A Window or a Small Box
I’ve just read this brilliant story by Jedediah Berry, first published in Tor.com, and reprinted in The Year’s Best Science-Fiction & Fantasy 2014 (Prime Books). It’s – well, I have no idea what it is, but it’s great. It’s described as “a charming and weird contemporary novelette of magic realism“, so, there.
What it certainly is is confident; the tone and voice of the piece really impressed me, and Berry manages to take [this] reader along on quite a long stretch of surreal / non-sensical landscape. It’s the kind of story that leaves me amazed that it works at all. I mean – what – uh? – oh, wow! It’s a great act of juggling (with 5th dimension burning knives).
It’s also the kind of story that makes me revise everything I write or plan on writing, because it’s shouting at me through a giant megaphone: THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS LIMITS YOU MAD OMNIPOTENT PEN-WIELDING LITTLE MAN!
So, really, you should read the whole thing for yourself, really, seeing as it is free and all on the interweb, but here’s a little extract, just in case:
– – – – – – – – – –
“Please,” she said to the goon now. “Please just tell me where we’re going.”
“Going? Darling, we’re already here. This is it.”
“This is what?”
“This is what happens when we catch you. We drive around together, and you say interesting things for as long as you can.”
The other goons were chuckling. There were more of them than could possibly fit inside that car: dozens, maybe. They could have filled a small theater.
“Keep it interesting, though. Because as soon as we get bored . . .”
More chuckling, and Laura’s instinct was to fight—to kick and punch and claw her way out of there—but she’d heard the doors lock, and she knew what had happened to Jim when he tried to fight them. So she swallowed that back and said, “What do you want me to talk about?”
“Snacks,” one of the goons said.
“Dinner,” another said.
“Talk about the constellations,” said a third.
“Zip it,” said the chief goon. “I want to hear about the wedding plans. I always find your wedding plans so interesting.”
“You hate it when I talk about my wedding plans,” Laura said.
“You’re right,” the chief goon said. “That was a trap.”
“I’m going to tell you a story,” Laura said, and then goons were hushing other goons, and one of them switched off the radio, and for a moment all she could hear was the noise of the car’s engine, which came as though from deep in the earth.
“The story is called ‘A Window or a Small Box,’ and it’s about some stones at the bottom of a stream—”
“Boring,” said one of the goons.
“Some stones,” she said, “that dreamed they were turtles.”
The same goon said, “Oooh,” and Laura could hear the slopping sound of him as he settled back into his seat.
“They dreamed that they were turtles, and the turtles swam in the waters of the stream, up above the rocks that dreamed them . . .”
from A Window or a Small Box, Jedediah Berry