|Art by Kirbi Fagan|
"Winter's Flight" by Susan Jane Bigelow (5805 words)
This story speaks to me of change and transition, progress and struggle. The main character, Penny, is a woman who has worn many hats. Has acted as many people. As Silverwyng, young and believing that what she was doing was right. As Broken, homeless and afraid, scavenging and hurt. And finally as Penny, a woman with a name instead of a title, and a life that seems just outside her reach. And yet she's back in New York, the place where she was first Silverwyng, then Broken, and the place brings back the ghosts of her past selves. Kinda literally. The story shows Penny entering into a new phase of life, into a new role, but first has to put some of the old ones to bed. And what follows is fast and frantic, bold and fun. I have to say that with every time I reenter this world the story takes place in I'm fascinated. In part because each of the short stories that have come out are separated by novels. Or, to me, novel-shaped holes (because I am super behind on my reading and haven't gotten to it yet). Which doesn't detract from the stories. They stand brilliantly on their own. Indeed, it allows for an interesting examination of the setting glimpsed only in these snippets, a progress that seems both slow but also hopeful. That old hurts slowly fade. That old wrongs are slowly righted.
[SPOILERS] And I love that here the sense of oppression is starting to lift in the setting. It isn't gone, as the attacks of t he story go to prove, but the oppressive forces aren't what they were. They are stripped down and on the decline, a wraith of what they were. Resistance is more possible and there is the sense, for me at least, that maybe there will come a time when there can be proper integration, proper peace. And this is embodied in the story by Penny's relationship to her son. Her son, who is estranged, who never knew his mother. And who remains just out of reach because of what has been done to Penny, because she has to live in fear. And yet that is also where the hope lives, that Penny decides to fight in part so that she can believe in the world where she doesn't have to any more. Where she can live as herself and maybe have some sort of relationship with her child. It's a touching and powerful moment at the end of the story, and a truly amazing final line to tie everything together. Seriously, this is a beautiful story, and you should check it out along with the rest of the Extrahuman Universe!