Rabid Transit: Long Voyages, Great Lies

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"The Mom Walk: A Story in Five Stories" by Alice Kim
"Shackles" by David Schwartz
"My Whole World Lies Waiting" by F. Brett Cox
"Mountain, Man" by Heather Shaw
"The Ghost Line" by Meghan McCarron
"Release the Bats" by Geoffrey H. Goodwin

This is the sixth chapbook in the Rabid Transit series, published by the Ratbastards (a group of writers that includes such talents as Barth Anderson, Chris Barzak, Alan De Niro, and Kristin Livdahl). Like Flytrap and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, they took it upon themselves to publish strange, evocative fictions, often tending toward the experimental, that don’t tend to find many markets. And Long Voyages, Great Lies clearly demonstrates why we need venues such as these. The works included here are different from each other, and yet they are unified by love of language and shameless imagination. If you’re looking for fresh and interesting stuff, all five Rabid Transit chapbooks are well worth a look.

The opening story, "The Mom Walk: A Story in Five Stories" is the first publication by Alice Kim, and I hope to see more from her soon. "The Mom Walk" starts with a rather mundane situation: Wendy and her mom are watching Jeopardy. The mom gets up and leaves, never coming back. Then things quickly get stranger as we learn that another girl, Wanda, who lives in an alternate universe, also lost her mother in similar fashion. The phenomenon spans myriads of universes and involves aliens. And it’s not what you think it is. The only complaint I have about the story is that the ending leaves some questions unresolved and is just a little bit too easy. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent story, told in an engaging, genuine voice.

"Shackles" by David Schwartz is the only ostensible departure from the theme of journeys in this collection. It takes place in a vaguely steam-punkish world, in a dark dungeon where the political prisoners are kept. Mr. Schwartz does an amazingly subtle job telling this story with almost no visual cues–just sounds and scents and sensations. The narrator is a troubadour whose tongue was cut out, and as he lost his speech he also lost the memory of his songs. The cast of the rebels is diverse and convincingly depicted: There’s Maximus Mane, a legendary figure of Spartacus’ proportions, and there’s the Auto-Revolutionary, an automaton that simultaneously evokes the Tin Man, the robots from the old pulps, and monsters of Greek myth (don’t ask me how he does that; I don’t know). It is a dark and beautiful story, and well worth a read.
"My Whole World Lies Waiting" by F. Brett Cox is another subtle story, well grounded in the real world. A middle-aged couple and their dog take a road trip to visit their grown children, grandchildren, and friends. Along the way, there are occasional strange occurrences–such as a door standing free, not attached to any building, its color and appearance hailing to Wells’ "The Green Door." But most of the story is spent in loving description of the terrain, the people, their dog. The author evokes an expectation of a miracle by building a quiet tension throughout the piece. The miracle indeed arrives at the end; I won’t spoil the story, since the reading of this piece and discovery of the wonder within brought me much joy; I won’t deprive you of that.

"Mountain, Man" by Heather Shaw is perhaps the most traditional story of the bunch, but no less enjoyable for that. It tells the tale of a retired schoolteacher, John, who lives in a cabin on a mountain, away from human company. One day he shoots what he thinks is a deer and accidentally wounds a young woman. He takes her in. But the girl is not what she appears to be. I greatly enjoyed the series of strange events that followed after her arrival, and found the ending poignant without being sappy. Below the surface of the fairytale, there’s depth and beauty. A wonderful story.
"The Ghost Line" by Meghan McCarron takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a red line on the ground marks the beginning of the supergrowth–a jungle-like area full of ghosts and supernatural occurrences. People also live there, subsisting on scavenging and hunting. The world reminded me strongly of "Roadside Picnic" by the Strugatsky brothers–they also have an area ("Zone," left by alien visitors, not a nuclear war) where normal laws of physics do not quite apply, and strange creatures and occurrences flourish, as well as the frontier culture that subsists on the artifacts from the Zone. The protagonist, a young woman named Fish, falls for her hunting teacher, Pabst (yes, all the names are just regular nouns and product names). After he leaves, she decides to go exploring on her own. Ms. McCarron succeeds in creating a very strange and yet believable reality, and a sympathetic protagonist. Her adventure is a thrilling trek through a fascinating and dangerous world, and the conclusion is understated and effective.

"Release the Bats" by Geoffrey H. Goodwin is the story of Constance, a young woman trapped in a terrible relationship with her father, Hank. Hank is an unpleasant man who has a tendency to trade in those he loves to demons for various shady powers. And there are bats and puppets. Though it has the markings of a revenge story, the pure strangeness distinguishes it from your typical turn-the-tables tale. A very weird story that will leave you unsettled, cringing, and strangely thrilled.
Publisher: Velocity Press (2006)
Chapbook Price: $6.00