Short Stories 366:280 — “Sugardaddy,” by Craig Laurance Gidney

coverFor those of you who’ve been following this project, you may have noticed I discussed pretty much every story from Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction back over Pride Month and the weeks after, and might wonder why this single story is here in October. Well, not to put too find a point on it, but it’s here because “Sugardaddy” freaked me right the hell out. It’s my own fault, in that I kept reading it at night before I went to bed even when I realized it was going somewhere really shudder-inducing. And—as no doubt I’ll admit all month long—I ended up having horrible dreams because of it.

So! “Sugardaddy.” “Sugardaddy” is about Tasha, and is told in epistolary format. Tasha has just moved to Mercury Towers, and she hates it. She and her mother, a nurse, are here alone, and they have left Tasha’s father behind, for reasons that drip into the narrative like specks of blood throughout the story’s telling, with every bit of ominous feeling I can ascribe to that metaphor being wholly intentional. Oh, and Tasha is also seeing a figure no one else seems to be able to see, a pupil-less little purple-Black man who has sharp claws, teeth like glass, and seems to feed on… something… from people.  Tasha can see him, and it’s obvious he knows she can see him, and Tasha can’t help but be drawn to the strange creature/man.

Tasha’s life is not good: there’s the slow-drip-reveal of why they left her father behind, there’s the reality of being fat in a new school, and their new home has bed bugs and basically the whole of everything is awful. You get the sense that half the reason Tasha fixates on the strange creature/man is that it’s something she can control. And when the two touch, and Tasha begins to change, things go from awful to a kind of empowering horrible that… well. Everything collides: Tasha’s development of abilities (and attributes) in common with the thing, her running out of patience with the horrible kids at school, the ultimate revelations of Tasha’s father, and Tasha’s ultimate choice? Bad dreams, like I said.

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