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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Nightmare #30, March 2015

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Nightmare #30, March 2015

 
"An Army of Angels" by Caspian Gray
"Please, Momma" by Chesya Burke

Reviewed by Lillian Csernica

"An Army of Angels" by Caspian Gray

Jazmine has known Nancy since high school, since the day Nancy had her first meltdown calling on everyone in class to join her in forming "an army of angels." Nancy's diagnosis is schizophrenia, and Nancy is fine as long as she takes her medication. Nancy shows up on Jazmine's doorstep late one night in the pouring rain. She claims she wants to show Jazmine something, but when Jazmine drives her home, Nancy abruptly changes her mind. Jazmine chalks it all up to Nancy's more than usual weirdness. When Nancy later calls her in the middle of the night, Jazmine is ready to call it quits despite the guilt and the enduring bond of being Nancy's best friend. Nancy succeeds in persuading Jazmine to come over. Nancy does indeed have something to show Jazmine, something far worse than a schizophrenic delusion.

This is one creepy story. From the first scene where Nancy shows up out of the rainy dark looking strange and unkempt to Jazmine's discovery of what Nancy really does have inside her apartment, things just keep getting weirder. The way Jazmine dwells on her feelings of guilt and pity for Nancy are juxtaposed with Nancy's feelings of guilt over what she has to do and the pity that drives her. I have to compliment Mr. Gray on the central device of this story. It brought to mind the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom, "...before Him stand thousands of archangels and myriads of angels, cherubim and seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed soaring aloft on the wings..." A good weird tale, with moments both horrifying and poignant.

"Please, Momma" by Chesya Burke

It takes some doing to figure out what's going on in this story. It is told in third person limited, but even then it takes a bit of reading before that becomes clear. The text alternates between bold print and standard print, representing the voices of the protagonist, Sissy, and her little sister, nicknamed Baby. The girls are in the backseat as their Auntie drives them and their mother Mae to go see a psychic named Iaafyn. Mother Mae is in a bad way, acting strange and beating on poor Sissy. Iaafyn is apparently capable of defibrillating her clients with her psychic power. This does get results. Unfortunately, the results are described in terms that I had to track down as being drawn from the Yoruba language. While one of the terms is explained, the other isn't and its meaning is not made clear in context. It would have helped to know Iaafyn does her work in the context of Santera, or at least using the terms of Yoruban mythology. The sorting out of Mae's actual ailment, its source, and treatment takes up so much of the story that there isn't a whole lot in the way of a climax. By then the ending is obvious.