Short Stories 366:281 — “Names,” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

coverOne of the things about Nothing Without Us that is a real delight is how the tales sharing a constant of disability means the range and breadth of what genre and style of storytelling is left completely wide open. Take, as a great example, the super-freaking-creepy “Names,” by Jennifer Lee Rossman, wherein Beck, Rossman’s autistic protagonist, brushes across something unnatural when a coyote with “people eyes” crosses in front of her, and she realizes something is—or is about to be—terribly wrong.

The supernatural blends with Beck’s point of view seamlessly, and as she navigates the horrible reality of a murder, and her awareness that she alone knows the who, and more importantly how, behind the crime, her options narrow to working with one of the few people who kinda-sorta gets how to interact with her. Blue, her name for the local sheriff (Beck has her own names for people), seems willing to work with her if it might solve the crime, and the narrative spins from there.

My favourite sort of horror writing is always the kind that places the characters within a  system or understanding and gives them the opportunity of turnabout. In this case, Rossman takes the notion of names and the idea of the power of knowing someone’s name and then gives the whole a good shake and twist, and while the biting and the blood and the horror still unfolds, through Beck’s lens, the result is ultimately triumphant, even as it induces a few shudders along the way.

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