Darci Stone’s contributed “Mara’s Shadow.” When a dangerous new parasite threatens the future of the human race, a young Vietnamese woman must delve into our past in search of a cure before she loses the people she loves most.
This story, more so than any other (save perhaps one that uses 2nd person perspective) experiments with structure. There are two disparate threads that weave together to resolve the story, and are interspersed with “media clippings” from inside the story world. It takes a lot to carry such a complex structure to the finish line, but this story absolutely does.
Darci uses a high-speed pace in this story to great effect. The primary plot line is broken up by a secondary plot and both are dotted with the “media clippings” frequently enough that no one section drags on. Some are only a few hundred words, others possibly even shorter. This gives it a short story version of thriller pacing.
In a volume that by chance skewed more fantastical, “Mara’s Shadow” uses influences as far apart as sociology and entomology to create a believable science fiction.
Quinten Gleim’s illustration captures the binary nature of the story, the fractured structure, and the chaotic, creeping, dread that looms over the narrative. His choice to have the character face her own reflection, literally staring into the doubt, fear, and guilt that she’s caused the person she loves the most to die the most horrible death imaginable (and that she’s gonna get to wait and look forward to it happening for the next 25+ years) is just brilliant.
Quinten is pursuing his MFA and is creating images for his post-apocalyptic novel set in the American West.