoughts and fears. She and Aidan grow close in the short period of time they have together. It’s impossible not to care what happens to them.

It’s a touching tale. Except for a few unnecessary adverbs and the variant use of towards instead of toward, I enjoyed the writing style, the characters, and the story very much.

“The Magick” by Kristina C. Mottla

Near the small, rural town of Pond Mok in Hith, Elna mourns the loss of her baby sister, Sillow, who died of a lung ailment. The second youngest, Janzel, is also ailing, and Elna fears she will die too. 

The family farm is also ailing. It’s struggling. Things need mending. Food doesn’t grow. Elna’s reluctant but desperate parents finally agree to bring a Magick to live at their farm. It’s believed that a Magick, if treated with a strict, authoritarian hand, can turn things around.

Parn, a nineteen year old Magick arrives. He is given a blanket and a pillow and told to sleep in the windowless shed.  Before long, the family is prosperous again. But Elna has a dark secret and she is terrified Parn will reveal it.

Pond Mok law insists that magick is the result of depravity, perhaps from a previous life. It is considered wickedness and the Magick, less than human.

Once a Magick visibly manifests its skills, said Magick must be immediately transported, as community property, to the nearest Hith Auction House in order to establish control over its nascent iniquity pre-sale.

Through sudden and unexpected circumstances, Elna and Parn survive a dangerous accident – her secret is revealed.

The writing flickers between understated and literary. I enjoyed the story and the moody style. For a writer’s first short fiction sale, this is impressive.