Charlotte, Carolina in 1905 is the setting of this next story from Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and given that it starts with an attack from the KKK, I was braced for impact. Brown doesn’t pull punches with the aftereffects, nor the ongoing impact of the looming fear that is the reality for Charlotte and her family and friends. Charlotte is with her friend (and potential love) Booker when this attack comes, and at the height, when the KKK are setting buildings alight, there is something that passes between Booker and Charlotte and the door of her home.
She wakes up unharmed, Booker gone, and fresh sorrows of the burned (and murdered) to deal with. She gathers with her remaining family and they mourn and try to continue. That, I think, was the harshest feeling in the story for me, that there were no options other than to continue, as it’s so clearly pointed out the very people they were to rely on for protection, the police, were just as likely to be under those white hoods.
But Charlotte also wants to know what happened that night, since she can’t quite recall, and once she tracks down Booker, he lets her in on a secret: she, like he, might very well have a gift to affect the world in some way. She scoffs of course, but later when it does come time to flee ahead of certain death, she risks everything on believing in Booker’s words, and it pays off in a really, really satisfying way. The further denouement of the story is charming, and leaves things on as hopeful a note as the time and place might allow.