Short Stories 366:304 — “Desiccant,” by Craig Laurance Gidney

I’m a little peeved at myself for only bumping into Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire near the end of October, because after only the first tale, I already know I’ll find some amazing stories in here perfect for the month-of-horror. We begin with Craig Laurance Gidney, who I’ve mentioned loving before in this project, and as opening stories for anthologies go, it sets a really clear tone on so many levels, not the least of which is in Tituba, the lead of the story being a Black trans woman.

We meet Tituba taking control over her life as best she can after leaving her sister (who fell far, far short of support in a crunch) and finding her own place in a tower that’d be charitably described as borderline. Still, she’s on her own, she’s there for a year, and she’ll move on up thereafter. Her strength, however is tested almost immediately. The place is dusty, she stops sleeping well, her friend notices she looks tired and ashy… Something is wrong with this building, on a fundamental level.

What follows is a truly creepy take on vampirism, and a story that is so very much about refusing to let go/give up/give in rather than any sort of battle. It’s very much a character piece, and even up to the last moments of the tale, I was right there with Tituba, jaw clenched, behind her all the way. If anyone is going to fix this, or fight this, it’s going to be her. That Gidney ends the story right where he does put all the more focus on that drive, and I think it’s one of the first times I’ve read this sort of ending and felt triumph.

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