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

Spirit House: A collection of short fiction to benefit victims of the 2004 tsunami disaster

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"Hurricane Sandrine" by Daniel Braum
"Free The Sky" by Wendy S. Delmater
"Freeing Teresa" by J.D. Paradise
"Forever and Ever, Amen" by William Freedman
"It's the End of the World and It's Your Fault" by Eric Joel Bresin
"Day After" by Amy Lau

In February of 2005, a group of authors released a speculative fiction anthology, Spirit House, to raise funds for the victims of the 2004 tsunami disaster.  The stories all speak of spirituality, life, death, and hope.
 
The opening story, "Hurricane Sandrine" by Daniel Braum first appeared in Full Unit Hook Up #5, 2004.  A distraught painter, Steven, travels to Belize, in the midst of preparations for Hurricane Sandrine, to find his brother-in-law, Matt.  He hopes Matt will provide more insight into the drowning death of his wife, Elise.  On the water taxi ride to Caye Caulker, Steven meets a gypsy woman who is escorting a young girl.  Once he arrives at his destination, Steven finds his way to the Lazy Iguana where the locals are celebrating Bob Marley's birthday.  He contacts Ricardo, a local who accompanies him to Matt's grave where he stumbles across the gypsy and her charge.  The young girl plays an important role in protecting the island from the hurricane, forcing Steven to release his wife and rethink his beliefs.  The story is disjointed, jumping to many facets of Steven's adventure, from the need for closure to his misunderstandings of the culture.  Though the middle could have been tighter, the ending drew the plot pieces together.

Wendy S. Delmater's "Free the Sky" is a short-short with a tender punch.  Drew, a weatherman, watches the initialization of a global climate control system.  The new technology will "tame the deserts and the poles" and "stop people from getting killed in hurricanes and typhoons."  Not everyone embraces the change.  Drew meets a fellow protester, a mute woman named Yelena who holds a sign stating "Free the Sky".  With that one phrase, the essence of Drew's convictions and objections has a voice, a slogan.  He takes Yelena for coffee and they plot their escape to a frontier colony world where they might find an unhindered sky. For a short piece, all the emotions carry through, with a host of memorable statements such as, "All things, when threatened, have an immense beauty that we miss in the everyday."                           

Another richly penned piece, "Freeing Teresa" by J.D. Paradise, follows Jericho Smith's quest to free his wife's spirit from his home.  Teresa killed herself and now she screeches and wails from the upstairs, haunting the bedroom and the bathroom where she slit her wrists.  Teresa fills the house with frustration, breaking whatever she can, turning the rooms to freezers with her misery.  Jericho enlists the assistance of an old woman and a gaunt man, each with their own skills to exercise trapped spirits.  The result is a solution that is surprising, yet inevitable.  The story is lyrical and the words steeped in symbolism. 

The longest story, "Forever and Ever, Amen" opens with, "We have more cold days in Hell than you might think.  That's because it's in Idaho."  William Freedman grabs my attention and keeps it, despite the length, right through until the end.  The tale is written in the first person point of view of Sexualdeviant Massmurderer, or Deev for short.  Deev meets up with two other souls condemned for all eternity to Gehinnom.  Together, they venture beyond Idaho to seek comfort.  Along the way, they pick up a fourth condemnee who teaches them the secret to motorized transportation: "If the vehicle is doomed to be destroyed and will take at least one life with it, then you can travel on the last leg of its journey."  They spend decades waiting at various airports searching for passage to Mesopotamia and the chance to have their cases reopened by the One True Judge.  They face the temptations of Cain, the father of guilt, and Noah, a partying rebel from Heaven.  When Deev reaches the gates, he states his objections to Satan and earns lunch in a Starbucks, the funniest scene in the piece.  Though Deev's options aren't what he expected, Freedman manages to engineer hope within hopelessness.  While the story is filled with religious references from a variety of beliefs, it is approachable, personal, and most importantly, believable.  Many questions come to mind, the most interesting one I'll paraphrase, "If there is no justice, how can there be a real judge?"

Eric Joel Bresin's "It's the End of the World and It's Your Fault" first appeared in Nevermore Magazine, in October of 2003.  Told in story-within-a-story format, the world's death is illustrated in one act of lust and greed.  The first earthquake awakens an anger that eventually consumes our planet.  Thus, the storyteller holds up the world and asks the question, "Have you figured out whose soul is in [this blue orb]?"  Though I don't want to take credit for the destruction of our planet, the author shines a focus on my own choices that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable.

The last short-short, "Day After" by Amy Lau is the defining story within the anthology.  Mekhala wanders the ravished shore the day after the tsunami.  She searches for her family or any hint of her former life, and finds a spirit house.  The cover of the anthology bears an illustration of one such house by Élena Nazzaro and the back cover describes them as attempts "to honor and appease the land-spirits to recruit these spirits as protectors."  When Mekhala spots the tiny but symbolic house, she is filled with anger for its uselessness.  Together with a true spirit, she smashes the house, in a symbolic move to free her soul from hope.  Only then can she begin her new life.  This story represents the reason for this anthology's existence: to fight the overwhelming sense of hopelessness with a small act, to take one step in a new direction, and to provide the surviving victims with a chance to rebuild.

Overall, the collection fulfills its purpose, compelling me to donate to the named charities.

Minimum Donation: $6.50