Short Stories 366:19 — “Collected Likenesses,” by Jamey Hatley

coverOh wow, was this story powerful. Told in tiny chapters, this is the story of a black woman, her former-slave grandmother, and scars, time, connections, and legacies. The speculative element here is at once liberating and smothering. The entire tale feels like that: push and pull, oppositions in a kind of balance that refuses to be one thing without also being the opposite. Here, a granddaughter inherits the cutouts her grandmother has made of all those who have harmed her. Here, a granddaughter learns what is done to those cutouts will have consequence to those who hurt her grandmother, or those closest kin to those people who still live.

It’s a bequest and a request both, and it’s not done without pain. Burn a cutout, and the grandmother will burn also, but what is delivered to the person in question is far, far worse. This is somewhere between justice and vengeance, and the granddaughter begins her duty at the same time as she tries to navigate a way to some personal freedoms.

What follows is a story that left me completely captivated while winding ever-tighter anxiousness around me as a reader. I knew it couldn’t end happily—every word and the very tone of the story made that clear from the start—but I didn’t want to stop, and I absolutely wanted to see where it would go. And in the end, those cutouts delivered so perfectly on their history of pain. This was such an amazing speculative fiction story, and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History continues to be fantastic.

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