Short Stories 366:33 — “Nine,” by Kima Jones

coverIf you’re looking for a pick-me-up of a story, something to leave you with a smile? This… is not it. It’s an amazing story. It’s so well written and I freaking loved it, but it’s also just a wee bit soul-crushing. Know that going in. It’s actually not that unusual among the tales of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. I’ve found the scales definitely tip to the “this is not a happy ending” side in this anthology.

Kima Jones brings us to Phoenix Arizona in 1902, to a hotel/weekly-dance-hall run by some awesome black women as a way point to better places. It starts softly enough, with the the three women (and the son of one of them) preparing the hotel for another week, and setting up the evening entertainment for when they turn the place into a dance hall for a kind of bar night, and then…

Well. Then magic and curses and the dead sent to exact revenge happen, and the whole is completely engrossing and totally had me from the first glimmers of something other starting to happen. I loved the set-up, the idea of the limitations the women (and boy) were working under, and the fallout of what was done—and the ending? Well, it will certainly stay with me a long, long time. A time I shall also be shuddering.

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