Sunday Shorts—Walking Awake by N.K. Jemisin

coverHoly. Flying. Crap. It’s possible I walked the dog a few extra blocks—okay, an extra kilometre or three—to get to the end of this short story on audiobook. Women Destroy Science Fiction is freaking magic, and this story is just… wow.

N.K. Jemisin sets up a world were it’s obvious something has gone very, very wrong. Children are quite literally bred as host stock for some sort of parasitic ruling class of somethings—aliens?—who have taken over and now use our bodies to remain immortal, transferring between forms when the bodies wear out. Our window into this story is Sadie, a woman who works at one of the centres where the children are raised in order to “serve the Masters,” and who—thanks to her own neurology—is herself unable to be used in such a way.

Her position as someone who facilitates these “transfers” is aware of realities the children don’t know, and is a party to the horrific reality of what it is she’s doing, but she’s also powerless to do anything about it, and resigned to do her best to just not think about it. Until, in a dream, she starts to realize that she can’t, and also there’s a chance she’s not at all as powerless as she thought.

This story subverts so many of the typical tropes I don’t even know where to begin, but wow, I loved it. And the audio performer did a brilliant freaking job.

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