Short Stories 366:124 — “The Dance of the White Demons,” by Sabrina Vourvoulias

coverAnd this is it! I’m at the end of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which is probably the anthology I had the longest in my possession and only partially read before I started this wee project. This final trip from the anthology takes us to Guatemala in 1524, and is thematically a perfect story with which to close out the collection.

We meet a young woman—she has albinism—who is a witch, training under the tutelage of an older witch, and working to keep the people hale and hearty in the face of what seems to be insurmountable illnesses and—more frighteningly—the arrival of white people who are destroying their people.

K’antel meets a young man while she’s out collecting herbs (and also goofing off with her spiritual/magical animal counterpart) and when she realizes he is a projection of a young man having a vision, she brings him back to the other witch, and they learn he is a local ruler, and faces the oncoming destructive white people and is trying to figure out a way for his people to survive.

K’antel’s journey, and her desire to help the ruler, and her desire for him to survive—he has become, in many ways, her first real friend—is all the more heartbreaking because we know it’s so very unlikely. But in Vourvoulias’ hands, the story becomes something other than disheartening, and instead shifts to such a perfect example of the anthology as a whole: if the stories are told, then the people aren’t forgotten. How that plays out, and the last few moments of the story (and the collection) left me sitting and smiling and nodding along.

We’ve always been here. And this anthology was a great reminder of that.

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