By Teresa Naval
The awkward spaces between face-melting heat and monsoon season are perfect for reading short stories about growing up, growing alone, and growing out of love.
- No Man Is (Ng Yi-Sheng, Lontar Issue #5)
“One day, I decided to be an island. I took off my clothes and walked into the sea, then floated there…” And so begins the transformation of one man into an island. Award-winning writer Ng Yi-Sheng paints an evocative world that questions what being alone and being lonely really mean.
“What do I do with you now?” “Mine me I suppose. Set up a government. Register me for the United Nations.” “You’re not a sovereign nation. You’re just a territory.”
- The Mermaid’s Teeth (Yoon Ha Lee)
The sea is not only for the existential crises in No Man Is. It is also a whirlpool of danger. There are sharp things. There are things not meant to be sung in sailor songs. Yoon Ha Lee plays with mermaid mythos with lyrical and biting (pun intended) prose. A delicious read under five minutes.
“Words of foam-rush and and storm-sweep, words of coral uprooted, words of clouds spun upended into the sea’s endless churning cauldron.”
- Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers (Alyssa Wong, Nightmare Issue #37)
Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers is a heady, heavy piece that explores love, consumption, and the legacy of trauma. There’s a lot of misplaced desire, and the struggle to control the dark parts inside you. Author Alyssa Wong won the Nebula for this short story, being the first Filipina to be nominated and win the award.
“I pull the glass jar from my purse and vomit into it as quietly as I can. Black liquid, thick and viscous, hits the bottom of the jar, hissing and snarling Harvey’s words. My body shudders, limbs retracting, spine reshaping itself, as I empty myself of him.”
- Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead (Carmen Maria Machado, Lightspeed Issue #50)
Written like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo page, Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead is at once amusing and distressing. Ursula’s sister has entered the land of the dead, and Ursula wants to bring her back. But she needs the benevolence and generosity of the internet.
Crowdfunding has become one of the most popular and efficient ways to support movies or send students to college. But sometimes people use crowdfunding for other activities – like making a shit ton of potato salad, an emoji translation of Moby Dick, or, you know, following your sister into the dark.
“How Will I Spend The Money?
Here’s how the costs will break down:
$36.95: Bus ticket to Bethlehem.
$176.05: Cost of ingredients (salt, sage, cypress branch, matches,
mandrake, yew, chalk) to summon the necessary portal.
$16: The cheapest bottle of whiskey that I can force myself to drink.
$5,000: A one-time fee, for crossing.”
- Waiting for Rain (Ma. Rachelle Tesoro)
Waiting for Rain talks about the hidden places between growing up and staying young forever. Carlie wants a home, her mother wants to keep moving. The story asks when should we leave childhood? And where should we leave it behind?
“Rent is cheap, Ma says, in the provinces. She makes a living teaching piano, the only thing she can do well besides seducing men. I go to a public school whenever I can, but mostly I like wandering around town looking at people’s houses. Mansions, with their tall fences and shiny cars, dogs tethered at the gates. Tiny shacks, their windows sagging with scraggly plants, the tires on their roof keeping their rafters from blowing off.”
Image by Plunderpuss for Nightmare Magazine