I read this issue throughout the week entirely from my phone, in bed, before I fell asleep and started dreaming. It felt appropriate as all of these long stories contain an element of dreaming; some of the stories incorporate it more while others just mention a dream that the character had. Yet as much as these stories contain surreal and dream-like elements, the stories are about much more than fantasy.
In “Desert Lights” by Alex Aro, the main character’s skin walks off, leaving him exposed. He tells about a recurring dream where a vacuum salesman and an artist run into each other in the desert. The vacuum ends up sucking up the artist’s paints and then explodes them, “recreating the desert into something new, something glorious.” The main character has his own adventure in the desert, following the unknown lights with his crush. It turns out that the lights are lanterns, one of which is made from his skin that has wandered away: “My past life is floating above me, my former wrists are tied together and form a corner of the kite and are flapping in the cold breeze, waving goodbye.”
“Dinos” by Beth Spencer, my favorite in this issue, may contain dinosaurs, but it is very much grounded in the real world. It’s about a woman who is trying to deal with her divorce when some baby T-rexes show up at her house. She spends the story taking care of the dinosaurs, trying to convince a select few people that they exist, and wondering if she still has her sanity:
Is she crazy? Surely it’s strange that she’s doing so much better than most freshly divorced women. Shouldn’t she be miserable? Trouble is, she doesn’t want to talk to a therapist about her marriage. Or her family. What she wants to talk about are the dinos. The therapist she needs would also have to be a paleontologist.
And “Fire Season” may be about two girls who can use dreams to travel and project, it is essentially a story about friendship and trust. In “Burnt Offering” by Marc Lowe, the narrator is haunted by a nightmare that forces him to write in order to save his life. And in “Bus Quakes” by Adam C. Richardson, the main character is, in the end, finally reunited with who he really is—some kind of magical being—giving him understanding about humans and their suffering.
This issue is certainly mystical, but the writing is good, and it seems as if the editors are able to publish the writing they are looking for. It is a great first issue for them.